Self-doubt is a cold in my head that won’t go away. No dose of medicine, therapy sessions, pep talk, meditation, glass of wine, long meandering stroll through the neighborhood with my dog will vanquish it.
If you write, it’s likely you know the mantra: my work’s awful, who’d want to read this, it’s hopeless, I can’t do this, I’d rather clean the house, the car, bathe the cat—anything but commit precious hours to the page and waste even more time than I already have on this novel, story, essay, poem, etc. Even seasoned novelists, widely published authors stare in terror at the blank page. Anne LaMott devotes an entire essay to “Shitty First Drafts,” writing, “I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident.” At least there’s comfort in knowing we’re not alone in our insecurities, even among literary rock stars.
It seems unlikely that the flip side of self-doubt isn’t super-confidence. I believe it’s the feeling that I must write, that my psyche will wither and die if I don’t commit words to the page, that I’m as compelled to write as a gambler is to spin the roulette wheel, stack all he owns on a pile of chips and potentially lose it all on a dream as ethereal as air. It’s the nagging sense in my brain that my life—though blessed with family, friends, good health—will lose some of its meaning, its beauty if I don’t park myself in front of the laptop or sit for an hour with pen in hand and write something, revise that scene, that essay, that poem. It’s the feeling that something profound happened—a hurt, a tragedy, a triumph, a moment will be forever lost and must be set down on the page—and my life, my being, will be infinitely better for having written about it and maybe even shared it with someone—or no one—but the act of writing it down will have done my soul some good.
Still, the self-doubt nags at my brain like an un-scratchable itch. Comparisons are useless. Jealousy’s a motivation-stealer. The only thing to do is put it out of one’s mind and set words to the page. It’s like stretching before a run. I may not make it to the finish line uninjured or in record time, but if I keep going forward, step-by-step-by-step, however faltering, however many rest stops I need along the way, eventually, I’ll get there. I may not win first, second, or third prize, but I’ll have crossed that finish line, and that alone will be cause for celebration.
Writers, whether you’re a professional, an aspirant, or a hobbyist, if the craft is your calling, I hope that Everythingaboutwriting.com becomes your cheering squad, your go-to source for inspiration, reference, community, and advice. I’ll do my best to guide you as you follow your unique path towards publication or put the end-stop on whatever project you’re working on. I’m on this journey with you, and I know how steep those hills can be. Together, we’ll wend our way through the dense woods, better for beginning, persevering, and, when the stars and our efforts align, publishing.