If you’re a writer then you most definitely have writer’s doubt. And it’s always with you, always part of the process. A necessary parasite. I realise there is no way to get rid of this feeling but there are ways to minimize its effect.
Over the last few months I have been steadily working my way through completing stories and keeping the doubt at bay, it isn’t easy, sometimes I’ve allowed myself to wallow in that horrible feeling and to even believe it. Getting out of the slump requires constant positive comebacks to that negative voice and to be doing something in order to feel productive at the very least. While this is the worst time to try to write anything it is a crucial part of shutting the voice up for a while.
When I look online at ways to get over writer’s doubt (or self-doubt for writer’s) they offer tips like ‘keeping a positive mindset’ or ‘don’t compare yourself to other writers’ etc. I don’t think these are useful because I feel the best way to overcome this feeling is to be practical, to change up what you’re currently doing but to remain active. You will compare your writing regardless, you won’t always have a positive mindset, so when those things happen what else can be done to stave off the curse of the doubt?
I’ve made a list of what has worked for me so far. . .
1. Writing flash and micro fiction : A fellow (published) writer suggested this to me on this here blog. Before this, I knew flash and micro fiction existed but I didn’t really believe anyone would read such short stories (purely because I didn’t read such short stories myself) so I never considered it. But after taking the advice from someone who was successful in the field, I found it to be one of the best things I’ve tried regarding my writing. As writers the number one thing that strikes doubt and negative thoughts is incomplete stories. Hitting a dead end and not knowing what to do next or having a bunch of unfinished stories lying around is a motivation killer. These shorter stories help build confidence and also boosts creativity. And there’s just nothing quite like that feeling of triumph when finally completing a story, right?!
2.Write as soon as you feel inspired : Inspiration comes knocking at any time. In the middle of a work day, in the dead of night while listening to a pathetic love song, sometimes even a mood can inspire a story. I’ve made the mistake in the past of not jotting down ideas when they were wild and free in my mind, thinking I’ll remember them later and I never did or if I did it was so vague I couldn’t even decipher what exactly I was so excited about in the first place. Writing in the moment helps you keep your idea lucid and most times these bursts of inspiration come with offshoot ideas for other stories and sometimes the momentum is so good you could even write a micro story right there and then!
3.Have someone whose opinion you respect and trust read your work : If you’re lucky enough to have a writing group you like in your town or city, join them. Writing is such an isolated endeavour, and while the world is teeming with millions of books you don’t often come across an actual creative writer every day. I haven’t. My city has some pretty bleak options in terms of writing groups so it’s a little bit harder to find other people to relate to this way. Finding a person who is intelligent, honest and has your best interest in mind when helping you is very important when considering showing others your drafts. You need clear constructive criticism and not every person who reads books can offer this to you. You need someone with a good grasp of language as well (let’s be honest) so they can point out errors and help you snip and trim things down while keeping the essence of what you’re trying to say. This is great in two ways 1. Hearing their feedback or compliments on your work, even if it needs polishing up, is helpful in propelling you to keep going and to let you know what you’re doing is worth it (basically, that it’s not shit). 2. Having mistakes pointed out pushes a writer to try harder and write even better, when we’re so caught up in our story it’s hard to notice the mistakes. And just having someone like this in your life can help dispel those doubtful moments.
4.Publish what you’ve completed or send them off to publications: I know how nerve-wracking it can be to expose yourself by letting a single person read your work let alone the world wide web, but it can be incredibly liberating. When I completed a bunch of flash fiction stories I spent ages editing and editing and editing until I felt confident enough to share them. Sending them off to online fiction publications is also an option but before doing that I chose a few that I would publish on my blog just to get it out there into the world. I’m totally ready for any type of feedback and know that every story won’t be to every person’s taste. That’s cool. But just having it there, completed, polished to the best of my ability and knowing people are reading it, that’s basically what writing is about. This definitely helps in stifling the doubts.
5.Don’t be too hard on yourself : Not all books can be written in a couple of months or even a year. Some of us need more time. I know as a writer you want to complete something just to show people that you are a quality writer. When you’re sitting on an unfinished book you’ve been telling people you’re writing, for years, they become skeptical, dubious even suspicious about your ability as a writer. I’ve been there loads of times, I just want to shout ”I CAN WRITE, I’M NOT SHIT, IT JUST NOT AS EASY AS YOU THINK!”. But people will think what they want to no matter what you do, so prove your worth only to yourself. Do it all just for yourself. For your sanity, your confidence, your sense of self-worth as a writer. Small realistic goals that exceed your expectations are far better on morale than huge goals of perfectionism that don’t pan out the way we want. Life happens, most writer’s have full time jobs, families and commitments and this makes it harder. So have your plan, and work at it steadily. You’ll get there.
I wouldn’t say I’ve perfected this list but I’m certainly trying and so far, so good. If anyone has some other practical tips I’d love to know about them and give them a try 🙂