Dealing with Doubt

If I had an easy solution for self-doubt, I’d be selling it for an obscene amount of cash.

Since I don’t have an easy solution, I’ll just have to go with my heart: one cannot be nearly as awful as one imagines in their times of worst doubt and fear. Simply put, you’re never going to be “the worst novelist ever” or even “such a bad writer that they should make it illegal for me to write.”

Doubt and fear stalk us, but unlike lions, they don’t just prey upon the weak and old and sickly among us writers. No, these hunters are indiscriminate. Pulitzer Prize-winning writers can suddenly have an attack of self-doubt that makes them wonder if their entire life was a waste. We can all be afraid that our work is somehow grossly flawed, and that we, as artists,  well . . . that we just plain suck.

I’ve had a fairly unenthusiastic response from some beta readers and it’s put the cold stark terror into my heart that my novel does, indeed, suck.

It’s a hard fear to shake. Even if it gets published, even then, there will always be haters and detractors. You have to feel sorry for the big names, too, for they draw some exceptionally negative attention. Ever read George R.R. Martin’s blog and comments? Ever read any of the several websites devoted to mocking him? Yeah . . . gotta kinda wince about that. Even he must have bad days where he wonders if he’s going to just be a flash in the pan of memory and have his books drop out of readers’ consciousnesses as soon as the series is done (or he is dead.)

That maybe, yeah, he sucks, too.

Overcoming this doubt and fear . . . it’s a difficult task. It may be the most difficult part of writing. I try to calm myself by reading books by inept authors and then reminding myself that I can string a sentence together better than that person, anyway. It’s not a big consolation, but when you’re at the bottom of the well, it’s better than being alone in the cold dark.

So, here I am, reading bad prose and then trying to recall all the “good” parts of my own work. After a while, it does help a bit . . . say, I DID write a nice scene there. And, yeah, my character IS particularly cool.

It’s small solace, but it’s what I have. What do you do when the bugbears come to bite?




About endurancemom

Writer of fantasy and historical fantasy fiction, mother of 6, former nurse, Catholic convert, wife of 25 years, and general all-around geek. Warning: Do not attempt this at home. View all posts by endurancemom

4 responses to “Dealing with Doubt

  • ericjbaker

    Writing is such a vulnerable position. You’re inevitably exposing your feelings, your attractions, and your fears like with no other art form, and you really can’t tell if it’s good or not, because good is so subjective.

    As a musician, I know that some people won’t like my songs and some people will. However, I am 100% certain that my guitar is in tune, that this chord fits with that bass note, and that this beat is in time with that riff. The objective qualities of music make so that I can be confident of my competence, if nothing else.

    However, as a writer, all I can really do is try to put the commas in the right places. Goodness is decided by the reader.

    This was a good post, and I believe your doubts suggest you work at continually improving your craft. People sure of their own brilliance are the ones who, from my subjective view, suck.

    • martibooker

      Commas are probably the second most difficult part of being a writer. 🙂 It’s interesting to hear about a musician’s perspective. If you’re flat, you’re flat I guess (as I can often hear from my son’s trombone practices, lol.) Writing doesn’t give you an obvious marker of success. Thanks. 🙂

  • Monolith Books

    Hey any time you need a pep talk let me know. I need to return the favor.

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