7 Tips for writers to work through the self-doubt


Once upon a time, I had really, really thin skin when it came to reviews of my writings.  I would rejoice in the “I loved it” comments and break down in tears over the “I hate it” comments.  Quite frankly, if I’d never received the “I loved it” comments, I may have given up writing all together.  Let’s face it.  Some of the “I hate it” comments can be ruthless and cruel.

They were also the best reviews I ever received.

If you’re a writer like I am, you know we put our hearts and souls into our manuscripts.  They are pieces of us exposed to the world. When someone comes back with a not-so-glowing review or comment, it resonates deep within us.  We doubt ourselves and our abilities to write.  We realize just how vulnerable we are to the opinions of others.  With reviews of the Make Believe anthology coming in, (my short story THE AMULET OF ORMISEZ appears alongside 5 others), I fear my skin may not be as thick as I’d like.  While none of the reviews have been bad, I’m sure there will be some to come.  So how do I prepare for the self-doubt I’m sure will come?  Here are a few tips I’m incorporating, thanks to my fabulous beta readers and a fantastic article:  Tim Ferriss:  7 Great Principles For Dealing with Haters:

1.  Ignore the haters.  Realize not everyone is going to like what you write.  It’s inevitable.  You can’t please everyone.  Don’t try.  My story is unique. The publisher liked it and chose it out of a sea of others to publish.  That speaks volumes.

2.  Some people just won’t ‘get it’.  You may have written an amazing story with a superb plot line, but somewhere, someone is not going to understand it.  They’ll find the story confusing or lacking.  That’s okay.  There’ll be others that do ‘get it’.  They are the ones that matter.

3.  Don’t react to negativity.  Expect it and embrace it.  Ferriss states in his article that 10% of people will find a way to take anything personally.  He says “People are least productive in reactive mode.”   He recommends to expect negativity and choose your response (or lack of one) in advance, as opposed to reacting inappropriately.  Don’t commit social media suicide by reacting to negativity.  Be better than that.  Hold your head up high and remember tips 1 and 2.  Don’t make a spectacle of yourself.

4.  Remember, not everyone is out to pounce on you.  This is a big one for aspiring authors to overcome.  People aren’t waiting to destroy you.  In fact, they, themselves, are afraid of being destroyed.  You must put your work out there to gain confidence.  My suggestion:  find some great beta readers you can trust, who can be honest but kind, unafraid to point out what doesn’t work and praise you for what does.  They’ll also be a great cheering section when  1, 2 and 3 above happen.

5.  Be prolific.  Don’t fall in love with your manuscript.  Write, write, write.  Love what you write but don’t become so enamored with it you don’t let others see it, critique it, blast holes in it, or drool on it.  Shatter your ego.  It’s not about you.  It’s about the stories.  Don’t focus on one huge project. Blog. Write short stories.  Spread yourself around.  It’s amazing how quick your self-confidence goes up.

6. Write in other genres.  Yep. Step outside your comfort zone.  Explore the unknown.  How do you know if you don’t like roller coasters if you never ride them?  How do you know if you don’t like carrots if you never eat one.  Try something unknown.  You may discover you’re better at it than you thought.

7.  Submit.  Don’t be afraid to submit your stories.  Are you going to get accepted all the time?  No.  Are you going to get rejected all the time?  No, though sometimes it may feel like it.  All you need to remember is that rejection isn’t bad.  It just means your work wasn’t suited for that particular publisher.  Keep submitting.  Someone will eventually love what you wrote, believe in it, and publish it, but you have to believe in it enough to submit.

So how do you deal with fear and self-doubt?  I would love to hear your comments.

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18 thoughts on “7 Tips for writers to work through the self-doubt

  1. I totally need to bookmark this and come back a couple times a year when writer’s doubt hits. Every time I think it won’t happen again and I’ll reach some more enlightened state where I realize that I’m talented and one day I’ll get there if I keep plugging away. Most of the times I stay there -in that happy spot- but at least once or twice a year I have a total crisis of faith.

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    1. I think all of us have to regroup a few times a year. I read something once that said writers who think they’re great usually suck, and those who doubt themselves and their talents usually are very good writers. I take some solace in that. I’m a diamond in the rough. We all are. We just can’t give up. Ever.

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  2. This is a great blog for any writer, no matter what genre they may be. Thank you for publishing it, there are times I sit there and doubt everything, then I have some strawberry ice cream, Hagaan Dasz of course, and everything seems alright after that

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  3. Excellent list! 🙂

    I started with thin skin, too. but then I realized I write the things I like to read, so I’m not going to worry about people who don’t like it. This world would be pretty boring if we all liked the same things, wouldn’t it! Writers and creators are all about trying new things and pushing beyond normal, right? 🙂

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  4. I relish feedback of any kind. Even the “not so positive” kind. I figure it can help me make my writing stronger, or, I can ignore it because everyone is entitled to their opinion and 10 other people say positive things. There have been plenty of works I don’t care for, but someone else does!

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  5. Good points. We have to love our work before we put it out there, but once that’s done, believe in ourselves and what/how we write. Only way to not get bogged down in writer’s blog after a negative comment!

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  6. I think we all doubt ourselves now and then. I remind myself of a few things. I’ve made it a rule never to apologize for what I write. This is my story, told as I saw it in my head, and not everyone thinks the way I do. That’s okay. There are thousands of authors who write in thousands of different ways with vastly different “voices” and life experiences for them to choose from. Lastly, I’m writing to entertain people, so I concentrate on those I do entertain instead of those who feel the need to be hurtful and shout it to the world. Some people just have a need to hate, and it spills out in everything they do. To them, I smile and hope someone will give them a hug.

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  7. I recently got up-ity over a good review. The reason was that the reviewer said things that weren’t true about the PLOT of my story. It bothered me, despite the fact that she really liked it. I needed to sit back and tell myself that different people will read different things into a story. Took me a wile to get that through my head though.

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  8. I wish I had some grand advice , but I don’t have it. When self doubt hits, I pray. I try to remind myself that I write because I am a writer and not to please anyone else. This is an area I struggle with. Maybe when I’m finally published, it will be different…but it doesn’t sound like it will ever go away.

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    1. Sharon, I can tell you it doesn’t go away. I always doubt myself and my story. I read other stories and mine seems so eh next to them. I need to quit comparing myself to other authors. I’m just as good, just different.

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  9. Whenever self doubt creeps its way into my head, I do my best to shove it aside. I remind myself that I have signed with an agent, so she liked my first novel. I remind myself I love to write ( and no one can take that away from me.) I remind myself that it takes many, many hours of writing to become a good writer, and then if I’m really not getting over it, I go and find something good that was written about my work and sticky note it to my computer. If all else fails, I get my husband to tell me how great my writing is 🙂

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  10. Some really good tips there. I struggle with self doubt a lot and wrote a blog post on it. One of my friends commented, saying that self doubt makes us try harder to better ourselves, which I thought was a great way of looking at it!

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  11. Thanks for the pingback on my interview with MarcyKate Connolly. I enjoyed your article and feel like it always helps to share your insights on writing with other authors especially when it comes to working through self-doubt and rejection.

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