Wednesday, May 4, 2011

How to Keep the Doubts at Bay

Because of the amount of work involved in a writing career, because of all the rejections we have to face, because of the difficulty of breaking into the publishing world, writers are often bombarded by doubts. We doubt this is the right choice we’ve made for our lives, we doubt we are good enough, we doubt it’s all worth it. We have so many doubts I couldn’t possibly list them all here.

Doubts can cripple us if we let them. Doubts can cause us to give up. Below I’ve listed some ways to keep the doubts under control:

Positive Thinking. Every self-help book stresses the importance of positive thinking. Negative thinking will only drag us down. Rather than focussing on the fears and doubts, the what ifs, and the if onlys, we should focus instead on the reasons we love our writing. That passion for the written word, the love of the story, the fun of exploring ideas, concepts and characters, will fuel our drive and keep us going.

Attainable Goals. Sometimes we give ourselves goals that are too difficult to reach, or impossible to achieve in the time frame we’ve set. As I mentioned in my last post, the publishing world not only turns slowly, it can also overwhelm us. It’s important to take each step one at a time and to learn patience. Strive for possible goals, goals you have control over, ones you can guarantee through hard work, while keeping in mind your lifestyle.

Join Writers’ Groups. I can’t say it enough: The writing community is a powerful support system. We can learn so much from each other and gain strength from each other. Only other writers understand what it’s like to take on this insane career. Knowing we aren’t alone in our doubts, knowing we can still succeed despite the doubts, is invaluable.

How do you keep the doubts at bay?

Pic: Leeds Castle, England


  1. I constantly live in doubt about the work I do :) Constantly. I always think it's kinda crap during the creative process, and after I read it I know it isn't :)

  2. When doubt rears its ugly head, I grab my journal and start writing. At some point, the voice of wisdom kicks in, answering the doubts. Journalling has been such a blessing in my life.

  3. I needed this so much today, ugh, I can't even tell yah! Wonderful people like you are what help me keep the doubts at bay. ;)

  4. Great advice. I'd add to attend a writers' workshop because they are not only informative, but an easy way to meet writers face-to-face. It always reenergizes me. It's also a good way to meet agents and editors.

  5. I'm like Dezz in that I always have self-doubt about my work. I try to use it, though, to make myself work harder.

    What I love most, though, is the support of other writers. They help keep me sane when the doubts get to be too much. Thank goodness for the interwebs. :)

  6. It's a struggle. My critique partners question something and I wonder if it's worth it to continue writing. During the Challenge, I doubted I was doing all I could to help and support everyone. After a recent incident, I even wonder if I'm a decent person. So yeah, I fight it.

  7. I try to stay positive but the doubts are so overwhelming sometimes that I end up baking!
    Or blogging! Oh dear!

    Take care

  8. I don't keep them at bay. I let them do their work. To struggle is to be alive.

  9. You are right about setting attainable goals and taking control of what you can control.

  10. positive thinking and all that great advice ty

  11. The way I see it, there's no point in letting the negative bog you down - might as well stay positive! :D and listen to your friends who love your writing. that helps. LOL.

  12. Writers groups make a huge difference. It helps to have support.

  13. I'm active in writing groups. And the writers I associate with are honest, yet kind. I've been on the other end where I've dealt with vicious critiquers, and they only seek to make others doubtful.

    I make attainable goals. When I first get an idea my goals are too high, but when I think things over I make daily, weekly, or monthly challenges that are doable.

  14. Dezzy, ha, I'm the opposite. I think it's a masterpiece while I'm writing it, then when I read back I realise it's not hahahaha.

    Karen, I've not tried journaling to sway the doubts.

    Heather, I'm so glad it helped.

    Theresa, absolutely

    L G Smith, ah, the interwebs, what would we do with it? ;)

    Alex, I hear you on ALL counts.

    Old Kitty, hehehe baking and blogging are a good combo ;)

  15. Suze, urgh!!! Sleep is good too... ;) But you are right. It's part of the deal to have doubts and it's best to make 'em work for us rather than the other way around.

