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Archived Author Help > How to deal with self-doubt?

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message 1: by Serena (new)

Serena James (serenajames) | 14 comments Hi fellow indies! *shy wave*

I'm half way through my first novel but writer's block has me in the grips of the worst self-doubt I've ever experienced. I feel like my story is terrible, my writing is crap, and I'm not going to get anywhere with this and no one will like me and none of the cool kids will pick me for sport and- and- *sad face*

Does any one else feel this way? How do you deal with this kind of lack of confidence? What are some good ways to manage the anxiety? How do you learn to breathe again?

If anyone is feeling the same way, I'm sorry. It's a horrible feeling :(

*scurries out of shadows*
*hugs*
*scampers back into the darkness*


message 2: by Ken (new)

Ken (kendoyle) | 364 comments I think most (if not all) of us have experienced this. It doesn't seem to matter whether it's your first book or your hundredth. It happens to big-name authors, too.

I tend to accept it as part of the process and keep writing anyway. Sometimes, it can help to read other books, especially outside your genre. I also try to take a break and do something else--go to the beach, take a long walk--physical activity helps me refocus.

Good luck!


message 3: by Jane (new)

Jane Jago | 888 comments Okay. Stop Worrying Right Now..

If you never had moments of self doubt you'd probably be a very bad writer.

Ken's right, it's just part of the process. Don't let it get to you.

You just need to find a coping mechanism.

Me? I say f**k it and go do something fun for a while. The writing itch soon comes back if you don't do any.

If you really do have doubts about this piece of work there are ways to reassure yourself. Or to find out if it really is bad.

If you have a good honest friend give him or her a couple chapters to read and ask them if it's worth continuing..

Otherwise you could ask if there's a kindly soul here who is prepared to look at a chapter or so.

At this phase you don't need a proper critique, just somebody to say whether or not they think there is promise in what you have written.


message 4: by Lyra (last edited Jun 19, 2016 07:08AM) (new)

Lyra Shanti (lyrashanti) | 126 comments Hi, Serena. Just get the writing done. Worry about if its any good once you've finished and are at the editing stage, which I warn you, is an evil, evil stage. lol

But seriously, just FINISH the thing. It may be crap, it may be brilliant, but if it's not finished, you'll never know. Either way, it's yours and no one else's, and you should be proud of it.

I personally went through a huge block through most of the first book in my Shiva series, but eventually you get through it. Just remember, all writers go through some form of self doubt. You're not alone. What matters is not giving up!


message 5: by Pam (new)

Pam Bloom (PamBloom) | 3 comments Ha ha ha! Yes, everyone who writes feels this way at some point. I imagine the worst writers feel it the least, because self-belief can be deceptive.

I'm about to publish my very first novel, and know it's not perfect... but I know it's got a beginning, a middle and an ending; it has characters you can identify with; it has a plot which makes sense; it's spelt correctly, the punctuation and grammar is sound and, best of all, it's MINE. It's an achievement just to complete a novel. Whether it's good or not is, after all, pretty subjective - some people will hate it, hopefully some will like it.

In moments of doubt, go and read an extract from the HUGELY-SELLING 50 Shades of Grey. It'll cheer you up.


message 6: by Rachael (new)

Rachael Eyre (rachaeleyre) | 194 comments Self doubt is absolutely par the course for a writer, and at least shows that you're sane/modest. In such sticky moments I put it to one side and focus on my other hobbies for a while. The break not only helps you gain a sense of perspective, it can sometimes cause solutions to pop into your head when you least expect them.


message 7: by Riley, Viking Extraordinaire (new)

Riley Amos Westbrook (sonshinegreene) | 1510 comments Mod
Rachael wrote: "Self doubt is absolutely par the course for a writer, and at least shows that you're sane/modest. In such sticky moments I put it to one side and focus on my other hobbies for a while. The break no..."

This. The last time I took a break it was in the middle of a book, and coming back a month later gave me fresh eyes on the work. The problem resolved itself as I was rereading it, and I haven't looked back since.


message 8: by Roxanne (new)

Roxanne Bland (roxanne2) | 102 comments Relax--everyone goes through it. Take a break for an hour, a day, a week, however long it takes, and do something else. The answer's percolating in the back of your mind. Then it'll come to the fore, and the next thing you'll know, you'll be writing again. I had some self-doubts about a book I'm writing, so I sent some of the chapters off to an editor friend of mine. She liked it, gave me some pointers. It was enough to get me going again. Don't worry--you'll make it!


message 9: by Charles (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments I wear my self doubt like armor, using it to remind me that I can and will get better as long as I keep grinding.


