Writer Enemy No. 2: Self-Doubt


Everyday I wake up I think I should find a 9-5 job.  One offering set hours, easy work and a steady paycheck, instead of writing.  Little thoughts start popping in my head: “Your writing stinks.”  “You can’t make people laugh.” “Nobody enjoys reading your work.”  “You’re wasting your time.”  “Few writers succeed.”

These thoughts work hard to deter me from what makes me happy.  Feelings of loserdom overwhelm me because I haven't published or made any money.  That pesky issue of money again.  Education seems to be the answer.  Enrolling in a MFA program sounds magical, unfortunately, my education coffers are depleted.    

Then, the self-doubting sneaks out of my head and into my writing.   
Looking back over my blog posts, I noticed all the disparaging remarks I made about my work.  Ugh.  I’m so concerned about people reading my blog; it never occurred to me I stepped over the line of funny self-deprecating to unattractive berating.  Who wants to read that junk?  

How in the world can I convince people to read my work, if I don’t believe in it?

 All of this nonsense needs to stop.  I’m not working so I can make my dream a reality.  It will happen.  I know that for sure.  When I set my mind to something I accomplish it.  Getting into the teaching profession took three years after I graduated from Penn State.  I’m insane if I think in a few months my writing career will be right where I want it.

So, what is the solution to the self-doubt problem?   

Write it down, make it happen. My mantra.  I write positively about my writing, even if I’m cringing at the thought of being conceited. When I discuss my writing I use adjectives and descriptions I want to emulate.  Eventually the thoughts will transfer to my writing.

Displaying my work for judgment.  Very similar to wearing a bathing suit to the beach.  All I want to do is cover up and keep it to myself.  On the other hand, I need feedback to improve.  Writers groups provide a safe intellectual environment to share and discuss work.  Contests push you to create the best work to beat all the other participants.  Sure I get upset if I don’t win, but I’m writing.  Eventually, if I keep at it, I will win.  The law of probability, I think?         

Enrolling in writing courses.  No, I can’t afford $30,000 for an MFA, but there are courses lead by established authors and writing conferences all over the United States.  Granted they can be costly, but far less than a graduate degree.  Learning and guidance provide opportunities to improve.  Many students of these classes go on to publish their work.  And, you have the chance to critique the class for future teaching of your own. 

I see a lot of off ramps on this road ahead of me, and it’s difficult staying on course, but I never appreciate anything unless I’ve worked for it.  A pat on the back for my accomplishments and validation awaits me.

How do you avoid the negativity of self-doubt?


Anonymous said…
I don't have any advice, just wanted to say good luck.
anvil said…
We're totally on the same wavelength here, Laura. I talked about this on my post on thursday - killing your inner editor. self doubt is all about fears, fears you don't even want to admit to yourself or fears of failing, of seeming silly (You think you're a writer, YOU? says the inner editor) But I think the solution for getting over this self sabotage can be simpler. Acknowledge it for what it is. Fear, not logic. And fear, as Frank Herbert says, is the mind killer. Man I loved Kyle Mclaclan in Dune :)

Laura Campbell said…
I read your blog the other day and found it quite interesting. I plan to making a physical representation of my inner editor and burn her. Unfortunately, I over analyze everything and I can find a way around acknowledging my fear. I need a course of action, a plan or I'll be wandering aimlessly in a drunken stupor for eternity.

I mentioned and linked to your inner editor blog post on Thursday. It's comforting to know I'm not alone, and I find it intriguing how many different ways writers come up with to deal with self-doubt.
Amie Kaufman said…
I'm inspired, and so impressed--I know you're going to be delighted with the results of pushing forward with these plans.

My CP and I have a routine now--when we hand over work, we say 'here it is... usual disclaimers'. That's our code for 'now, if this is terrible, please don't think I can't write at all, and there's a 20 point list of things I could give you and I'm trying not to, and sorry to waste your time....'. Only we've stopped saying it, because it never makes anybody feel any better!
Laura Campbell said…
Thank you for your kind words.

we say 'here it is... usual disclaimers'.

Brilliant. A great suggestion for my writer's group.

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