Friday, September 4, 2009

Kicking Out the Doubt

Ah . . . insecurities. The bane of a writer's existence!

I'm convinced writers are wired differently than ordinary folks. Because of our tendency to feel deeply, we're able to create characters and feel their emotions. Not all writers are like this, but many are. And it's this same tendency toward strong emotional pulls that can create unhealthy attitudes in our psyches towards ourselves. Because let's face it. Our writing is an extension of us. Like a child, or a much-loved pet. Talk bad about our children/pets and you're talking bad about us.

This isn't limited to unpublished writers either. I used to think once I got a contract all of these doubts would fade away. Because someone saw merit in my work to publish it, that would be the confirmation I needed, right? Um, not so fast. We're always going to face doubts and insecurities. Knowing that kinda helps. Then we don't feel so weird when we constantly questions ourselves!

I remember one time a couple years ago feeling incredibly discouraged in my writing. I’d just read a novel that was everything I wanted my novels to be. The plot moved me, the characters became incredibly real, and the message was powerful. Every time I sat down to write my own fiction I would think about this other author. There was no way I was ever gonna write like that!

I asked for advice from author James Scott Bell. He’s been a writing mentor to me, and what he said hit home. He told me first of all I wasn’t alone in feeling the way I was feeling. All serious writers and artists have been there before, he said. Then he encouraged me with this bottom line: I needed to realize that no two writers are the same. I had MY story that no one could ever write like me.

Then he said something else I’ve never forgotten. He compared writing to what God does with spiritual gifts. Not everyone has the same gift, but when we develop our own gifts it contributes to the whole tapestry. I needed to be the best C.J. I could be. And if I gave my full attention to my own writing, not comparing myself to anyone but just digging deeper into my story, the concerns would go away. Jim said, “Writing itself is always the best antidote to the writing blues.”

So today if you're feeling like I did, know that you're not alone. All of us Scribble Chicks have totally been there (and might even be there as we speak!). I'd encourage you to try to disregard the doubts whenever you can. It's kinda what I wrote about last week, turning off your inner critic so you can actually get the words down.

God hasn't given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. When God speaks to you He's going to be the positive voice in your life. If he needs to convict you of something, He'll remind you quietly and gently---He's not going to condemn you. So you can know right now that all those insecurities aren't from Him.

What insecurities are you feeling this week about your writing? Do you think they're legit or are they just pulling you down? How could you take those insecure thoughts and turn them around for your good?


  1. definitely posted this at a time when I needed to 'read' it most! Awesome...thank you so much :)

  2. Wow.

    I'm very insecure about my writing... and everything else.

    Thank you for sharing this with us.

  3. This was very encouraging. I remember reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird for the first time, and realizing that to be a writer means intermittent periods of emotional agony. It just goes with the job. I've run across a few writers that don't seem to experience the highs and lows, but I think they're in the minority. Thanks for your honesty.

  4. I love this! I'm a journalism student right now but my main goal in life is to become a fiction writer. I have ideas upon ideas but I'm always faced with doubts - could I actually write a whole book? A whole interesting book?

    And with everyone around me saying that could "so see me writing for a magazine" (which isn't something I hate), it's tough. I want magazine writing to be my stepping stone but what I truly want is to become a novelist.

    Doubts and insecurities are just a part of my life, from writing to relationships. I love how all of you girls are bringing home the point that no writer is the same. We are all different. We all have different stories to tell and different ways to tell the story.

  5. Love the words of encouragement. Thanks!

  6. Great blog! I can totally relate to the feeling like I'll never be as good as the authors I read. Good to know I can overcome it and I'm not the only one who feels that way.

  7. This blog post hit me where I live. Sometimes I read someone else's work and just want to trash my laptop. "That's it. They've written the perfect book. Why should I even bother?" It helps me to remember the character of Salieri in the movie Amadeus and how his envy of Mozart's gift and his anger with God for not similarly gifting him ate him up from the inside out! Great advice from Mr. Bell. Thanks for passing it on!

  8. Another fantastic post that really hit home. Thanks, CJ!