Saturday, September 22, 2012


It slinks in under your skin when you're otherwise preoccupied. Sometimes it lurks there, just below the surface, waiting for the right time to begin the slow torture. And sometimes it consumes you, flesh and bone, before you are even aware of it's existence.

It gnaws at your confidence and shoves a wedge between your will and your dreams. You question your goals and skills. It wraps it's tentacles around your heart, squeezing until all your desire and passion are bled out.

It could be called many things. Parasite. Virus. Monster. Demon. But it often goes by the name "Self-Doubt."

Everyone has encountered the beast while writing. No one is immune.

I'm usually a positive person, but I recently had a knock-down, drag-out fight with the said beastie, Self-Doubt. Sure, as writers, we face self-doubt as often as we write, but this was a full blown war.

I recently had a R&R (revise and resubmit) out with an agent, but not just any agent. My DREAM agent. My hubs, extended family, and friends were excited for me. Inevitably I received the email. Though she loved my writing, my voice, the plot still needed work and she passed.

Naturally, I was upset. Okay, so I was devastated. Humiliated. Embarrassed. It wasn't the agent's fault. It was mine. The next day, I knew it was time to move on. I pulled up my "big girl" panties and turned my focus to my new WIP. I let my CP read my first chapter and rewrote it. I edited and tweaked that first chapter more, continuously reading the other 40 pages I'd already written. Then I froze.

I was paralyzed.

I didn't know where I was taking the story and I was unsure of my characters. I questioned my dialogue. Self-Doubt, masked as a virus, was spreading quickly. I questioned the very premise. I questioned my craft, my skills, my abilities. I kept finding excuses to not write, to not even think about my story.

And one day it hit me. I was scared. My hubs said he thought I was scared of succeeding. I corrected him. I was scared of failing. Again. While everyone watched. I questioned myself as a writer and seriously thought about quitting. At least for a while.

That demon, Self-Doubt, had a leash around my neck and was dragging me lower and lower.

But my damn characters wouldn't let me stop thinking about them. They kept nagging me. And so did my husband.* And when I finally told my critique partner about my problem, the worse-than-writers-block block - Self-Doubt-Block - she talked me off the ledge. She wasn't about to let me give up and she gave the pep talks of all pep talks, basically spanning over two days.*

I, like many of you, have received my fair share of rejections, but this one hurt more than I was willing to admit. That's when Self-Doubt found it's way to me, disguised as embarrassment and excuses. It was strangling my creativity and crushing my heart. But I declared war on that prick, Self-Doubt, and right now I'm winning.

Battling Self-Doubt is different for everyone but this is how I'm defeating the monster:

1. Stay positive. Find the positive in everything. She loved my writing! I was close!

2. Don't stop writing. If you're stuck, try something new or read a craft book.

3. Confide in someone. It's okay to ask for help or admit a struggle.

4. Stay grounded. Don't put all your eggs in a basket and don't get your hopes too high. I'm not saying to not strive to reach your goals/dreams, but keep your excitement in check. This is a tough biz that calls for tough skin.

And, possibly the most important.

5. REMEMBER WHY YOU WRITE!!! I write because my characters HAVE to have their stories told. I write stories/characters I'd want to read. I write so maybe someday someone will not only enjoy my story but will "get" something from it. It lets me be someone else, live in other worlds. It makes me feel ALIVE!

Right now the monster is in hiding. It's always there though. Watching. Waiting.

Do you have encounters with Self-Doubt on a regular basis or during/after major events? How do you fight Self-Doubt as a writer?

*I'll never be able to thank my biggest supporters, my husband and Lynne Matson, my critique partner and friend, enough.


  1. Rejections aren't easy, but they're apart of the business. When I think about giving up, I realize I won't. Even if I never publish a thing and that's because I've always written for the joy of writing. In fifth grade I started writing stories with no thoughts of publication. I try and remember that when things get frustrating.

    and if you ever need a cheerleader, know that I'm here too : )

  2. Great post Tonya. Just remember, that all of these little scrapes with the devil (aka self-doubt) will give you thicker skin and make you a stronger writer. At least, that's what I tell myself:)

  3. Thanks so much for your thoughts and encouragement, guys! Eliza, you are right. I write because I love it. It would be awesome to be pubbed, but I'll always write. Lindsay, it certainly is making me a stronger writer. : )

  4. fantastic post, and great advice!!! LOVE it. Oddly enough, my blog post this morning was about a related topic: the self-doubt I have to fight when I confront a first draft. That's when my insecurities really show.

  5. This is a fantastic and very timely post. I've been dealing with similar struggles over the summer and it's NO FUN. I keep thinking about the quote (paraphrased): "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." Is that what I'm doing every time I write something and try to get it published? Ugh. But then, like you said, I remember that I write because I love it. I don't want to stop. And that's enough.

  6. Thanks for the post. I struggle with this daily, to the detriment of my writing, constantly thinking "this plot is awful" or "I'm not creative enough to be a writer". I'm on the second revision of my manuscript and working through a rewrite of about 25,000 words. Despite this I've devoted much of my time to working on other short stories and essays, and I know a part of it is I'm afraid of failing.

    The biggest takeaway here, at least for me, is DON'T STOP WRITING. You'll never get better or know how good you can be if you do.

  7. This same thing happened to me a little over a year ago. It took me about a month to get out of my funk, but I ended up writing a new ms that I love even more.

    Great Post!

  8. Hugs sweet Tonya. You've been there for me too...I recognize the view from that ledge all too well. :)

    Self-doubt haunts EVERY writer at one point or another. And you're so right--the best way to fight it is keep writing. :) Take a breath, believe in yourself (and your writing gifts), dial down the self-imposed pressure, and the words will flow. :) And your words rock!

    Amazing, raw post. xoxo my friend:)

  9. Great post. This is so true and happens to everyone. It is horrible when it happens, but there is such a great community of writers, and there is always someone who has been there and can help you through it.

  10. Thank you for the post. This site is rapidly becoming my favorite blog site. Nearly every posting speaks to what I'm going through myself.

    Keep writing, Tonya! Keep kicking that self-doubt to the curb!