A while ago self-doubt was a constant companion of my writing process. Writing was always part of my life but for a long time, I felt like what I wrote was only good enough for myself and a few close friends to read. Publishing anything apart from fanfiction seemed like a goal that was impossible to reach form e. I envied people who dared to put their work out there. For me it didn’t even matter whether it was with a publisher or independent. I admired people who thought their work worthy enough to share.
I feel like writers are often discouraged from publishing what they write. Even guidebooks we read to improve our style and technique tell us that what we produce is probably not worth sharing with anyone. And as I already doubted myself I let them get to heart and pushed the thought of even trying to publish something away from me. The idea of sending out my texts and making someone read them felt as if I was burdening or even insulting someone. I can’t relate to those feelings anymore but I still remember they were there. And it felt awful.
Then someone told me that what I was doing was the same as an artist hiding his or her pictures in the cellar instead of hanging them up. And that made me think. Of course, you should not publish anything you write, just as you don’t hang up sketches or your first practice pictures. But if you’ve written something you love and put a lot of effort in, what is wrong with letting others read it?
So I took my first careful steps and asked for feedback on my Instagram account for my novel. I was surprised there were quite a few who wanted to read it. Their feedback was constructive and helped me a lot and it felt like I was able to improve my writing through it. Some even read the whole novel and their ideas were great.
That gave me the courage to send out my manuscript to a few publishing houses. To be honest, I didn’t even expect an answer as I was told so many times how unlikely it is that your script is read or even accepted. So I was pleasantly surprised when I even got individual feedback. From then on things changed for me. I started to see publishing in a different light. For me, it wasn’t that mysterious mountain anymore that only a few people had access to. It seemed more like a natural next step now.
I still sometimes feel that I can’t express what I want to write in my novels, but that had lessened the more I write. Many guidebooks will tell you that writing is the best way to improve your writing. And what can I say? They’re right. In a way, writing is just like learning to play an instrument or learning to draw. You can read and talk about it, but the best way to improve yourself is simply to do it. And don’t let people tell you it’s too late to start. That is just a sentence to take fun and meaning out of life. I think that dogma is one of the reasons why people become unhappier when they grow older. If there’s something you want to start learning, do it. You may not become a genius but it will surely enrich your life and empower your soul.
I realized that self-doubts were holding me back. Sometimes they even kept me from writing or from writing what I want. Of course, it’s good to question yourself and reflect on your style and technique. That is different. But if your self-doubts tell you you’re not able to tell your story, don’t listen to them. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life. Not from other people and certainly not from your inner voice. Tell yourself you’re on a journey and you will come to a point where you will be able to get across what you’re trying to say. Maybe you’re not there yet, but that’s no reason not to enjoy the ride.
I’m not saying I never struggle with self-doubt anymore, but I have developed a few strategies that I would like to share with you:
Find people who are on the same path. It helped me a lot to join my writing group word and shield, which you can find on Instagram. We discuss different topics, like characterization, word building, or writing dialogues and we also share our work and give each other feedback. For a long time, I was writing alone, getting feedback only from one person, my sister, which I’m still so thankful for. But finding a group is still extremely helpful because you see other people have the same struggles as you and overcome them. I also joined the Fantasy Writing Board „Tintenzirkel“, which I also find motivating.
I also found a writing buddy in Kaja Evert (also on Instagram as kaja_evert_autorin) and we share our struggles and ideas daily. This is a great source of inspiration and courage for me, so thank you for that!
If you’re writing a text and you feel as if it’s not coming together and your story doesn’t take off my advice is o keep writing and remember that you can change a lot by editing later. Find beta readers who can give you feedback, because that helps you to know where to start.
If you have self-doubts and you realize they are not constructive but damaging to your working process, try to identify those doubts and replace them with other ideas. If you constantly hear the sentence: „You are not able to express that the way you want to“ try replacing it with „With a little practice I’ll be able to express this idea.“ If you hear: „This story is boring“, replace it with „By working on it I’ll make this story exciting for my readers. It just needs a little time and love.“
From a very young age, we are confronted with the feeling of not being good enough. This world could be a better place if more people believed in their creative potential and their ability to express themselves through art.
Do you have self-doubts? What helps you to overcome them. Let me know in the comments.