O is for Our Doubts

If you’re a writer, chances are you’ve experienced self-doubt.

Doubt, fear, or whatever we call it, hides in the back of a writer’s mind and creeps back with a vengeance. Sometimes it kills creativity and sends writers away from their computers for days at a time.

Shakespeare said it well: “Our doubts are traitors/And make us lose the good we might oft’ bring/By fearing to attempt.” 

Not all writers doubt themselves — oh lucky are they who suffer no such malady.  But for those who do, why should we fear?

Because we make up stories?

Because as the saying goes, You are as good as you think you are … so when the occasional rejection letter arrives it can be seen as a definition of good. Not the correct definition, but come on, who hasn’t looked at those words (The story is not for us … It just didn’t grab me) as a definition of sorts, even if only for a minute?

We are human and as such conditioned to doubt.

Stephen King is said to question his writing ability.  His whole career is said to have started with one big insecurity. But his fear story had a good ending … thanks in part to his wife who, as we know, fished out the crumpled pages from the file he’d thrown them into and mailed them out for him.

So, if doubt exists and talent exists, now what do we do?

Maybe we never get past our doubts. Maybe we accept doubt as a constant and unwanted companion we learn to ignore, something that will always reside in the back of our minds. We take comfort in knowing some days are better than others, and that’s probably true for all creative types.

File:Brooklyn Museum - Utka Nayika.jpg

Unfinished painting

Maybe we push ahead no matter what. Sit in front of the computer and slog away. Get those thoughts out, edit, write, revise, start again. When doubt hits, maybe I’ll go jogging. Take it from there.

Dick Simon (of Simon & Schuster) once said, “All writers are scared to death. Some simply hide it better than others.”

Well … that’s good to know. :)


Images credit:  Fear, worry and doubt, from medium world – wordpress; unfinished painting depicting woman awaiting her lover – from Wikimedia Commons.


27 responses to “O is for Our Doubts

  1. Wonderful post, Sylvia. Yes, our doubts can be paralyzing, but also motivating to push for the best result. Too much confidence could make us sloppy and complacent.

  2. Doubts can be awful. I often take a break, and when I come back to things later, they never seem as bad.

    Rinelle Grey

  3. Fear is self-protective, if we understand that, we can step out of our fears and take those chances!

  4. Doubts are a part of reality. And I face them all the time. I have a fortune cookie slip of paper I saved and put on my desk that says, “Act as if it’s impossible to fail.”

  5. For me, and I assume many others, my doubts were fed by family and friends who didn’t see a future in writing. I’m still overcoming those. What they didn’t understand was, it was okay if I never made a living at it. I just loved to do it, and still do. :)

    • Yeah, that happens, too. Don’t listen to them. :) We write for the love of it … as a creative outlet. As a friend of mine says, I write because I can’t not write.
      If financial rewards come our way, fine … if not, oh, well.

  6. Hello Silivia, lovely to meet you!

    Thanks so much for making contact and for your comment!

    This is an issue that is near and dear to my heart. I have stuggled so much with doubt that I have sometimes avoided my computer for months at a time, let alone days. But that need to write always sends me back to it.

    Friends of mine who write semi-professionally have been telling me for years that the key to overcoming it is simply to write and let the words dorwn out the critical voice in your head. Having only recently started this practice I’m finally understanding their meaning. “Just write” is what they say. And they’re right.

    See you soon!

    • Thank you, Beverly, for coming by and for your thoughtful comments. You have very good friends, another very important part in a writer’s life … support. Glad you stopped by. See you soon.

  7. Everyone wants their writing to be well received and I believe that is the root of my doubt. I blog for fun but am concerned about what I publish.. I’ll never be a professional writer and don’t aspire to be one. But I don’t want to look like a horses rear end either.

  8. This is a wonderful post. I can relate to it, but the good thing is whenever I find myself in that mood, my critique groups pick me up, dust me off, and shove me back to the desk!

  9. This would be a good one to repost for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Fear stops us. Fear and insecurity block us. But, with the right people cheering us on, and a few successes, we can persevere!

  10. We’re all scared, yes, but then that means we’re all in good company with one another! :-)

  11. Oh man, if I had a dime. What a wonderful post. I think also sometimes women have a harder time with impostor syndrome than others…self-doubt is so insidious.

    Thanks for this. A great “O.”

  12. Sometimes we need our doubts. Great post.

  13. Doubt is like the common cold, sooner or later, you’ll catch it, bring it home with you and suffer with it for days at a time. It’s unavoidable, as you cleverly point out, an affliction of human nature. A necessary evil, to push us beyond our comfort zone perhaps…

  14. As a fellow creative, I can totally relate. I struggle with writing but I’m definitely more comfortable drawing. Even so there are always doubts about what I’m doing with my art and the confidence wanes. I try to push through and stay optimistic but I know that’s difficult. I’m doing better handling doubt now. Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

    Dan Miller

  15. That Shakespeare quote is so very relevant today. For me, today. :)

  16. Yes, pushing ahead no matter what is paramount. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  17. That’s a great quote from Dick Simon. Very true like everything in life, Some are better actors and put even more self-doubt into those who buy into it. I know I doubt my work some days and then others I really doubt my work :)

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