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Conquer writer’s doubt

Does self-doubt stop you writing?

Self-doubt is that niggling voice in the back of your mind that tells you that nobody will want to read your writing, you can’t do it, you’re a fraud, you’ll never be good enough. It can have you wondering why you bothered to pick up a pen in the first place.

Doubt can stop you getting started on a piece of work or finishing a project. It knows how language impacts you. Whenever you allow it to tell you that you ‘can’t’ do something, for example you can’t finish that manuscript or you can’t enter a writing competition, you inadvertently give it power. 

‘Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.

William Shakespeare

It’s impossible to shut self-doubt out completely. It’s an unfortunate side effect of how we have evolved. At times, it can be handy. Without it, we would never question or challenge ourselves. We might not examine why we do things and seek alternatives. We might not push ourselves to develop and grow. We might take risks unaware of potential consequences.

Doubt becomes an issue when it prevents us from achieving our goals.

What we do with doubt and how we deal with insecurity is what matters.

How to deal with self-doubt

There are six things that could help you conquer self-doubt.

Reframe your doubts – use doubt to drive your work by setting out to prove it wrong. Every time you write, you prove you can do it, that you are born to write. Use doubt to push yourself out your comfort zone. If doubt is telling you the journey is too hard, you’ll never make it, put your foot on the peddle and prove you can get up the mountain. 

Don’t compare yourself to others – self-doubt is fuelled by comparing yourself to other writers, particularly revered ones. You have a unique writing voice that is like no other person on the planet. Read other authors, enjoy their work, analyse their composition and writing process, but then do your own thing, your way.

Focus on your gifts – Rather than let doubt tear you down, build yourself up. Build a fortress out of your strengths. Think about all the experiences you’ve had in life that will give you unique perspectives, look back at old work and recognise how far you’ve come and celebrate your strengths. You may have weaknesses but you can work on those. No one, not even renowned authors, were born literary geniuses. They had to master the craft too. 

Surround yourself with support – our doubts can be reduced by sharing them. Talking to a group of like-minded people about your worries can alleviate them. Joining a writing community or class either online or face-to-face will allow you to discuss your fears and brainstorm solutions. Isolation breeds self-doubt so be sure to get involved. Joining the Lightbox Originals Writing Community is a great start. It’s a wonderful, friendly place.  

Recognise and celebrate your achievements – if you submit a story to a competition, that’s an achievement. If you type ‘The End’ on your first draft, that’s an achievement. Any writing success, big or small helps to dispel self-doubt. Make up a ‘celebration book’ and fill it with achievements, reviews, positive comments, notes about great writing moments you’ve had and so on. Turn to it and let it encourage you whenever you have a wobble.

Be kind to yourself – If you’re overwhelmed by doubt some days, you’re not a failure. Difficult feelings are normal. Do an activity that boosts your body, mind and soul. Go for a walk, listen to your favourite album, watch a motivational Ted Talk, or chat with friends who encourage your writing. Then, find your way back to the page. 

Using these simple techniques can help to limit your doubts, but don’t worry if you do have wobbles as that’s perfectly natural. Doubt is unlikely to magically disappear overnight and you may never be free of it completely but write anyway.

Doubt doesn’t deserve to be in the driving seat. You do.

Take the wheel and tell it that, if it wants to come on the journey, it’ll have to sit in the back. It may shout out to you but you don’t have to listen. You’re the driver.

Remember, you are writer, whatever doubt says. You deserve your dreams.

 ‘Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.’ 

E.E. Cummings
About Shelley Wilson

Shelley Wilson is a British, genre-straddling author of sixteen books including motivational self-help books and young adult fantasy fiction. She has a crazy black cat called Luna and is obsessed with vampires, Tudor and Viking history as well as exploring castles


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