For a first blog post, I thought self-doubt was an apt theme, as it is what has kept me from updating the site and posting new content before now. As a new(ish) writer, this is something I constantly battle with. Read on, and let me know if anything strikes a chord.
Self-doubt is something that has become something of a cliché for writers, probably because it is something that is experienced by many writers. Over the next few weeks, I would like to throw my hat into that ring with my own take on doubt, and look at some of the psychology of it, how it relates to the field of writing, and what can you do about it.
Doubt. What is it?
The Oxford Dictionary describes it:
[noun] – A feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction: ‘some doubt has been cast upon the authenticity of this account’.
[verb, with object] – Feel uncertain about: ‘I doubt my ability to do the job’.
[verb, with clause] – ‘I doubt anyone slept that night’.
It further goes on to elaborate doubt, describing it as:
. Questioning the truth
. Disbelief or lack of faith
. Fear, or being afraid
That being said, it follows that self-doubt is defined (in The Oxford Dictionary) as ‘lack of confidence in oneself and one’s abilities’.
. Constantly seeking advice
. Needing validation on decisions
. Minimising yourself (‘I read that somewhere’)
. Non-pursuit of goals
. Need for reassurance
. Failure to make decisions
You may have experienced (or be experiencing) some or all of the following:
. Messages internalized in childhood of being wrong
. Busy, hectic lifestyle
. Challenging times in your life (bereavement, job loss, etc.)
. Uncertainty in your (writing) life
. Comparison with other more accomplished writers
. Previous negative experiences (rejections, negative feedback)
. Poor healthy / unhealthy lifestyle
. Lack of confidencine
If left untreated, self-doubt in writers may lead to some or all of the following:
. Poor decision making
. No decision making
· Anxiety over your current WIP
· Leaving work unfinished
· Prevention of expressing your ‘true’ self in your writing
Ultimately this can lead to:
· Failure to share / publish work
· Withdrawal from writing generally
I’ll deal with treatment next time.Does any of this ring true with you? It certainly does with me. Self doubt, if left unchecked, can stop you from making decisions; important life-decisions, but also to a lesser degree, with your writing. Over time, self-doubt can leave you craving reassurance from others, as you are uncertain of the path you are taking, the choices you have made, the direction your manuscript is going, the key characteristics of your protagonist, (add your own doubts here). In short, it can paralyse your creative voice, stop you from trying anything new, stop you from submitting a story, or stop you from hitting ‘publish’.
A good deal of self-doubt can be attributed to fear: fear of rejection, fear of being ‘found out’ (imposter syndrome), fear of criticism, fear that you are ‘not good enough’.
It can strike at any time:
· In planning for your novel – Am I capable of writing 70k words that make sense?
· While writing you masterpiece – Is this character believable? It’s just not as good as [insert name of famous writer here]
. After you sign that publishing contract and the book appears on shelves in the bookstore – It was probably luck. I imagine the process was rigged. I’ll never be able to repeat that success.Well, that’s a lot for the first instalment. If you could relate to any of the above signs and symptoms, don’t worry all is not lost. Next time, I will look at some of the causes and treatment plans! If you have any thoughts on tackling self-doubt, or how it has affected you, please share your experiences with us in the comments.