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Tackling Self Doubt as a Writer

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A phrase that many writers feel but very few vocalize is: is this even worth it? Engaging in a long term writing project is difficult, particularly if it is a project that you have a personal connection to. It is common to feel inadequate, as though you do not have what it takes to recreate the vision that you have in your head. Self doubt is the worst form of writer’s block, and can even deter some writers from beginning their project at all. It is hard to work past the fear of failure and embarrassment when writing, but you’d be surprised to know that you are not alone in the slightest. Even the most experienced writers suffer from self doubt when tackling subjects that are particularly personal or complex. Like most things in the creative process, getting rid of self doubt is easier said than done. It is not always as simple as wishing it away or ignoring it. On the contrary, in order to get rid of your self doubt, you have to be willing to confront it first. Get to the core of your self doubt in order to work through it from the inside out. Ask yourself these questions to get to the crux of what is making you feel inadequate as a writer.

  • What is it that you don’t think you are capable of?

Oftentimes, self doubt comes from a very specific thing that you do not feel you can achieve as a writer. Reflect on what you are trying to accomplish through the particular object that is giving you anxiety. Does it require a certain level of creativity that you don’t feel like you have? Is it a time commitment that you don’t feel like you’ll be able to stick to? Is there a topic in the project that you don’t feel ready to handle? Pinpointing the specific thing that is sparking your insecurity is a good place to start when confronting that insecurity. It will help you work through it in a practical way, instead of simply trying to suppress the insecurity. Call the thing stressing you out by name. It will give you more power in the long run.

  • What do you think you will lose by giving this a try?

Sometimes all it takes is a change of perspective. Think about the project you are trying to accomplish. Are there any stakes riding on it? If so, how severe are they? If you happened to try and ‘fail’ by some circumstance, how much would that failure hurt you? Oftentimes, we scare ourselves with consequences that don’t actually exist. In reality, if you finished your draft and then realized that it wasn’t what you wanted it to be, how much would you lose from that experience? When the consequences before us are undefined it is much easier to be afraid of them. However, when you allow yourself to consider the worst possible outcome of trying something new, it may become clear to you that you are not risking as much of your happiness as you think. If fear is what is holding you back or making you feel insecure in your writing, look it straight in the eye.

  • What do you think you will lose by not giving this a try?

Now that you have established that the consequences of “failing” at this project are not as bad as you thought, give yourself a moment to think about what you might lose from not engaging in this project. This will require you to meditate on what originally motivated you to pursue this project in the first place. If it is a passion project, what is the passion that motivated you? What is the original path of reasoning or imagination that drove you to sit down and pick up a pen? Sure, you might be embarking on a creative journey that is daunting, but the experiences that you may miss out on if you give up on this project will greatly outweigh the extra energy you may have to sacrifice to commit to the project. Passion and inspiration that are unexplored is always a missed opportunity. You may not enjoy the outcome – most writers are not super proud of their first draft – but that is what editors are for. Following your passions all the way through to conclusion might end in a little disappointment at the worst, but leaving your passions unexplored will always lead to resentment. You will always be wondering what could have been if you don’t dive in now.

Self doubt is a terrifying feeling that many writers suffer from at one point or another. It is only natural to feel underqualified when you are facing something that you have not attempted before. However, whether you feel mentally or intellectually capable of completing your project becomes irrelevant when you are driven by a relentless passion. Reflect on what is scaring you, and then reflect further on what is driving you. If what is driving you is stronger than what is scaring you, that is the sign to keep pushing forward.