    Tonja, yeah, I learnt that the hard way ;)

    N4m3l3ss, no worries

    Trisha, great attitude :)

    Angela, I think I would have given up without them.

    Medeia, that's a good point. It's important to surround yourself with experienced critiquers who give a balanced crit of your work, pointing out the stuff that needs improvement AND the great stuff.

    Read, hehehe. Absolutely.

  16. Yep, plenty of sleep does wonders. When I'm tired, that's when all my doubts and fears try to creep in. And our wonderful writer friends who can relate to the ups and downs.

  17. Doubts are horrible and can eat away your confidence if you let them. I agree with everything you've said, especially about having attainable goals. I wonder how many writers have given up because there first novel or short story wasn't published by a big name?

    Ellie Garratt

  18. It's a total rollercoaster for me. Sometimes I feel really confident, and sometimes I think there's no way my writing career will go anywhere. To some extent, those feelings are dependent on external results, but sometimes, the things I write just hit me the wrong way. I do derive a ton of support from the writing community and focus on staying realistic--and on the value of other areas of my life.

  19. I focus on attainable goal. So I never worry about a story being rejected by an editor (something I can't control) I focus on how many stories subs I'm making.

  20. Focusing on what I have control over is what gets me through times of doubt. Certain things, like what an editor will say about a book, is out of my control. Improving my writing, learning, creating a web presence, staying busy with the next project--these things I can control. :)

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  21. The most useful way to keep doubt at bay is to put my butt in chair and work. Since moving to a new community, I've been focusing on finding a new writing community. I thankfully have found free workshops and writer groups to attend. Keeps me moving forward.

  22. It is important to get out there and connect with others. Those little moments buoy me when the negatives come roaring in.

    Also speak up and tell the people around you how they can support you better.

    Know it takes time and just because you may not be ready now or this project isn't the right one, doesn't mean you can't grow into being the next Hemingway [insert writing idol of choice] later.

    All's it takes is one person saying something to you the right way then click. But you won't ever hear it if you don't get out there. :)

    Oddly, I've gotten encouragement out of rejections. Some of them have been very positive.

  23. I've actually been to Leed's Castle - just gorgeous!!

    This is great advice, of course. I've been known to throw myself a "My writing sucks" pity-party and it can seriously cripple my creativity and desire to write, which is never good. A positive attitude is key! And a positive writing group to keep that p.a. up can definitely help!

  24. I definitely need to set goals. I think this will help me move along with my writing. Thanks for the tips.

  25. Thanks, I needed this! Just started querying again!

  26. This is such a timely post, thank you so much! I think that the writing community is one of the strongest weapons against doubt :)

  27. Thanks for this. After receiving R's, I'm so far deep in self-doubt that I haven't even opened my mss to see what can be improved.

  28. LynNerd, what is this thing you call sleep? ;)

    Ellie, I imagine heaps, which is tragic.

    Sarah, I can totally relate to that rollercoaster.

    Deborah, that's great! Certainly the way to approach it.

    Angela, having that control and focussing on those things we CAN control makes a huge difference.

  29. Stacy, excellent point-- keep moving and working and learning, then we won't have time to doubt :)

    M Pax, I love your point about getting out there and speaking up to let others know how they can support you.

    Donea, Leeds Castle is like a fairytale castle. I loved it too.

    Emily, hope it does help

    Alexia, oh! Good luck with the querying :)

    WritingNut, yes indeed!

    Nas, nooooo, R's are expected. Don't give up!!! :)

  30. Great post and I fully agree. Whenver you want something from someone, you have to open yourself oup for rejection. When you get lots of it, the doubt can start. I think the steps you mentioned definitely help, For me, I definitely try and stay positive. Ands speak positively, too. That really helps.

  31. I like what you said about setting goals we have control over - that's excellent advice!

  32. D U Okonkwo, yes, speaking positively does help. It's like smiling to change our mood :)

    Susan, thanks


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