A Writer on Writer’s Doubt

A Writer on Writer's Doubt

Doubt. They warn you about it. On every How To for Authors, you’re practically guaranteed to find something along the lines of “Every writer, at least once in their writing process, will  think that their work is absolute crap. The only way to deal with it is to keep writing.”

But then they also have those posts where they say “Sometimes, it’s a good idea to quit on a story. Maybe it’s not developed enough. Maybe it just needs to sit for a little while while you work on something else. The sad truth is, not all stories are made to be written.” Maybe they don’t say it like that, but it’s what they mean. From what I understand, the book market is already over-saturated. Everyone, it seems, wants to write a novel. (Though, while I agree that self-publishing has made things easier for people to get their books out there, I’m not sure if you can factually say that even most people are writing books. It’s hard to write books. That’s kind of what this whole post is about, you see.)

So then you’re left with the question, “Is this just doubt, or am I right in thinking that this book just isn’t ready to be written?”

I wonder if, when these authors say it gets better, when they say that all you have to do is write, if these authors found it that easy to ignore the nasty little voice in the back of their heads. I wonder if maybe they’re actually downplaying it, or if through their victory of becoming published they’ve kind of forgotten just how potent that self-doubt can be. If this isn’t the case, and it truly was that easy for them to shake off doubt, does that mean that my near-constant self-doubt is just my conscience’s way of saying this project isn’t working? That I should quit? It’s hard to know for sure when the best advice people seem capable of giving is something along the lines of “only you, the author, can decide when it’s time to put the story away.”

The Best Way Out is Always Through

Supposedly, authors are the harshest critics of their works. They (or, at least, I) want it to be as good as it’s going to get before handing it over to another person. Maybe it’s because we know how distracting mistakes can be in writing, and we want our beta readers to see that it isn’t absolute crap – the idea is good, the plot is decent, the characters are practically three-dimensional. It’s just the fact that the whole thing is just ‘good’ or ‘decent’ instead of ‘great’ or ‘inspirational.’ This is really why authors can’t really be perfectionists.

And the truth is, if writing wasn’t ingrained in my very bones, I might’ve given up on the whole thing already. That’s why I’m doing what I guess we all do – I keep bumbling on, hoping things will get better. That it’ll turn out in the end. And even if it doesn’t, at least I can say that I did what I loved doing.


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