How A Writer Quiets His Self-Doubt

Self-doubt is one of those things you’re going to contend with as a creative person. It’s just how it is. It sucks. I know. And I’m sorry. Thing is, this isn’t math. Creative projects do not have an easy DO THIS, THEN THIS HAPPENS outcome. Like many careers, it’s wildly unpredictable, and given over to forces beyond your control — worse, we can easily doubt the parts we do control. We don’t trust ourselves and we fail to have faith in ourselves, and self-doubt worms its wormy fingers into the gaps and starts pulling us apart.

I spoke about this the other day on THE TWITTERS, and this is the result:

14 comments

  • This is so great…snorting, head-bobbing, uh-huh uh-huh kind of great. Plus you cuss better than anyone I know…quality and placement, you’re like the conductor of a word orchestra.

  • I love this! I call my self doubt the EIC (Evil Inner Critic) and I leave him bound and gagged in the closet, for the most part. Every once in a while he spits the gag out, but I just duct-tape a new one in place.

  • Your advice is something I share with other writers. Straight forward and doable. Following your words, I’ve finished four books. Yes, the middle can get messy and the path through the forest is not always clear, but that’s what edits are for when the draft is done. Sensei Chuck said “finish your shit”, so I do. Thank you for your generosity and guidance.

  • October 3, 2016 at 4:05 PM // Reply

    My biggest problem, I think, is that I naturally view writing as a zero-sum game: there’s only a certain amount of money that is going to be given to authors, so any dollar that I get is a dollar that isn’t going to someone more talented than myself (or, similarly, any time spent reading my stuff is distracting people from reading works that are better than mine).

    Has anyone dealt with something similar?

  • I truly love that (very long) twitter posting 🙂 It’s so true. I always was the gal who brought the 50ft of rope 🙂 And I have found I always am the gal now that needs an outline. It’s my rope. I might loop it around weird stuff in the middle, but it gets me through. (We also were the D&D group that brought chickens to dungeons to throw at weird looking things to see if it’s a trap, but that’s besides the point… 😛 )
    Great post, thank you for that. So very true 🙂
    Also, you’re not alone. I always hate myself in the middle, too 🙂 And the story. And the world. But it gets better, usually.

  • Thank you so much for this. Lately, i’ve been so caught up in what I’m critiquing as I write, I can never finish anything I start. You reminded me that it’s okay to trip, fall, and stumble through a piece (even life, I might add) but you need to get through it before you should even worry about what you’ve got. Otherwise you will never finish!

  • Well put Chuck, I never really thought of it as a journey to a far off forest. But, really that’s a good metaphor. Being a true pantser is even more unnerving since I don’t work from an outline. I have a character and a semi-plot. I toss it up in the air and watch how the sunlight catches it. Then, I do it again and again until something intelligent starts to form.

    Like everyone else, I go through this sequence,

    -“Gosh I suck at this.”

    -“No, I am friggin brilliant. This crap is spun gold.”

    -“You Dumbass, you are such a poser. One day they are going to see through your posing and then that’ll be it for you, big ole failure.”

    -“But look, that is actually well written and makes for an entertaining story.”

    -“Who are you trying to fool, you’re a hack!”

    And it goes on and on and on and … did I mention, on?

  • Definitely good stuff, sir. Thanks very much for sharing, especially the part about having an appropriate number of fucks. Not zero, not too many, but just enough to keep going.

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