When a writer has self-doubt, he lacks confidence in his writing and this interferes with the smooth progress of his writing.
Impostor syndrome is an extended version of self-doubt and happens when a writer despite external proof of his competence, is not convinced that he deserves all he has achieved. In addition, when in the midst of other known writers he thinks he doesn’t belong there and therefore is a fraud.
We’re going to dwell more on self-doubt because being able to control self-doubt means one can be able to suppress impostor syndrome.
Truth is, all writers, have this killer disease called self-doubt in them at one point of their writing or another and, it really takes a courageous writer to overcome it and forge ahead.
Self-doubt is all about the negative voices in your head flooding your thought with negativity, telling you what is really really bad about you and your writing. Most of the time, it’s telling you the exact opposite of what you and your works really are.
What happens during self-doubt?
You’re writing this beautiful book and everything is going well and all of a sudden you begin to think that what you’re writing is not up to standard and will neither get published nor sold. You think you’re wasting your time at it and so, it’s probably time to trash it.
You don’t believe anything you have written is good. The pile of your condemned work is probably reaching the roof of your beautiful house.
You start writing this project today and the next day you think it’s nothing anyone would like to read and slouch your back in discouragement.
You make a good decision you’re happy with this minute on how your writing should go and the next minute you think it’s a wrong decision. You cancel the decision and make a new one or keep changing this or that continuously. ( second-guessing)
You indulge in comparing your work with the work of others. You look at great works and think that your own work is not up to their standard. Sometimes you try the chasing game, trying to catch up with some writers you think you started with but are far gone ahead of you and when you can’t catch up with them, you think your writing will never make it.
Because of these negative thoughts, you find it hard to complete any of your work as fast as you should if at all you complete them.
What does self-doubt do to you?
🔸Apart from slowing you down, self-doubt can make you lose focus in your writing
🔸It can cripple or incapacitate your writing
🔸It can make your writing very difficult to accomplish.
🔸With self-doubt by your side, you can never think you’re good enough.
In a nut-shell, self-doubt if not managed properly and timely can slow, stagnate or bring your writing life to an abrupt end.
How do you manage self-doubt?
Did I say manage? Why not wipe it out and be free forever?
The truth is you can’t. You can’t be free from self-doubt. Because your creative writing ancestors had it and as long as you have a brain and you have a thinking pattern and creative mind, you must doubt yourself and your work.
This means that self-doubt is an inherent part of your creativity. Where the problem lies is in your inability to take control over it. You need to lord over it and tame it. It shouldn’t stand in the way of your normal writing life.
Do the following to take control over self-doubt.
🔹Write your feelings down. Once self-doubt surfaces, get your diary or journal and write down your feelings. Close it and go ahead with your writing.
🔹Do your research and preparations well prior to writing. This will help boost your confidence while you write.
🔹Read a lot of books to expand your knowledge. There is an emphasis on this. It’s like an antidote to every obstacle of writing. So don’t joke with versatile reading.
🔹Think about your favourite writers. Think about them and think that they all experience the pang of self-doubt with every single book they write — they actually do. Every single one of them. So you’re not alone in this. You’re not weird. You’re completely normal. Relax and keep writing. You’re like all those favourite writers of yours doing what they do and passing through what they pass through and yet complete your work as they do.
🔹Find a good online platform where you can connect with other writers and enjoy some level of support. You may decide to go with The Write Practice, or Writing Cooperative, There are whole lots of others, you can experiment to find a suitable one.
🔹Take a break and do something different to get your mind off your negativity. Things like movies, music, games, out with friends, sports and so on could help. Get back to your writing afterwards.
🔹Always write the topics you’re conversant with and excited about. Do not engage in boring topics except if it’s a writing competition. Even at that, you have a choice to either participate or not.
🔹You can collaborate with other writers but be wise while choosing your partners.
🔹Whatever happens, the last thing you would want to do is quit writing or quit the particular work because of self-doubt. Margaret Atwood says, “Get back on the horse that threw you down.”
If you’re going to somewhere on a horse and suddenly the horse throws you off its back, get back on it. If it throws you down over and over again, keep getting on. Soon it will realise it has no option than to allow you. Persist and dominate over self-doubt.
Read what Damien Angelica Walters has to say about her experience with self-doubt and learn from it.
Every writer has moments of self-doubt, although when it happens, you definitely feel as though you’re the only one. When it happens to me, I’m convinced I’m an imposter, a failure. I tell myself my successes have been flukes and I should permanently retire my notebook and pen. I start comparing my career to those of other writers and find mine lacking. When I’m in this mindset, the words start fighting me tooth and nail which, of course, makes the self-doubt even worse. It’s an ugly cycle, and the only way to break it is to take a break. Read a lot, watch a movie, go out, do anything but write. When I do that, the negative feelings start to melt away and I remember why I write: because I love it. It isn’t about accolades or anthology invitations or even sales; it’s about telling the stories that I have inside me to tell.
– Damien Angelica Walters
© Florence Ezekafor