How to Flip Your Self-Doubts as a Writer

by Suzannah Windsor Freeman

Woman thinking

Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.  ~Franz Kafka

I’m incredibly passionate about writing. It’s something I feel I’m meant to do, whether I get published or not.

In spite of that, there are still a good number of mental hurdles in this journey.

If I’d known ahead of time the thoughts that would take over my mind, perhaps I would have turned back. I’m glad I started writing without knowing that:

  • I would have moments when I’d look over my writing and discover it’s terrible–not just that I think it’s terrible, but that it really, truly is.
  • There would be times I’d read writing advice that would tell me to not do something, and I’d say, “Ack! I’ve been doing that!”
  • I would want to second guess every word I put down on the page, and that I’d be tempted to reword, rework, revise as I go, no matter how counterproductive it is.
  • Most days I would want to give up because it’s all so difficult.
  • The small triumphs would never seem like enough.
  • There would never be enough hours in the day to accomplish all I need to do.
  • I would never be fully sure of myself or my writing ability, no matter what.
  • A little voice in my head would always be saying, “You are not a writer. You are a person who says you’re a writer.”

That said, there are two ways to look at every situation. Here are the flip-sides of all those nasty thoughts that plague me:

  • Sometimes, I find one–just one–amazing sentence out of an entire paragraph, a page, a chapter. It is that one sentence that keeps me going.
  • There are rules, and it often behooves us to follow the rules. But rules can be broken, and sometimes it’s all for the best.
  • Second guessing oneself is healthy and natural in the first draft. All I have to do is learn to wait until it’s the appropriate time to revise.
  • It’s okay to want to give up. Just so long as I don’t really do it.
  • If small triumphs aren’t good enough, I’ll have to work hard on bigger triumphs.
  • I don’t need more hours in the day, I just need to spend less time doing the things that don’t matter so much.
  • Being too sure of oneself isn’t really good for personal development, anyway.
  • Writers are people who write. That’s all.

What particular negative thoughts prey on you when you’re feeling low? How can you turn your writing doubts upside down, and make them work to your advantage?

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