message 10: by Ian (new)

Ian Bott (iansbott) | 268 comments Yes, feeling like this is normal. *Hugs*

Story terrible? Writing crap? Characters shallow? Plot unbelievable? etc. etc. May be true, may not be true. One thing to take heart in is even if it's all true, all these can be fixed! That is what editing and revising is for -- though be warned, as Lyra says, this is an evil stage :)

Get the story down regardless, whatever way you can. Remember, you can't edit an empty page.


message 11: by John (new)

John Byron (johnbyron) | 7 comments Sometimes, it makes sense just to step away from a story. I have experienced the same, but I plow through at times, and others I step away, but still involve myself in creative endeavors of some kind. It might be music, or a website I am working on, Or working on an art project (www.instagram.com/concretesalad), as long as it is still a creative thing. That keeps my head fresh. I might even work on another writing project. The key is to stay fresh, creatively speaking. And if you are half way through your novel, you have an allegiance to your characters by now, so put away the self doubt, or at the very least remove it from the driver's seat and relegate it to that back seat. Self doubt and loathing are tools to be used to keep you humble in your art. Use them accordingly.


message 12: by J C (new)

J C Steel (jcsteel) Serena wrote: "Hi fellow indies! *shy wave*

I'm half way through my first novel but writer's block has me in the grips of the worst self-doubt I've ever experienced. I feel like my story is terrible, my writing ..."


*Hugs

And yes. Pretty sure every good writer has gone through self-doubt (this is what I tell myself when it happens, at least!)

Greatest thing to being an indie - if the 'keep plugging away' approach isn't cutting it for me, and my WIP goes on looking like the worst thing to hit the indie market ever, I go and chip away at something, to quote Monty Python, new and different.

*scurries into darkness
*places reading light, pile of reading matter and hot chocolate at Serena's elbow


message 13: by Charles (new)

Charles | 148 comments All good advice. Use whatever works for you, but keep writing. A lot of people say they want to write a novel. A few do. Become one of the few.
I like to remember the words of George S. Patton, "Take not counsel of your fears." I learned a long time ago, the fear of something is usually much worse than the thing itself.


message 14: by Claire (new)

Claire (claireridgewood) | 3 comments Serena wrote: "Hi fellow indies! *shy wave*

I'm half way through my first novel but writer's block has me in the grips of the worst self-doubt I've ever experienced. I feel like my story is terrible, my writing ..."


Thank you SO much for posting this. I'm feeling the same way right now and needed to read the advice that is being shared.

Hugs for everyone.

Thank you!


message 15: by Riley, Viking Extraordinaire (new)

Riley Amos Westbrook (sonshinegreene) | 1510 comments Mod
You started anyways, believe it or not, you're ahead of 90% of the game. Think of the people that tell you, "I wish I had written a book." for everyone you hear from, there are 10 more being silent. Everyone wants to be a creator.


Tara Woods Turner winston Churchill was the commencement speaker at the graduation ceremony for a prestigious university. The auditorium was completely packed with dignitaries, politicians, special celebrity guests, titans of industry, faculty, staff, families of the graduates etc. they all waited breathlessly for Churchill, arguably the greatest European statesman of his time, to deliver an address that was certain to exemplify his renowned intellect, skilled oration and powers of erudition.

After his exhaustive, glowing introduction Churchill made his way to the podium, looking at the expectant audience.

'Never give up.' He said 'Never give up. Never. Give. Up.'
Churchill pounded the podium 'Never, ever give up. Never give up!'
He then turned and walked back to his seat.


message 17: by Riley, Viking Extraordinaire (new)

Riley Amos Westbrook (sonshinegreene) | 1510 comments Mod
Tara wrote: "winston Churchill was the commencement speaker at the graduation ceremony for a prestigious university. The auditorium was completely packed with dignitaries, politicians, special celebrity guests,..."

What can I say, sounds like the greatest commencement speech ever.


message 18: by Lyra (new)

Lyra Shanti (lyrashanti) | 126 comments Tara wrote: "'Never give up.' He said 'Never give up. Never. Give. Up.'
Churchill pounded the podium 'Never, ever give up. Never give up!'
He then turned and walked back to his seat."


Love this. I always knew I was channeling Churchill when writing. ;)


Tara Woods Turner Agree. I think of his speech pretty often, actually. My feeling is if you think failure stings just wait until you experience regret. I'll take failure any day.


message 20: by Dwayne, Head of Lettuce (new)

Dwayne Fry | 4333 comments Mod
Serena wrote: "I'm half way through my first novel but writer's block has me in the grips of the worst self-doubt I've ever experienced. I feel like my story is terrible, my writing is crap, and I'm not going to get anywhere with this and no one will like me and none of the cool kids will pick me for sport and- and- *sad face*

Does any one else feel this way? How do you deal with this kind of lack of confidence? What are some good ways to manage the anxiety? How do you learn to breathe again?"


