Self-Doubt Be Gone! You’re Killing My Novel!


“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”  Sylvia Plath

I’m having one of those days.  

It could be the bleak, grey clouds, or the stifling heat that has sent my hair to soggy mayhem. It could be my lack of sleep last night, or the neighbour’s dog that’s been left outside and insists on whining about it. It could be any one of these things that has hindered my writing today. But I don’t think so. I’ve not written one word of my novel and believe me it’s not through lack of trying. I’ve spent hours staring at the white, blank space beyond the last full stop. I’ve read and re-read the last paragraph, stretched my fingers, clamped my head between my hands and pleaded for the next scene to present itself.  Yet I’ve achieved nothing, zero, nada.

No. I’m certain it’s because I’ve reached the Grande Finale – and I’ve plummeted into profound, floundering doubt about whether I can pull it off or not.  For starters it involves a battle scene and I’m not exactly what you’d call an expert in this field.  I’ve never swung a sword or shot a gun.  I can’t even karate-kick.  I feel inexperienced, unfamiliar with my topic and unwittingly out of my depth.

Yet it’s also more than that.  Once I finish I’ll want to cast it out to the experts, a sardine to sharks.  I’ll need their honest feedback that will be brutal and cruel.  They’ll despise it.  Advise me to wipe it, burn it, forget the whole miserable idea and seek a different profession using my hands, not my head, perhaps in a sausage factory.

I have stared at that page til my sight turned fuzzy. Switched to Twitter, Facebook, a quick hunt through the fridge – the page remaining as blank as my mind. 

I turned to the experts for inspiration.

“Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength.”   Sigmund Freud.

“If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”  Vincent van Gogh

“I found my first novel difficult. I don’t want to make it sound like it’s any more difficult than driving a cab or going to any other job, but there are so many opportunities for self-doubt, that you just kind of need to soldier on.”  Anthony Doerr

As writers we know that self-doubt is part of the territory, we have to wade our way through those murky waters.  We need to focus on our strengths rather than our weaknesses when the doubts really kick in.  Be creative and find ways around it.

I’ve been scouring the Internet to find the best advice I can to deal with self-doubt.  I found an article by Author and fiction writer AJ Humpage very helpful.  She says, ‘Psychologists believe self-doubt is borne from our childhood, usually from parents, teachers and peers telling kids that they aren’t good enough, they’ll amount to nothing. Eventually the child will start to believe it, causing them to doubt their abilities. These doubts are then carried through to adulthood. Most of our cognitive development and reasoning about our abilities is laid down through childhood.’

She goes on to say‘The more work you send out, the better the understanding you gain from feedback. It helps you develop your skills, improve your writing and gain experience. Most of all enjoy the whole writing process. You don’t have to be great all of the time because in reality, you can’t. Confidence breeds assurance, so keep sending, keep learning, keep developing and become a better writer.’ 

Tonight I plan to snuggle up on the sofa and watch Braveheart.  Just my notebook and me.  I shall draw inspiration from the tried and tested.



Filed under Self-Doubt, Uncategorized

6 responses to “Self-Doubt Be Gone! You’re Killing My Novel!

  1. Oh so helpful. I too am having a day staring at the blank page, or re-reading stuff that yesterday seemed pure genius, today complete sludge. Thank you. Might join you with some pop corn and a movie!

  2. Sheila

    We all experience self doubt, some more forcefully than others, but if it can be borne as part of the creative process, something usually rises from the ashes. A creative thrust, as though the mind has been working away all the time, when you thought it had gone to dust!

  3. Rose Bunnage

    What were we told in class? Try a right or is it a left brain thing? Try taking a different route, skip, etc etc. My own advice would be, have a sword fight with your kids. Map out the garden. Who is doing what, where? I am half serious and it might be fun!!

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