I have a lot of doubts about anything I write. To be honest, I have a lot of doubts about many things I do. I don’t know why, maybe my inner perfectionist is a meth addict.
So doubts about writing are not unique. There are some special challenges with writing. I don’t have an English degree, nor did I ever take a creative writing course. I don’t have a life full of interesting jobs, exotic travel, or great adventure to draw upon. I have a full-time job with a long commute that’s occasionally more than full-time and a family that includes kids (fantastic ones, though), so I don’t have many large blocks of time to pound out words. I’m also not someone who has been writing since I was a teenager; it’s something I came to relatively recently.
My doubts about writing edge, or maybe rushes like a charging bull, into the irrational. When someone reads a story or novel and likes it I almost always find a reason to distrust the praise: they’re friends, they’re family, or they’re just being nice. Whenever I read, or more likely listen, to a novel, I latch on to everything the author does better than I do and wonder what failing of mine makes me unable to match that talent. Every flaw that I see in my writing is a beacon of my own inadequacy, and I wonder why I even do it. When I signed up with an agent after a pretty short period of querying Cog, I figured I just got lucky somehow. I’ve resisted e-mailing my agent with the question “do you really think it will sell?” since she obviously knows what she’s doing.
So why write at all? For one thing, when you have an inner perfectionist going on a rampage, it generates a lot of stress. Writing is a way to vent that stress and get lost in another world for a little while. I also get stories stuck in my head and there’s something very satisfying about putting them on the page and sharing them with others. So I write, and I have a stack full of stories I’d like to tell.
When I communicate with other people who write, it becomes obvious I’m not the only person who struggles with doubts. It seems like everyone who writes has to deal with it at some point or another. Well, maybe not everyone, there are some who have plenty of confidence, perhaps even too much in some cases.
How does one deal with doubts? I’m not really the person to ask. When it comes to writing I suppose the best thing to do is to keep writing. I don’t think there’s a more effective way to improve your craft than practicing it. Another thing I think helps is seeking good honest critiques. Sure, validation is nice, but if you have doubts about your writing you’re going to be suspicious of the purely positive. Someone who shows they can point out the problems with honesty carries weight when he or she points out what works. Perhaps more importantly, honest assessments help you improve your work.
Doubt isn’t an easy thing to deal with, and I’m still dealing with how to handle it both in writing and the other parts of my life. Do you struggle with doubt?