When you say you're half-way through, do you mean half-way through the rough draft or do you think you're half done with the whole process? Either way, it's okay. Especially if you're in the rough draft. Rough drafts suck. That's why they call them "rough". Don't fret.

Some of us tend to be our own worst critics. If this is you, then maybe your writing isn't as bad as you think. Maybe you're just really hard on yourself. But, this is good. It shows you care and you can't put out a decent product if you don't care about it.

Or, perhaps your writing really does suck and you're seeing that. This is also a good thing. It means you're growing as a writer. You're seeing your flaws. Now you know what to work on. If this is the case, good for you!

As for writer's block and self-doubt, I think they actually work the other way 'round. I think writer's block comes from self-doubt. Find some passages you're proud of. Focus on the things you do well. Show yourself you have some talent.

You could take a break. Get away from it for a day, a week, a month, whatever it takes. Some find this works.

It's not my preferred method as I stress out when I'm not writing, so I often have many projects going at once. When one has me stumped, I switch to another for a while. When you come back to the one that is giving you fits, maybe you'll see a clear solution to it.

Good luck!


message 21: by Safa (new)

Safa Shaqsy (safashaqsy) | 54 comments If you're passionate enough about writing, nothing will stop you. Even self doubt. Just enjoy writing, and do it everyday. The more you write the more you become better. It's okay to write a lousy first draft, because you can always edit it. If not, than you can write another book. :)


message 22: by Sherri (last edited Jun 19, 2016 02:20PM) (new)

Sherri Moorer (sherrithewriter) | 82 comments Hi Serena! I deal with it kind of like I deal when my husband says he saw a snake in the yard, and by the way, it's my turn to water the plants: I chose to build a home in the woods, critters are in the woods, so get over it and get out there. Same with writing. You didn't come this far just to come this far, and you won't get better unless you keep pushing. It won't kill you, so let it make you stronger. Fortune favors the persistent. If you keep at it, you'll improve, you'll grow, you'll learn, and you'll keep writing more and better stuff that reaches readers.

As for the snake thing, my brother swears you have at least 12 hours until a snake bite is fatal unless you have some severe health issue, but I wouldn't recommend testing that one. :)


message 23: by Charles (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments I almost gave up and deleted my first book a couple of times. Came real close. Scary close.


message 24: by Ross (new)

Ross Ponderson | 61 comments I know exactly what you're feeling. I'm grinding my way through the first draft of my second novel and I've already quit more often than a cheap watch.

I don't know how many times I've hated what I'd just spent hours writing. I vacillate between loving and hating my lead character (all of my characters, for that matter); at times my plot seems incredible and pure crap; the situations I create come across to me as bizarre and unbelievable.

In my more whimsical moments, I imagine the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing: "EVERYBODY IS GOING TO HATE YOUR BOOK!"

The only thing that works to any degree for me is to step away and divert my attention elsewhere. I agree with the posters who've stated that the solution to a writing problem is brewing in the back of your mind somewhere and will come out when it's ready.

Try working on something else: a blog post, a short story, a guest post for some blogger (good publicity and you just might make a valuable professional connection), or just set it aside for a while. It has been my experience that first drafts are total crap; that's what editing and rewriting are for. Let some time pass and then return to it once your batteries recharge a bit.

Ah, the glamorous life of an indie writer.

Good luck with your novel ... and hang in there.


message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm so glad I ran across this discussion. I struggle with this all the time. I think everything I write is awful. I seriously don't understand what drives me to continue except that I can't not write. I am so glad it's not just me! What a relief!


message 26: by Christina (last edited Jun 19, 2016 03:35PM) (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) I just scrapped 65k words because they weren't the words I wanted to write. Ten books published and self-doubt still pops up, making me wonder if this wasn't all just a fluke. But then I remember that not everything I've ever written flowed effortlessly from my brain to my fingertips. Actually, nothing I've written was effortless and a lot of tears of frustration were shed along the way.

Don't let it eat at you and you'll be fine. If it isn't working, it isn't working. Sometimes I come back to something after a spell and realize it isn't as bad as I thought. Sometimes I come back to something and cringe at how bad it is. Either way, taking that momentary distance helped me to make sense of the muck in my brainspace. Maybe a similar distance could help you.


message 27: by D.E. (new)

D.E. (demorris) One of the best ways I ever heard about approaching your first draft is this: "Your first draft is just you telling yourself the story."

