Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Slay The Doubt Monster?


"Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt." -- William Shakespeare


Welcome, Insecure Writer's Support Group!

Do you ever doubt your talent?

Me, too.


Recently, I was asked to be a guest judge for a contest over at Adventures in YA & Children's Publishing. (Awesome blog, by the way, in case you haven't visited yet)

I didn't jump at the chance and write the organizers back immediately. Why? Not because I didn't want to offer any help I could to other writers. No, I doubted my ability. I even wrote Martina back saying yes, I'd be happy to help, although I don't consider myself a strong enough writer to offer critiques. After all, I have so much to learn myself.

When I mentioned this to my super supportive hubby, this conversation followed:

Hubby: "Why aren't you qualified?"
Me: "Well, there are a lot of better writers than me."
Hubby: *feins shock* *both hands to his face, Home Alone style* *super sarcastic voice*  "Why are other writers better? Because they have books out?"
Me: *sheepishly* "Yes, but..."
Hubby: *rudely interrupts* "You mean...like Arnold Schwarzenegger? Snooki? The Kardashians? They must all be better writers than you, because they have books out." 

Okay, okay, I got his point.

Something we tend to forget is that even experienced, multi-published writers doubt themselves and their abilities. It's normal. Tennessee Williams once said, "I don't believe anyone ever suspects how completely unsure I am of my work and myself and what tortures and self-doubting the doubt of others has always given me."

Huh.

If we're doubtful, maybe it's partly a good thing. It makes us try harder. As Robert Hughes said, "The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize."

Ouch.

Let's embrace our doubting inner selves and still be creative, shall we?

Tell me, do you doubt your writing abilities on a regular basis? How do you push past it and remain creative?


36 comments:

  1. It is a monster, isn't it?

    Funny that you had that feeling of self doubt being chosen as a judge. (I was too, and I felt as unworthy as you did.) I think it's a humbling experience to realize someone else respects you and trusts you in that way.

    Good for you, Julie!

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    1. Sheri, it's such a compliment, but yes, it feels weird.

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  2. You'll find that critiquing others will make you an even better writer! Go for it.

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  3. Thanks for this post, Julie, as well as for agreeing to do the contest and for the lovely shout out. Shall I answer what makes you qualified? :D One, your agent clearly thinks you are pretty talented. Having a novel out has as much to do with the right story at the right time to the right person as it does with writing ability. And the ability to evaluate and speak intelligently about a book has little to do with your ability to,write one. Your posts about what you learned from a particular book are one of my favorite posts of all time, anywhere. The fact that you are reading as a writer and that you are taking the time to assimilate what you read and learned, not to mention your generosity in sharing it with the rest of us, is fantastic. As a result, you know the market, and you know how far a manuscript has to go before it can compete to be considered for publication. That's gold for a writer. and that's what the contest is all about, getting writers the feedback they need to get their manuscripts to that point. Pitching in and helping each other. And you do that more than just about any writer/blogger I know. So. (End soapbox.) Basically, I ust had to chime in and point out that I feel we are beyond lucky to have you, both in the contest, and in the writing community!

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    1. Martina, you are WAY too kind. Thanks so much for your sweet words. I'm looking forward to reading the entries!

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  4. Just because you don't have a book out doesn't mean you can't recognize good writing - or bad. Heck, I do it once a month with first impressions and I don't even have an agent - yet :)

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    1. Marcy, so true. Being avid readers like we are, we can definitely pick out what works and what doesn't. So cool that you're doing first impressions!

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  5. I don't doubt myself so much as I know there is always room for improvement and learning, no matter who you are. And as long as you are striving to always learn and improve, then you're being the best you can be, and are often steps ahead of others that don't do that. Believe in yourself!

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    1. Heather, that's true. As long as we recognize we don't know everything!!

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  6. Some days doubt kills me, and some days it makes me improve...idk it's a thin line

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    1. Beth, I suppose it depends on the day and our frame of mind! At least you've conquered it and other people get to read your work :)

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  7. I'd also doubt myself if asked to judge a competition because reading is so subjective. I don't believe that writers ever get over their insecurity, but with that said, we should always be growing and changing.

