Anonymous asked: “Any advice for the crippling self-doubt with writing? I do short stories and I never think they’re good enough.”
Get ready for probably one of the worst pep-talks ever written. The first time I heard someone say (and not to me actually), “No one asked you to be a writer,” was probably the first time I realized I didn’t actually have to write.
In fact, no one has to write. But I write anyway – I can’t imagine not writing. I’ll read something fantastic and suddenly I need to write. If I can’t think of what I’m going to type out on a page, I turn to a notebook and jot down scenes or notes, or plans, or something. I have been doing this for a very long time, like it’s some weird coping mechanism. I can’t envision my life without writing in it. I may never become famous, I may never even publish a novel. I may never have anything to my name but a handful of short stories. I may always need to have some crappy day-job to pay the bills. I may never even actually finish the stupid novel I’m working on now, but I will probably always be working on a novel. I get antsy when it’s been too many days without writing. It’s like an itch that can only be scratched by putting words on a page.
So, when I am facing some form of self-doubt, if I think what I’m writing isn’t very good, or isn’t particularly interesting, or just won’t ever be good enough for someone to want to read it, really what am I going to do? I might procrastinate. I might write something else. I might write something nonfiction or job-related or even just avoid working on the project that made me feel self-doubt, but I can’t not write. Really, I’m convinced this blog is a procrastination tool, albeit a helpful one, at least for me. If I’m not writing my novel, I’m writing on here or I’m writing articles and job-stuff or I’m writing promotional emails. I’m writing something somewhere. I have to be. I get really irritable when I’m not.
Even if I have self-doubt, even if “No one asked me to be a writer” – I don’t see a future for myself where I’m anything else. It’s not dependent on success. It’s not dependent on anything. I might have literally any other job title, but I’m still a writer. So when I’m facing self-doubt, it’s not like I’ll give up writing. I might give up on the thing I am writing if it’s really bad, but I’ll do things like look for writing prompts, I’ll write stupid things like a to-do list, or my thoughts on a book I read. I’ll write what I did that day – literally just something that no one ever has to see that will just make me feel better because I was still able to write words down on a page. If I’m not working on something fictional for too long, I also get annoyed so I start working on characters. I think of a setting. There’s always some idea that I want to work on. If nothing comes to mind, I’ll flip through my notebooks. I have so many ideas I just write down and never do anything with.
And to be honest, I don’t deal with a lot of self-doubt. I don’t think I’m all ego, but I know I’m pretty good. And “knowing” you’re a good writer is really something only you can convince yourself of. You can hear lots of friends, teachers, family members say you’re so good, but really the only opinion that matters is your own. Part of this I think is going to be learning that what you write about should matter to you. A lot of the time, when I had self-doubt, I was worried about what people would think of what I was writing. When I was able to get over that and just write something I thought was awesome, my stories got better and I worried a lot less anyway. I decided my opinion mattered more than the anonymous masses that I’d conjured up in my head. It sounds simple but it can take awhile to convince yourself that anything like this is true.
It’s about self-confidence. There will always be things or even people that will try to knock you down a peg, but sometimes it’s a matter of choosing what to listen to. If someone tells me my writing is terrible, I usually just laugh it off now. I just think, “Well, let’s see you try to do better.” And yeah, some writers are better than I am. I’m okay with admitting that. But just because someone else has talent, doesn’t mean that I don’t. If you’re reading this blog post, I figure I must have done something right somewhere.
The only person who can really keep you from having self-doubt is yourself. You have to be your own biggest fan and believe in your writing. It’s not always an easy thing, but if you’re like me, you’re not giving up, so you just move on. Start something you can get excited about, write something you think is awesome. Let no one else’s opinion about your work keep you from writing. Try not to get jealous too if someone else happens to be talented. Just because they’re a good writer does not mean that you aren’t. Work on confidence. If you don’t want to show anyone what you’re working on, don’t show it. It might be too soon. And lastly, confidence takes time. I’ve been at this a very long time. I’ve been shaky and nervous and hesitant before, but I got past it. Stick it out long enough, you will too.