Overcoming writer’s doubt: are you any good?

If you don’t have doubts about yourself, it is very likely you’re not entirely human; doubly so if you’re a creator of any kind. In my experience, we’re always prone to looking for the minutest flaws in our works — and when we do end up finding them, we tend to get upset. More than upset, if we’re being honest here.

I myself am no exception. Originally, I was going to write a post about crafting original stories, but when I read through the second draft of my WIP I started to doubt my authority on the matter. You see, some of the stuff I had written was pretty cringe-worthy, and the story had plot holes the size of a floating island. For a brief moment, I wondered if I was on the right path in my life; whether I had the chance to be someone in a world saturated with amazing books.

It’s rather unsettling to face the prospect of your dream, the one thing you’ve worked so hard to achieve, failing. Failing in the face of all the years you spent hunched over the laptop and pieces of loose paper. Failing in the face of your family’s trust in you. Failing and falling into the void of grey normalcy.

Sound a little depressing? Well, worry not: there are various ways to avoid that harrowing sensation and write in peace.

Read first lines

You may not have time to read every book you lay your eyes on, but you can definitely read their first lines. The opening sentence is the hook of a novel, supposed to drag unwitting readers into the story. I’ve found that by reading and comparing, I can reassure myself that my writing can be just as good as published authors — and I gain quick insight into what’s working and what’s not.

Now, you may be wondering: what books should I pick? Should it be something in my genre, or outside? Something popular, or relatively obscure? Something you’ve read before or something completely new? The answer is simple: read whatever your heart desires.

I, for example, always have a book or two in mind that I want to read, so I’ll go on Amazon or Goodreads to look them up. Sometimes, the first lines manage to entice me enough to read the entire sample available, which is when I know it’s good. Other times, I instead look through the suggested books and pick one that strikes my fancy. Of course, if digital books aren’t your cup of tea, you can always stop by your local bookstore or library and conduct your readings there.

Like in all writing, there are no hard rules here: the important thing is to take mental notes of what worked and what didn’t. The more perspective you have, the more confident you’ll be as an author — and the writer’s doubt will learn to stay far away from you.

Let someone you trust read your work

Call a friend: it’s as simple as it sounds. Find someone who you know will be honest with you: your parents, or your siblings, or friends, and ask them for their thoughts. Tell them you need their honest opinion to grow in your art, and that you won’t be offended by their constructive criticism. Of course, if you worry they’ll still be prone to sugarcoating their feedback, there’s plenty of resources available online. Start with platforms like Wattpad, Sweek or the Nearly Complete writer’s group, and meet a few people who can share in on your woes.

For me, my critic is my sister, who I know I can trust to tell me when my work is not up to par. However, I don’t usually let her read it when I’m in the process of writing a first or second draft, because I feel like premature criticism blows a hole in my writing muscle and tends to summon writer’s block. In those cases, it’s better to finish your draft first and then seek that bittersweet reassurance.

Of course, when you do find new flaws, use them to move your novel forward. Ask your critic partner what they feel doesn’t work, and brainstorm ideas on how to address it. Just know, a great story doesn’t come from one or two drafts. You always have to keep improving your craft to be able to tell amazing stories, just like an artist would improve their drawing skills to capture amazing scenes. Practice makes perfect.

Vent out

If you don’t feel like showing your friend, sister, beta-reader or the internet your work, then at least vent out your doubts. Do it out loud or on paper, whatever works for you — as long as nobody gets hurt.

Sometimes, venting out helps you release all the pent-up emotions and move on with your writing. Other times, it leads to other people reassuring you that you are good enough, or even sharing in on the misery. You might not stumble upon a genius solution to your plot by venting out, but it will definitely feel good. And that is undoubtedly a very important step in escaping the dark hole that is writer’s block.

Know you’re better than good enough

Even though nobody may tell you that you’re good enough to succeed, know that hard and clever work has a way of paying off. Even if one story doesn’t work out, the fifty-second one might. Don’t let fears of failure stop you from pursuing your dreams — because if you do, the regret you might experience down the road could be worse than the actual failure.

Now, if you’re sneering bitterly at the screen because you’ve already faced some bajillion rejections: don’t give up! Instead, use those experiences to your advantage, and think about what’s not working. Examine your rejections: is there a pattern to them? Is there something you can fix? Let your experiences teach you and make you the best writer you can be. Then try again. Don’t give up.

So come on, don’t wait for me to say any more wise words. Go read, vent, write, do something. The world is waiting for its next great creator.

This post was originally published on PlatinumWriter.


About the author

Storyteller, filmmaker, lover of cats. Writer at Sweek and PlatinumWriter.

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about the teacher

Storyteller, filmmaker, lover of cats. Writer at Sweek and PlatinumWriter.

Covered in this lesson: