Something different this week. I’m participating in the ‘Writing Contest: Overcoming Writer’s Doubt’ held by Positive Writer.” and I invite you to as well.
Writer’s Doubt is the dark and shadowy cousin of our old friend Writer’s Block. It’s a much more troubling Beastie to wrestle with. That’s because Writer’s Block doesn’t really exist. It’s just another word for procrastination. We can always find other things that we need to do before committing our words and ideas to paper or screen. You know, clean our workstation. Take the garbage out. Vacuum the floor. Wash the dog.
It’s easy to blame the mythical ‘writer’s block’ for not having that bolt of inspiration from the blue when we need it the most. Instead of just acknowledging the simple truth that writing is a craft, a trade, a calling, a compulsion, a primary need. Writers must write as others breathe. If we need to write, we’ll find a way to write. If we start to write the writing and inspiration will come out of the work. That’s true isn’t it? Partly.
Writer’s Doubt is what really stops us picking up the pen. Writer’s Doubt is a much more shadowy beast. It gnaws at our confidence. It stops us proclaiming boldly, ‘I am a writer.’ That’s because its cold tentacles tell us:
‘You’re no good. Don’t you know? You’ll never be a writer. Give up now. Go watch Seinfeld or something and give up this crazy obsession. Leave it to the genuine writers.’
Sound familiar? It’s hard to write a shopping list let alone anything more substantial with that negative mindset.
For me, Writer’s Doubt had been a constant companion. For years I’ve wrestled with it, this Kraken of the deep. Years ago, I thought I’d slayed the beast by enrolling in creative writing at college. And for a while it pushed the doubt down down deep below where it belongs. I discovered I really could write. I had a great mentor and teacher. I was loving it. My short stories were getting bolder and more confident. Instead of dreading our weekly round table editorial sessions I would look forward to them.
But, the years came and went. From the dark deep of the ocean, my old nemesis returned. Some stories I’d start and abandon and start again. My heart wasn’t in it though. I was deep in the corporate world, writing reports and powerpoint presentations and studying business. Not a great environment for a creative personality. Suddenly, Doubt declared victory. Or did it? Not quite.
I was just playing dead while the slimy beast moved on to it’s next victim.
I never abandoned my desire to be a writer. After far too long in the muffled, fluorescent corridors of the corporate world, I began writing again. This time, I was determined not to be dragged back below. Even as I started writing again, I could sense something stirring in the dark waters of my doubt. So I decided to do something positive about it. I finished a book of short stories I had been working on and off for years then set myself an impossible deadline and just went for it.
And you know what? I discovered that each keystroke, each day closer to my book reaching completion robbed the dark beast of its power over me. That’s because nothing can slay Doubt as easily as just doing what you must do.
If you want to write, to contribute to the culture, then just do it. If you have something to say. Say it. That’s the secret to overcome Writer’s Doubt. It took me a long time to figure that out. I’m making up for lost time now.
When I finished and published my first book ‘Beautiful Lies‘, it was such a validating experience. Seeing my book get listed on Smashwords, Amazon and iBookstore was just an incredible, amazing feeling. At last, I’d slayed the Kraken of Doubt. The beast that lives inside the dark deep of every writers mind.
I’m working on my next novel now, as well as many other writing projects. You can overcome Doubt by sharing your knowledge, by taking control and writing everyday. But you know, what really motivates me to overcome writer’s doubt is the knowledge, that I’ve finally done it. I am still doing it. That I really can do it.
Don’t ever doubt you can do it. If you have a passion to write, just follow that passion to the end of the earth. If you immerse yourself in reading and writing and listen to the wisdom of other writers, you can overcome writer’s doubt.
The cure is inside you. Let other people doubt. You should just do.