That's it! No pressure, no high expectations. A first draft won't be perfect. In fact, it shouldn't be perfect. :)

Once you get your idea all out on paper, that's when you can start to shape and refine it.

But first, just tell the story you want to read.


message 28: by Steve (new)

Steve Harrison (stormingtime) | 52 comments Self-doubt is great and, in my opinion, essential if you want to be a good writer. It stops me being lazy by giving me a nudge (and sometimes a kick up the backside) and saying, "hey, you can do better than that!"

As you get further along the writing journey, self-doubt is an entity you can even argue and disagree with. I see it as part of me, very much in my corner and understandably worried that my writing might embarrass it.


Tara Woods Turner D. E.

I absolutely love that! Thank you :)


message 30: by Jane (last edited Jun 19, 2016 06:45PM) (new)

Jane Blythe | 112 comments Awwww . . . Serena, sorry you're having a hard time with your book at the moment! I swing back all the time between thinking what I wrote is awful and being pleased with it. For me no matter how I feel I keep working, fixing things, rereading it to see if my opinion of it changes, writing more, reworking bits I'm not happy with it, when I just keep writing it keeps me busy and occupied and I don't have time to dwell on those moments of self-doubt when they come.

If you feel like you'd like someone to read what you've done so far I'm more than happy to!


message 31: by Serena (new)

Serena James (serenajames) | 14 comments Hi everyone,

Wow, I've not had a chance to come back and check on my post until just now, and I'm overwhelmed that so many people commented! Thank you all so much for your thoughts and advice - and especially to J.C. for the lovely hot chocolate!

The overwhelming trend seems to be to just keep at it, take a break, then attack it again. Seems pretty obvious now that you've all pointed it out! And if I'm super paranoid, to have someone read my work to confirm whether there's potential. That's the rub though there isn't it - very often when we write, it feels like a tiny piece of our soul gets trapped in with our words, and when we share, that tiny fragment gets shared with it.

Steve wrote: "Self-doubt is great and, in my opinion, essential if you want to be a good writer. It stops me being lazy by giving me a nudge (and sometimes a kick up the backside) and saying, "hey, you can do be..." I like this attitude!

Sherri wrote: "Hi Serena! I deal with it kind of like I deal when my husband says he saw a snake in the yard, and by the way, it's my turn to water the plants: I chose to build a home in the woods, critters are i..." Your comment made me laugh. I live in Australia, and though I have very little experience with snakes, this seems most pertinent seeing as most living creatures here want to kill us all!

D.E. wrote: "One of the best ways I ever heard about approaching your first draft is this: "Your first draft is just you telling yourself the story." That's it! No pressure, no high expectations. A first draft..." That's a fantastic way of looking at it. I've never thought of it like that. Many thanks for sharing this nugget of wisdom!

Christina wrote: "I just scrapped 65k words because they weren't the words I wanted to write. Ten books published and self-doubt still pops up, making me wonder if this wasn't all just a fluke. But then I remember t..." Sounds like it's a problem we're always going to have. But in your case, ten published books is no fluke! Obviously you're doing something right!

Right, more personal responses on their way - this post is already too long!


message 32: by Serena (new)

Serena James (serenajames) | 14 comments Ken wrote: "I think most (if not all) of us have experienced this. It doesn't seem to matter whether it's your first book or your hundredth. It happens to big-name authors, too.

I tend to accept it as part of..."
It's so reassuring to hear this. Not that I'm happy to hear so many of us experience it, but that it's a common concern that we all have. You know what I mean, right?

Thank you for the tip. I did a lot of walking and thinking today, and it's already done me some good :)


message 33: by Serena (new)

Serena James (serenajames) | 14 comments Jane wrote: "Okay. Stop Worrying Right Now..

If you never had moments of self doubt you'd probably be a very bad writer.

Ken's right, it's just part of the process. Don't let it get to you.

You just need to ..."


Have you ever had your friends read your stuff, only to think they're probably just being nice? This is my current stage now :( But knowing it's all part of the process is a good thing, because after reading all the advice, I'm thinking I need to reframe my self-doubt into something constructive!


message 34: by Serena (new)

Serena James (serenajames) | 14 comments CK wrote: "Serena wrote: "Hi fellow indies! *shy wave*

I'm half way through my first novel but writer's block has me in the grips of the worst self-doubt I've ever experienced. I feel like my story is terrib..."


