The Cruelest Enemy: Self-doubt

The best writing advice I ever got was watching the agony of a writer who couldn’t bring himself to write The End. As a result, he never finished anything and still remains in the ranks of the wannabes.  Oh, he had a million excuses, and at some point, we’ve all used variants of them as well.

Most creative people suffer from self-doubt. Given an imagination, we sometimes use it as a weapon to torture ourselves. The most pernicious form of self-doubt, I find, is to compare yourself to everybody who went to the Left Coast Crime Conference and you didn’t. Or has 3000 friends on Instagram.

It may go something like this: Why can’t I stick to a schedule and write 2500 words every day like she does? I hate her. Why did he get an agent and a publisher and I can’t even finish my book? Nothing in this book is original. I’m too old…I’m too young to have anything to write about. I’m not as smart as he is. And on and on. Fill in your own blanks.

I know you do it because we all do. I find when these thoughts rise in volume, the white-noise anxiety drowns out any rational perspective. We need to grapple with the programming that causes us to talk to ourselves like this. As best as we can, and that will vary from day to day, these thoughts block our success just as surely as if we’d imprisoned ourselves in a stone cell.I regularly search for my own way to interrupt destructive thinking because it will defeat me, and defeat you, no matter how good your writing is. Every so often I do some reading on ways to change habits of destructive thinking.

Quoting one of my favorite writers, Neil Gaiman: Creative work is often a slog and the only way you’ll really get good at it is to finish what you start even when it’s not going well. You’ll end up learning more from that experience than if you quit.

In fact, I spent a lot of time writing and thinking about finishing. I wrote an entire eBook about finishing. Perhaps you might find it useful.

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