I had glorious plans to write another blog post about editing and proofreading this week. But as I reflected on my time on that stage, I skipped down the memory lane of that period, and what I remembered from that time was suddenly front and center in my mind.
Oh, the dreaded writer’s doubt. The bummer is that no writer who is truly putting their all into their work can avoid it. The good thing is you are not the first writer to go through this which means there is encouragement to be found!
So what is writer’s doubt? It’s pretty much there in the name. It’s that moment when you look at your book and wonder who on earth would want to read this thing and how can you call yourself a writer? What am I doing? You think to yourself, Nobody is going to want to read this! I’m just a phony! I’m playacting at being a writer!
I can think of a half a dozen different points while writing and producing The Fantastic Adventures of Captain Acorn where I felt this way. If you talk to my roommate, you’ll know that there was one episode in particular where I lay facedown on my bed crying into a pillow and mumbling writer’s doubt phrases of despair that she couldn’t decipher through the pillow. It’s brutal.
So what are we to do? If I can encourage you at all through the writer’s doubt, it would be through the key lessons I have learned about it.
1. Every writer goes through this.
I know, this one seems like a really obvious one, but trust me, it bears remembering. Because when you’re in the middle of doubting your book and your creative process, that’s going to be the hardest time to remember that you’re not alone. It’s also the most important time to remember that.
You have to remember that every writer who has ever penned a book has suffered from writer’s doubt. The internet has been an absolutely fantastic tool for letting us connect with other people of our creative leanings, but sometimes it can really let us down when we start playing the comparison game. It’s so incredibly easy to look at someone else’s social media feed, see where they are in their journey, and immediately doubt the validity of our own. This person already has three books out! They’re the one who’s a real writer! This person is able to write full-time! They’re the one who’s a real writer! On and on we go finding any excuse to elevate that person and lower ourselves.
Don’t compare yourself into oblivion.
Instead, flip the script. Hunt and dig for the authors and creatives who get raw and real with their process, the ones who aren’t afraid to be real about their own writer’s doubt. Talk to someone who understands your creative process and get real with them about where you’re struggling. Do research on your favorite authors because I guarantee you will find evidence of their own self-doubt in their journey. If they could make it, you can too.
2. You belong here.
I want to shout this one to creatives from the rooftops but I’ll settle for saying it again. You belong here. You belong here because you’re putting in the work. You belong here because you’re Heck, you belong here because you’re seeking out advice!
Writer’s doubt would have you believe that there are a thousand different qualifications you need to meet in order to be a writer. Jump through these 50,000 hoops and then maybe you’ll be a writer. The truth is, the whole thing is much simpler than all that.
You’re a writer if you write.
That’s it. No more, no less. Writer’s write, and it’s that easy and that hard. Writer’s doubt is going to try it’s best to convince you that you shouldn’t be here and that you’re just posing, but as long as you’re working towards words on paper (or screen. This is a very modern world after all.) you are a writer and you belong here.
You’ve been a writer since you got that taste of storytelling and the power of words, and you’ve been a writer since you haven’t been able to shake that need to use your words. Taste is what got you into this game, passion is what’s keeping you here. As long as you still have the passion to be creating your book, trust me, you belong here.
3. Now more than ever is the time to act like a writer.
We’ve all heard the phrase “fake it till you make it”, and let me tell you, that’s absolutely true here. If you just can’t shake the feeling of writer’s doubt, then fake it for all it’s worth. Be honest with yourself and those around you, but operate and act like you are an immovable writing machine. Your book will thank you for it.
Momentum is going to be you and your book’s best friend in the war against writer’s doubt. Don’t stop working. You may not always be able to shake those doubts, but you can keep working regardless. So you don’t feel like anyone wants to read your book? Keep editing. The only way to find out if that’s actually true is to finish the book and get it out there. So you don’t think you’re a real writer? Would a fake writer put all this work into creating a manuscript?
If there’s anything useful about writer’s doubt, it’s that it doesn’t hold up all that well under pressure. If you keep denying it and keep leaning into those you can rely on, it will cave every time. At the end of the day, writer’s doubt is lazy. It wants an easy target that won’t put up a fight. I won’t pretend that it’s going to be much fun to work against it but remember, you’re not alone, you belong here, and you can do this. Write on, writer.
Let’s find some joy,