One of the hardest things, for me, about being a writer is learning to push through moments of self-doubt–those awful late night (or early morning, or mid-day) moments when you’re convinced that nothing you write will ever be any good.

In those moments, I like to remind myself of a TED talk by Richard St. John, where he argues that one of the secrets to success is to persist. Especially, we have to persist through CRAP:

I also find a lot of comfort in the following quote by Ira Glass (many of you may have seen this before):

“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

In other words, the fact that I don’t feel good enough  yet matters less than the fact that I keep trying. And the fact that I know I’m not great yet means that I do know what good writing looks and feels like–and that means that someday, if I keep trying, I may just get there.

What about you? What helps you get through moments of self-doubt?

8 thoughts on “Encouragement

  1. Hmmmmm….what helps me get through? Well, seeing as I'm going through some major self-doubt right now (ack!) I really needed this post. I think something that helps me get through it is….just keep writing. Even when I don't want to. I get caught up in the big picture. But if I slow down and concentrate on getting a specific scene or chapter right, then I feel like things get better. I can see small successes and stop stressing about everything else.


  2. self doubt and writing go hand in hand. Especially if you've been beaten down by the hand of rejection a few times (few = dozens… sobs). Practice improves writing and the only way to practice is to write. So I get through my doubt by telling myself that I'll only get better if I keep going.

    Hang in there!


  3. Old rough drafts. Seriously, nothing makes me realize how far I've come as going back, however far back I need at that time, and re-reading something that I wrote that generally was an insult to the English language. Then I can see the progress, that I'm improving, that I know how to fix that dribble, and keep going.


  4. I have to really love my story idea. Then if pieces are crap, they can be tossed for better ones that come along as the story percolates. I focus on that being an improvement.
    One thing to notice is my health and the time of day. I can't write anything good if I'm too tired. Some people have biorhythms that are their peak writing times.


  5. @Steven and Erin–yes, I think persistence is a big part of it. Writing, even when I don't particularly feel like it.

    @Tasha–I love signs of progress!

    @Renae–yes, I think biorhythms are important. Like most people, I don't write well when I'm tired.

    @ Elizabeth–thanks for stopping by! (We like our title too. Kudos go to Tasha for coming up with it.)


  6. Realizing how much junk writing is out there helps me, actually.

    I have students who will come up for help and immediately apologize or self-denigrate before I even read their writing yet. I tell them not to do that. So, I try not to do that. Who am I to judge myself. I don't know how others will take what I've written. I should give them that chance, instead of vetoing it myself.


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