Doubt

I had to laugh the other day (which, judging from previous posts, I seem to do a lot on Twitter) when I read this tweet from @SGibbsFiction:

anyone ever felt totally inadequate? sucks.

My answer to that was: But, of course! I’m a writer.

Even though 2nd-round revisions are going very smoothly for Baby Grand, and somehow I’m back on schedule after missing two days of revising, I’m continually astounded by how often doubt creeps into the picture as I work. I could write or rewrite blissfully for hours and then hit a momentary snag, and my first thought is: Who am I kidding? I can’t do this. Even though I know I can.

Perhaps, like procrastination, it’s just part of my process, but I know I’m not alone. Besides @SGibbsFiction, virtually all writers tell me they have moments of doubt — sometimes, looong moments of doubt — and often think they’re “not good enough.” Back in April, I told you about my former college professor Martha McPhee who referred to that doubt as the “shitbird” that sits on your shoulder and pecks at you all day long and whispers negativity into your ear. The key is pushing through, ignoring that damn bird or pushing him off your shoulder altogether.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting a young man by the name of Brian Gottlieb who, at the age of 17, is a crazy talented financial whiz. In chatting with him and his mom over lunch, I said to Brian, “You seem like a very confident young man.”

“Oh, yes,” Brian answered, without a hint of doubt. “I am.”

I liked Brian immediately. He was self-assured without being cocky, and when I asked him financial questions, he rattled off like a seasoned analyst. But sometimes I would ask him something non-stock-market-related for which the answer didn’t come readily, and, perplexed, he would turn to his mother for assistance, more like the 17-year-old that he was.

“See that,” I thought to myself. “Even confident people don’t always have the answers.”

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4 thoughts on “Doubt

  1. I’ve suffered from self doubt a lot less since I learned to filter criticism and advice a little better. My worst moment as a writer came about three years ago when a friend of a friend read my novel I had started…his critique was scathing to the point where I felt like I should immediately start over and rewrite the whole thing. I tried to start over but the self doubt that one critic opened me up to was unbearable and so I barely wrote for two years. Eventually I figured out that the most important thing was to get the words on paper…if he wants to critique me in the future well he can buy my book before he does it.

    Oddly enough I’ve learned to chanel the self doubt I suffer from in other aspects of my life and turn that negative energy into writing…so I have made my doubts work for me instead.

    Now lets see if that holds true once the novel is done and I can’t find a publisher. :)

    • Yes, Eric, just write, write, write, and don’t let anyone stop you. As I like to say, writers should write from the heart and edit with the head, so deal with the criticism once everything you’ve got is on paper and you can weigh it carefully without letting it ruin the flow of your work. And, yes, doubt can be turned into some amazing writing! Good luck!

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