Bonnie Dee

Self Doubt as a Writer

Let me start by saying I think too much introspection is unhealthy. Better to accomplish something, anything, than to think too hard and hobble yourself. Do something even if it’s wrong is my motto.

I was considering this morning how people who create, be they musicians, actors, artists or writers, often have a tough time getting out of their own heads. Early on in a career it can be a matter of questioning whether they can even do this thing, finish this novel, find the heart of this painting. But the question of whether there’s even any value to what they’ve created never really goes away. Am I saving a life? Effecting change in the world? Is it enough to simply entertain people, and am I even doing that successfully? Waaay too much thinking!

The infamous writer’s block is tied up in that self doubt. Only time and experience teaches the writer that the best way to destroy it is to keep on writing until she or he comes out the other side. Don’t be afraid to get input from critique partners when you’re stuck on a plot point, a logic lapse, or character issue. There’s no shame in taking advice from a helpful friend. If you still worry the finished piece is a steaming pile of dung, have your editor help whip it into shape, or if necessary, shelf it completely and move on.

But always move on to something else. Never give up–even in the face of crummy reviews or lackluster sales. It’s a take no prisoners approach that will move you forward not only in your career but in life, IMO. My belief is none of us should take ourselves too seriously. And when we start to fret or think too much, the prescription is to spend time with a pet. Dogs and cats don’t plan ahead. They just exist, content in the moment as we all should be.

Remember this wise advice from Stuart Smalley.


4 comments to “Self Doubt as a Writer”

  1. Jerri Drennen
      · May 4th, 2015 at 1:27 pm · Link

    I am my own worst enemy when it comes to my writing. I wish I could get out of my own way. Maybe with enough time, I will. Thanks for getting me to think more positive, Bonnie.

  2. Lenore
      · May 4th, 2015 at 1:46 pm · Link

    I think too much and it slows me down. I love your motto – Do something even if it’s wrong. I have a lot to learn, and your post is a good kick in the pants – Stop Thinking – Start Writing!

  3. Bonnie Dee
      · May 4th, 2015 at 2:10 pm · Link

    You can always scrap it later, is my other motto.
    Fear shouldn’t enter into it. No one is going to judge your work while you’re still in the creating stage–it’s later on you have to deal with that. So give yourself some slack to write any foolish thing at all, so long as you’re pushing the ball forward.

    When Kate (Summer) and I are co-writing, sometimes one of us starts off on a tangent. The other might gently bring her back in line with a “this kind of took a strange turn” or “I don’t see him/her reacting like this” but other times, the new direction is exactly what the story needed and we both get on board. There is no “wrong” in writing that can’t be tossed out later or possibly reused in a future work if you particularly like a phrase or wording. It’s like I would imagine patchwork quilting would be, if I quilted.

  4. Jill James
      · May 4th, 2015 at 7:57 pm · Link

    This is one thing I’m really working on. Sometimes I do well, other days I just trip over myself.

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