To be a writer, or artist in general, is to live with chronic self doubt.
If you don’t have moments where you look at your work and wonder how you could have poured years of your life into your art only to produce a heaping pile of putrid garbage, you are a minority in the writing community.
This struggle is real for many writers, and I struggle through bouts of it that threaten to make me give up on the whole thing.
In my experience, here’s how to battle with self-doubt as a writer:
Don’t compare yourself to other writers
Everyone writes heaps of garbage in their life. Artists who love their craft and spend endless hours reading the revised, polished, and beautiful products of other writers’ masterpieces would be out of touch with reality if they didn’t see their first (or second, or third) drafts and experience a serious fright. Writers live for a good story– we are consumers of great storytelling, and thus we of course can spot the difference between our sleep-deprived ramblings and the well-revised novels we so enjoy escaping into.
But we cannot compare our writing with that of others, particularly in the first draft stage. Writing takes serious work and revision. I practically re-wrote my book Wanderling, adding over 100 pages, before it resembled something I was proud to show my friends. Everyone writes crap, even the pros, you just don’t always get to see it.
Read your favorite writings for encouragement
I have a few scenes from both Wanderling and its sequel that I return to every once in a while, not to gloat on my good work, but to remind myself that I can make readers feel something with my words. Then I remind myself how much work went into these scenes, and how each revision morphed it closer and closer into something beautiful.
Writing is a skill you exercise, something you work at. If you wrote something fabulous once, you can and will do it again. It just takes work, and you aren’t afraid of a challenge because you’re a writer!
Read old writings to remind yourself how you’ve improved
In contrast to reading your favorite scenes, going back through time and reminding yourself how far you’ve come as a writer can be oddly cathartic (for me anyway). When I feel like I’ve hit a brick wall in my writing, I like to go back and read scenes from my first novel, which has thankfully never been published. Boy does it have issues! I went through a couple chapters of it recently and it made me realize how much my writing has matured. My pacing and characterization is much stronger now, and knowing that gives me hope for the new levels I will take my writing in the future!
Talk to your writing support group
Again, every writer I’ve met or even heard of has struggled with self-doubt. Your writing buddies will understand and offer encouragement, if nothing else because they’ve been right where you are as well. Maybe they’re there now! Talking through the struggles of the writing life reduces the loneliness that comes with self-doubt. You aren’t alone!
There you have it, my simple tips for reducing self-doubt as a writer. It’s still a struggle for me, as it is for many people, but these coping strategies have greatly helped put things into perspective.
Featured image from buildingontheword.org.