I'm so sorry you're feeling this way. Sending hugs and hot chocolate to you, wherever you are! I'm glad the post was useful to someone other than myself.


message 35: by Serena (new)

Serena James (serenajames) | 14 comments Oh gosh. I don't want to annoy people by spamming my own post, so to everyone I didn't reply to personally, thank you all so much, from the bottom of my teeny tiny black heart! <3


message 36: by E.P. (new)

E.P. | 57 comments Just thought I'd throw this in there: http://www.esquire.com/entertainment/... Basically GRRM admits to suffering from crippling self-doubt on a regular basis, hence the slow pace of his writing!


message 37: by Jen Pattison (last edited Jun 20, 2016 06:00AM) (new)

Jen Pattison | 13 comments Keep going Serena! I felt the same when writing my book this year, having a wobbly of self-doubt every couple of weeks and I'm a sensitive soul at heart, worrying that I would unleash my book on the world and everyone would think it was rubbish. I kept going though, rereading it many times and revising the language and the flow where it needed to improve. I sent a draft to a friend and she loved it! Mine's only about a fortnight away from publication now, I feel both exhilarated and terrified, but the most successful people will tell you that they took the plunge despite the fear of failure.


message 38: by Lauren (last edited Jun 20, 2016 07:13AM) (new)

Lauren Garcia (laloga) | 10 comments D.E. wrote: "One of the best ways I ever heard about approaching your first draft is this: "Your first draft is just you telling yourself the story."

That's a phenomenal way to put it! Love this. :)

And yes, Serena, everyone else is right. Keep at it. Don't quit. Think of this self-doubt as an impasse on a highway. Do you stay there forever? Or do you find a way around/over/through? Writing is the same. There will always be a reason to stop. The trick is to find a way to keep going forward.

*hugs*


message 39: by S.L. (new)

S.L. Bynum (slbynum) | 26 comments Yeah, I agree with a lot of people here. It's good to just take a break from writing, maybe a few days or weeks, then try to get back at it by reading over the last parts you wrote. Some idea will spark, and then you'll get back into the flow of writing again.

When I do this, I try to force myself to start writing again, otherwise I could go months without writing anything, and I love it too much not to come back to it!


message 40: by Angela (new)

Angela Joseph | 132 comments Just adding my two cents, Serena. Everything the others have said is great advice and encouragement. I suggest joining a writers' group, online or face-to-face. The right group can help you hone your skills and build your confidence. I've been a member of an online group for the past 12 years. We've met at conferences and now we are like family. I don't know where I would be as a writer without them.


message 41: by [deleted user] (new)

Hello, Serena. I, too, am sorry about your self-doubt, but how wonderful to know you have all these excellent writers to encourage you! As for me: The worst self-doubt comes right smack-dab in the middle of the first draft. "This is terrible. The language is missing, I can't find a style...why the heck am I even writing this garbage?" Then friends tell me to just get on with it, which I do--and it gets better. I won't be crass and tell you to "get on with it," but I know you have it in you to finish the project, and that it will be better than you ever thought. Best of luck to you, my friend.


message 42: by Tony (new)

Tony Blenman | 92 comments I believe self-doubt is comparable to a good dose of anxiety. I've heard a number of great speakers say they have experienced some anxiety prior to taking the podium and a few minutes into their speech. I think self-doubt, or a mild form of anxiety helps us to be better prepared. We might re-write the speech or edit the manuscript, but the end results generally appear to be a much improved product.
I'm a new writer. I consult with a buddy writer when self-doubt grabs me. Self-doubt is all part of the show. That's my line.


message 43: by Ross (new)

Ross Ponderson | 61 comments G. Allen wrote: "The worst self-doubt comes right smack-dab in the middle of the first draft..."

You must be somehow looking over my shoulder, LOL! That's exactly what I'm struggling to deal with right now! In addition to the normal grief involved with a first draft, I'm also trying to apply the lessons I learned from my first novel.

This 2nd novel has become something of a jigsaw puzzle; the pieces (overall storyline, timing, subplots, characters, etc.) just don't seem to fit together in a way that satisfies me. And if I'm not satisfied, I sure can't expect the reader to be either. I'm constantly changing, shifting around, and restructuring the story elements; but the literary flow I'm looking for just isn't there yet.

I would just like to finish this bleeping first draft already, let it ferment for a while, and then get to editing and rewriting.

It's nice to know I'm not alone in my flailing.

Good luck to all of us!


message 44: by Eva (new)

Eva Pasco (evapasco) | 90 comments Frustration and self-doubt are obstacles a writer encounters along the way. I find that stepping away and letting a scene simmer for a while helps. Most of my ideas channel through me when I'm going about mundane tasks. Eventually when your characters are fleshed enough, they dictate the turns you'll take.


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