Every writer deals with it, whether they’ve written 100,000 words or are staring at the blank page of their word processor. The reality of the moment seems to set in as the writer may wonder if the work is good enough to share with the world. Will people resonate with the poetry, short story, blog post, or novel? Will releasing this lead to a lifetime of ridicule and humiliation? I don’t know about other writers, but this is the first obstacle I run into with any of my writing. So that’s what I want to talk to everyone about today, doubt and how we can use it as a benefit instead of a hindrance.
I feel like this part of doubt is more evident than the other, but it is essential to take the time to address both sides. Like the latter question I posed above, our fear of ridicule and humiliation can stop us from doing many things in life. Whether it’s approaching your crush, writing your piece of work, or making those decisions in life that will change everything. The part of the doubt that turns your worry into toxicity is how you use it against yourself. Toxic doubt examples include self-ridicule– I’m a horrible writer and can’t write well. Accepting others’ criticisms– My Professor said I would need a fantastic editor to publish my book. I may as well just admit I suck at writing. Imagining criticism before it happens– there’s no way an agent will accept my book. All of these can lead to us freezing ourselves out, never writing another word, turning into the people who started a book but never finished our work. Try to stay away from this kind of doubt. Though it plagues us all, we must find healthy ways to approach a natural emotion.
Healthy Approaches to Doubt:
I will be the first to admit that doubt can be crippling at times, especially if you go from a comfort level to one of discomfort. But just because you feel that discomfort doesn’t mean you will end up in the pits.
Turn Doubt into Growth
So your first option is to see your doubt as an opportunity to grow. I know everyone always says that, but if you genuinely look at your doubt for what it is, you may find a new lesson in the dreary feelings. A lot of the time, doubt is your mind’s way of questioning your approach. It doesn’t mean you need to run away, but merely take a step back and look at your project. Is there a skill you need to develop more? A character who is flat when they should be round? Do you have inconsistencies in your work? Use these questions to try and shift from doubt to growth.
Take Doubt as a Warning:
Maybe you’re a planner and outline all of your chapters before writing them (which I must admire because I find that nearly impossible) and are halfway through your work before doubt starts creeping in. The doubt doesn’t necessarily mean you’re writing poorly, but you may have deviated too far from the original plan. Or, the opposite, you need to let your creative self breathe before you take on the challenge of the following line.
Then there are the people, like me, who just sit down and write and follow what the characters or work tells them to write. It can be a lot of fun to write with that kind of freedom, but sometimes we need to lock down a plotline before going any further. It’s too easy to go off on wild tangents when writing this way.
Assess how you write, what do you need to change in your approach to minimize doubt in your writing.
Turning Doubt into a Product
You’ve finished writing your novel, poem, blog post, or other work and are looking up places to submit for publication. You surf the web for hours trying to find the right fit, but the longer you look, the more you wonder if it’s ready to submit to someone else. When you reach this point, you have many options, and only you can determine if they’re right. Often having another person read your work and getting feedback can help a lot. Or you can trust your gut and re-write your work. Or, if you’re so daring, bite the bullet and hit submit. The worst thing that will come of the submission is a generic rejection letter. And if you disagree, send it somewhere else.
We are doubt-riddled beings. Not a single person escapes a day without doubting something they did or said, and it can be challenging for both beginning writers and avid novelists. So reach out to your fellow writers, find support from friends in and out of the writing community, and keep writing. Try to find ways to use your doubt to grow yourself. If you have other ways of dealing with doubt in writing, I would love to hear them. Comment below. And thank you, my nugs, for joining me on my first Writer’s Journal.