How to Use Self-Doubt to Your Advantage
Every writer has it.
New writers fear their writing skills aren’t good enough. They fear they have no idea about formal structure or, their basic story ideas are no good, assuming they have basic story ideas to begin with.
Even writers who have been in the game for dozens of bestselling novels can suffer self-doubt. They might fear they don’t belong, that they’re not worthy, that they’ll never have another good idea.
Self-doubt can be crippling, destructive. Self-doubt can stop a writer writing, even before they get words down on the page. It can even prompt a writer to abandon hundreds upon thousands of words simply because they feel it’s not good enough.
But since it’s an unavoidable part of being a writer, there’s something we can all do to turn it to our advantage.
Self-doubt can be a very powerful motivator. Instead of letting it consume you, instead of wallowing in that fear, stand up. Face it. Look for ways to overcome it. Use Self-Doubt.
What’s the Source of Your Self-Doubt?
First, figure out where that doubt and fear is coming from?
Do you feel like your writing sucks?
Do you feel your ideas are not worth pursuing?
Do you feel you have no ideas at all?
Do you think your work is unsellable or unmarketable?
Do you worry your previous successes have been flukes?
Do you worry, now you’ve got one book done, that you’ll never be able to produce another?
Use Self-Doubt to Become a Better Writer
If you’re worried that your writing simply isn’t good, then make it better.
Study the craft. Read non-fiction books on writing (here are a few good examples), read books, listen to podcasts. The lessons are all there, waiting for you to listen.
Read fiction of the kind you’re trying to write. Read different fiction. Read good and bad writing and try to pinpoint the difference.
Once you’ve got some craft theory behind you, go back to your not-so-great writing and identify why it sucks.
If you’re still not sure, get another opinion. Consider hiring a developmental editor to take a look and tell you what’s wrong. Give your work to a beta reader or critique group.
Once you’ve identified your writing weaknesses, fix them. Keep studying. Keep writing. Remember this quote:
“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” Ernest Hemingway.
Use Self-Doubt to Find Better Ideas
If you’re out of ideas or you feel your ideas just aren’t up to scratch, use that feeling to drive you out into the world looking for more ideas, bigger and better ideas.
Fill up your creative well with all the things you love to read and watch.
Look around at your life and notice the details. What catches your attention? Why?
Ask “what if…?” in every situation.
Look at old ideas, cliches, and brainstorm ways you could make them fresh again. How many ways can you think of to revive the cliched concept of a vampire and human romance? Just an example.
Use Self-Doubt to Write More Books
Perhaps you’ve got one or more books done and they’re not too bad. Do you fear you’ll never be able to do it again? Or are you suffering from imposter syndrome?
Use that fear. Write another book to prove to yourself you can do it again. Write another book to prove to yourself you are allowed to call yourself a writer; you are allowed to count yourself among the writers you admire.
Write more books. Still feeling the fear? Write more. There’s every chance that fear and doubt will follow you through every publication. Just write another one. One day, you might just start believing you are what everyone else sees – a successful writer.
Self-doubt never feels great, but it doesn’t have to be the end of a writing journey. Think of it more of a point on the way where you pull over and look at the map. Figure out where you need to go to get around it and take that first step.
I’ll see you on the road.
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