Oooof this self-doubt malarkey is a total ratbag, right? I’d bet my last Rolo that you’ve asked yourself at least once “When will I stop doubting myself as a writer?!” It’s something that pops up in conversation with the writers on my course, as well as in the comments on my insta posts.
It’s something that I’m still in a constant struggle with – even though I’m a published author, writing journalistic pieces and a prolific blogger! It can really hold people back from going for their dreams, but also in the every day as a writer or creative. In short – self-doubt sucks.
So how do we go about overcoming self-doubt as a writer? I wanted to share some ways I deal with it and how I have overcome it to get published and start to believe in myself.
How do you know if what you’ve got is self-doubt?
Self-doubt is the mental habit of questioning your own judgment or worth. So you know those moments when that voice in your head creeps in after you’ve achieved something? THAT. When I was sending my pitches to editors and publishers, I’d feel super pleased with my work and then freak out the second I hit send. “What if they hate it?” “Why did I think I can do this?” “Who do I think I am?” “I don’t even have a degree in writing! What am I doing?!” And this is soooooo common!
Sometimes the worries we have stem from childhood issues around dependence, other times it’s from stress. But it doesn’t matter where it comes from, because it’s how we deal with it that is important.
No (wo)man is an island
Firstly, it’s important to remember that every writer has these feelings. From Huxley to Hemmingway, Shakespeare to Shelley and beyond: you are not alone. Have you got a community of writers to turn to when those horrible voices (you know the ones, whispering to you that you suck) creep in? Reach out to them and have a chat about ways you can remind each other how awesome you are. Who could be your go-to pal for a motivational high-five?
Have a break
Taking a break from writing is often necessary when you hit these moments of self-doubt. Go and do something completely different! Have a bath and listen to your favourite book. Crank up the radio and dance around the kitchen. Head out for a walk and listen to a podcast. Choose something that’ll boost your endorphins and make you smile.
And this also means giving yourself a break from the mean voice. Switch that mofo off. You’re going to have setbacks. Every writer I know has them. Part of the journey of being a writer is that things don’t always go according to plan and you have to be ready for that. It doesn’t mean you’re a shit writer. It means you’re developing your skills, and honing your craft.
I’ve heard this time and time again from other published writers and freelance writers, but they all say that to be a better writer you’ve got to read more! And it’s definitely true! Diversify your bookshelf and start to read authors who you might not normally choose. Pick up books from genres you’re unfamiliar or uncomfortable with. Challenge yourself to read a book a month. And keep a diary of what you’re reading to refer back to.
If you’re finding it tricky to squeeze into your busy schedule, try listening to books instead. Audiobooks are a great way of absorbing information and new vocabulary without the hassle of lugging a tome around with you. I know some people think of it as “cheating” but it’s really not, and it can often give you a new perspective on a character or plot line. This is because the narrator puts emphasis in a different place to how you did, or you’re paying more attention than when you were speed-reading it before.
And remember that you could be reading instead of scrolling. I guarantee if you set yourself social media limits on your phone, and force yourself to pick up a book instead, you’ll have read a few books in no time at all. This isn’t meant to sound preachy but, as someone that is prone to doom scrolling, choosing to read instead has been a game changer. It’s revolutionised my writing and been amazing for my mental health!
However and whatever you choose to read, I urge you to do it more!
“Well, duh, that’s what I’m stuck on!” I hear you say. Wait for it…I’m not saying it won’t be hard to write. But maybe you’re stuck because the writing you’re choosing to dwell on is actually tricky. So instead of struggling with that blinking cursor on a blank page, putting up with that nagging voice telling you how sh*t you are, why not journal instead? I put new journal prompts on my Instagram grid all the time, so go get some ideas there!
Building a regular writing habit is the key to overcoming both self-doubt and writer’s block (so intrinsically linked!). I’ve written a post about how you can develop a writing routine that will keep you motivated and help keep those creative juices flowing.
And if that’s not enough, you can join one of my online writing courses to help get your writing project off the ground. The accountability really helps!
Kick self-doubt to the kerb with evidence!
Keep a file of positive feedback – from clients, friends, colleagues, editors! Loads of people I know do this. Someone I know keeps screenshots of nice comments on her posts in a folder called “I am awesome”, another has a scrap book of brilliant things she’s done and prints out any testimonials to put in there too. You can do it however you like, but the idea is that when that self-doubt voice shows up then you hit them with the evidence.
Dazzle the doom with your glorious proof: “See, I’m not useless!” “Katie thinks my article is the best thing since sliced bread.” “5 ***** and more if she could – no losers here!” The neural pathways are trained to pick out the negative, so you really do need to hammer it home with the positive evidence and praise to drown out the teeniest negative voice.
For more tips on writing and mental health, subscribe to my podcast, “Out of Office,” and download my FREE Ebook “Journal Prompts to Build Creative Confidence“. And don’t forget to come and join my creative community on Instagram, where I share tonnes of advice and ideas for overcoming issues like self-doubt, procrastination and lack of motivation!