Friday, August 28, 2009

Mastering Your Doubts

Hi, fellow scribblers!

I'm C.J. Darlington, the newest member of this awesome Scribble Chicks community. I'm so honored to be here with Erynn, BJ, Christa, and Betsy. (I think Erynn just asked me so she could have another coffee lover on her side!)

Like many of you, I've been writing and dreaming about being published since I was a kid. In fact, I started the story that would become my first novel when I was fifteen. I still have the notebook with those early scribblings ... they were quite horrible!

It wasn't until I was sixteen and discovered books on the craft of writing (as well as Writer's Digest and The Writer magazines) that my apprenticeship in writing began. It would take fourteen years before I ever signed my first contract, which is just proof we can never give up.

The biggest struggles I've faced, and still face, are my own doubts. Am I really a writer or just a hack trying to tell stories? Am I fooling myself? I think feeling that way happens because it’s just the way writers are wired. We’re more in touch with our emotions and deep thoughts and feelings. Almost every writer I know feels self-doubt at one time or another.

But here’s the thing. It’s important that no matter where we are in life, whether you’re a writer, teacher, mother, lawyer, scientist, bank teller, waiter, actor or whatever---you remember that you are your worst critic. Are you going to let your doubts rule you and keep you down?

So take heart! Feeling doubt is normal. It just comes with the territory of creative writing. But it's how we respond to our doubts that matters. Do we give up? No! We press on. We have to. We're writers. And the cool thing is, we're not alone in this. We have the Author of the Universe ready and willing to help us. So next time you feel the doubt creeping in, send up a little prayer like, "Lord, I'm really struggling here. Please help me. I can't do this on my own."

On a more technical level, I'm learning I have to silence my inner critic when writing. If I don't, I will be holding down my delete key every few minutes! I really like the advice I've heard author Terri Blackstock share with aspiring writers:

"Don't get it right, get it written." I heard someone say this years ago when I was struggling to get started. At the time, I wrote the first three chapters over and over, editing and polishing, then I'd lose interest in the rest of the book and not finish. This piece of advice changed everything for me. Once I decided to write the whole first draft without judgment, and without going back to rewrite, I was able to keep my momentum building and finish a book. THEN I could begin rewriting. But once I get the first draft down, rewriting is easy. No matter how much rewriting is needed, I know I can do it because I've already written the whole book once.

Great advice, don't you think? I'm going to try to remember this tonight during my next novel writing session. How about you? Do you struggle with doubts? What do you with them?


  1. CJ, that's EXACTLY how I feel! I write a little, then burn myself out polishing it. It's so discouraging!

    Thanks for the quote, it was very timely!

  2. I feel like this all the time, rewriting and never feeling like what I wrote is good enough. It's good to know I'm not the only one! Thanks, CJ, I really needed this post!

  3. Cj, what a great reminder! Who hasn't felt like this. Some days you conquer the keyboard and other days it conquers you, but we still trudge ahead. The tortoise wins the race, right?

  4. Great post, CJ! Something we all need reminded of!

  5. I think once you're published and a reputable contest winner, you can officially consider yourself not a hack. :) However, no matter who recognizes my writing, I always feel like I'm not good enough. Yes, this is definitely a writer thing. I do think you can feel like you aren't living up in any profession, but when it's something you are creating, you can even be more harsh on yourself.

    I recently blogged about this exact topic. Check it out:

  6. Glad you're joining us, CJ! =) Great post.

  7. Right on the mark, CJ! Living with the tension of wanting to create but knowing we are faulted is part of the process of becoming writers - published or un-!

  8. Fantastic post!!! :) So fun having you here...

  9. I have a kinda off topic question, but I have no idea where to post it so I will just post it here. To be a writer do you have to major in Journalism? Since a lot of writers well basically all have and I don't really want to major in journalism but I want to be a writer?
    If that makes any sense at all.... :)

  10. Fabulous post, CJ but I expect nothing else from you! Hack, schmack ~ you've got what it takes to do whatever it is God has planned for you :)

  11. Wow. Just wow. I am jotting down that little saying ("don't get it write, get it written") and I'm going to carry it with me wherever I go to write. That is SO me. I've got an entire BOX full (not to mention heaps of computer files) of books I started writing, continuously polished the first three chapters of, then grew so frustrated I set them aside, never to pick them up again.

    Between the perfectionist standards I require of myself, and the overwhelming self-doubt (though I am getting better at that) I just never seem to make any headway.

    I gave up working on novels for a while, and began to concentrate on short stories (shorter goals to build myself up) but starting in September, I wanted to return to my first-writing-love. This post came just in time.

    Thanks for the wonderful advice, CJ! And welcome to the club!

  12. I am SO my own worst critic! This was advice I never really thought about. Everytime I write a blog post, I hate it but my mom always tells me how interesting it is. (OK, so I know it's my MOM and she is just a LITTLE biased but...yeah)

    I really need to focus on one story and just writing it. I get so caught up in all these other ideas that pop into my head that writing the story takes a back burner.

  13. Erin, if you're reading these comments, to answer your question, no. Many writers have other degrees outside journalism. Some have no degrees at all. I'm multi-published in inspirational fiction and my degree is in Christian Communications from a Baptist University. None of that mattered at all to my editor =)

  14. Thanks for all your wonderful comments everyone! You're fantastic. :)

    Erin---I second what Betsy says. I don't have a degree in journalism (don't have a degree at all, actually).

  15. hi! I wanted to introduce myself, I'm tonya and I'm the one that posted the anonymous question you guys answered last week, I couldn't figure out how to get my name to appear? Yes, I'm a wannabe writer who is technologically challneged!!!
    thank you for answering my questions though! It was a big help and I want to say to christa I was once told that i was "too nice" to be successful at anything. that's a hard one to take but there is a place for nice people in the world!

  16. I like Terri's advice too. I'm a bit of a self-editor (comes with being an editor) so I like hitting backspace... but I've gotta just get things written. Thanks for sharing!