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    1. That insecurity seems to be an artistic thing, don't you think? At least we recognize that pesky doubt when it invades our thoughts, and we can push through it. Thanks for the visit!

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  8. I'm a judge there too and had (and still do) have the same doubts as you. I think we just try to do the best we can. And I'm honored to be asked to be a judge.

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    1. Natalie, you're right...we can just do our best and enjoy it. I think we'll do just fine!

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    1. Linda! Long time no talk. Thanks for the visit :)

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  10. I doubt myself, too, but like you I just often take a deep breath and push my way forward anyway.

    A writer acquaintance of mine is never daunted by no. Recently, I've decided to adopt her attitude for everything from no's to reviews to critiques.

    Anyway, have fun with your judging. It sounds fun and like a great learning experience.

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    1. I think that's at the heart of it all. As long as we continue to push forward, we won't let doubt get the best of us. Thanks!

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  11. Oh, yes Ma'am. I'm all about doubt. But I know I won't get better unless I try. So, I just keep going. It helps that in spite of my doubt, I love it and love conquers doubt every time.

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    1. Liza, what a great attitude! One step in front of the other, right? Good luck to you :)

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  12. I keep a folder of good reviews and other positive feedback just for those times when doubt is nipping at my toes. I also have excellent friends who help me slay the beast. xo

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    1. Let's hear it for excellent friends!!! *hugs*

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  13. I'm chock full of doubts most of the time. I'm always so thankful for those moments when I read something of my own and think 'hm. not bad, not bad at all!' Best moments ever.

    I had my pompoms out reading Martina's comment. Totally agree with her!! :)

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  14. Those moments ARE the best ever, Jemi! They make up for those other times :)

    Thanks so much for the pom poms! I truly appreciate it.

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  15. I doubt my ability as a writer continuously. But I have to remind myself that no matter how well (or not) a person writes, there will always be a percentage of people who both like and dislike his/her work. So I try not to stress over it too much. (It's hard I admit. ;))

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  16. Hi, Julie. No, I never doubt that I can tell a good story. I just struggle with doubt that I'll ever be able to make anything more than a tiny ripple in that huge sea of books to ever get anyone's attention. I try not to dwell on that too long. I know it isn't constructive.

    -Jimmy

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  17. I doubt myself and my abilities all the time. I think it's one of those things everyone experiences to some degree, and you just gotta do it even though you have doubts. That's the only way you'll get better and those doubts will decrease!

    Happy reading and writing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

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  18. Love the quotes in this post, especially the one from Shakespeare!
    I doubt myself often, and then I have moments of crazy confidence, and then I swing back to doubt again, and sometimes I hit middle ground, neither doubting or supremely confident, but just walking along the page of words.

    As far as how I beat the doubts, I pray and I write, and I write some more.

    Happy writing!

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  19. Hi, Julie,

    In the beginning I did. After hundreds of rounds of edits, I know what to look for and I have been told I give a thorough crit and YOU WILL TOO! You will see many things the author misses. Just remember to feel the voice of the author an make sure it is consistent. That will be one of the best things you can do for that author.

    You write. You will find typos, spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes, and wordy sentences. Critiquing will come naturally to you.. don't worry. We ALL have talents, some stronger, some weaker, but they are still there. You crit will help because you sincerely want to help. Being genuine is greatest asset a crit partner.

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  20. Yep, I'm always doubting my talent as well. It's normal. (Something of which I have to continually remind myself). Love that Tennessee Williams quote.

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  21. A healthy does of humility (often masquerading as doubt) is good for everyone as long as they do as you suggest, embrace that doubt and remain creative.

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  22. what a sweet encouraging hubby you have!
    i know some people will like my book, i worry that not enough will like it enough to recommend it or buy it... i cannot be a one hit wonder!!

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  23. I've decided that it's the people that think they're great that need the most help. Why? Because they don't seek to improve. I should write fortune cookies. They'd have to be big. And dipped in chocolate...

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  24. Creative people are the most insecure people around! On a side note, I met your lovely agent this past weekend at New England SCBWI!

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