I decided to I participate in the ‘Writing Contest: Overcoming Writer’s Doubt’ held by Positive Writer. So this post is about overcoming doubt in my writing, it would take more than a post to talk about overcoming doubt in other aspects of my life as well.
This article isn’t about overcoming doubt it’s more about how I acknowledge the doubts and write anyway; I don’t think that the doubts ever go away entirely. So let’s start with a definition:
Reasons I don’t write
I am a writer – do you know how many years it has taken me to be able to say that and not feel like a fraud? I am a writer, but even though I say that now there are times that I don’t write: and I am not alone. All of you writers out there, you know you don’t write as much as you would like to, as much as you need to.
So what are the four reasons that I tell myself I’m not writing:
- Lack of time – with so many priorities in my day I can’t find the time to write. Writing is a focused activity that I can’t easily slot into small gaps in the day. I need to have dedicated periods of time to write, it’s a craft after all.
- Writer’s block – I can’t think of what I want to write, it’s just not flowing for me at the moment. My muse isn’t inspiring me and I just can’t settle on a topic: I need inspiration.
- Priorities – writing is just not the number one priority at the moment, sometimes it’s way down the list. I am able to have thoughts and contribute to the world in a way that doesn’t involve crafting words.
- I don’t feel like it – worse than writer’s block, this is “I just don’t wanna do it, ok!?” After all, I enjoy writing and I don’t want it to become a chore.
You get that these are all crap, right? I am a writer, and whilst it requires some inspiration and I get a great buzz from being able to craft a brilliant sentence, I need to make a living from what I do. More than that, I have a compelling need to write just to get the ideas out of my head. All of those reasons above are just excuses that my conscious brain uses to mask the truth.
The real reason I don’t write – doubt
Pretty simple really, and I bet that this is 99% true for you as well. Everything else is a story you are telling yourself to not face your fear. You know the doubts and fears, the things that you say to yourself:
- What if it isn’t good enough?
- What if I’m just wasting my time and kidding myself?
- The last thing I wrote was crap, it didn’t flow at all.
- My ideas are crap, and the story doesn’t work.
- No one is going to pay to read my stuff.
- There are thousands of other writers out there that are all better than me.
- I’m a fraud, everyone will realise that and laugh at me.
- I have no formal training.
- Who am I to think that I can make it as a writer?
- But it isn’t perfect.
- Add in your own self-limiting belief here…
The problem is that my self-limiting beliefs block my creativity – you cannot create when you are constantly second-guessing every word that goes onto the page (or every brushstroke on the canvas, every piece of ink, every stitch into fabric and so on.) So, if I can’t quiet them down then the excuses above are true – I do get writer’s block, my writing is crap and I am wasting my time.
It is valid that sometimes I don’t feel like it, sometimes I don’t feel like doing anything at all. Sometimes all I want to do is read, and as a writer there is nothing wrong with that. But when my inner voice is like a churlish child that can’t be coaxed to the computer, or a pen and paper, I know that it is because she is scared.
So what do I do about it?
I used to listen to the lies my brain was telling me, I used to believe that all of the ‘reasons’ I wasn’t writing were true – but I call myself on it now. It doesn’t mean I don’t doubt myself anymore, I think I am possibly more afraid than I ever was because I know that I will not allow myself to hide behind these excuses.
There is a simple technique that I use now, I sit somewhere quiet and I ask myself what is going on. The excuses come from some part of my personality, and I try to talk to that part about the actual problem. By making myself confront the fear, by realising that today I’m just feeling a little fragile about my skills and abilities, or some other part of my life entirely – I can set myself realistic goals for the day, and relieve the pressure on my writing.
Do you want to know the fun thing about this? By putting less pressure on myself to create it often means that I end up doing more, because once I start writing in those moods I am often prolific. It’s a weird dichotomy, if I can get push past the doubts in my head, what I create is some of my best work. But it takes self-kindness, and the ability to silence my internal critic, so my creative self feels safe – the critic can come back when I’m editing, but remember that she has no place in the writing process.
Do you want to know the other secret? Sometimes I can’t do it, and I have to agree that today is not the day for writing, so I work on other things instead. I’m kind enough to myself to know it’s just not going to happen.
What lies do you tell yourself when you are scared of writing, or scared that your writing is not … enough? Are you able to overcome those fears and write anyway?