May 9, 2011

facing doubt

I think some time during a project, every writer faces that scary monster we like to call doubt. Doubt looks at those meager words the writer has slaved over, mocking the writer’s effort with a baleful laugh. Doubt sits on the writer’s shoulder, whispering words of discouragement and manipulative pessimism. It creeps into the dark recesses of the writer’s mind until they are convinced that they are writing utter crap.

This happens to me with every project. The first few chapters, the first 10,000 words, the characters… they all encourage the writer’s excitement, fueling the desire to keep on writing. But then, the enthusiasm wanes, and the true nature of the project surfaces. It’s work writing a novel. And then Doubt steps in, hissing his malignant words.

I am roughly 13,000 words into my steampunk project, and already, Doubt has stepped in, especially now that I have decided to self-publish. The success of my story depends entirely on me, and it’s scary. This entire project is scary. If you remember, immediately before delving into this world of retro-mechanics, I expressed my fear of doing so. I started writing anyway. I faced that fear.

Now there is the fear that I’m not good enough to write it. I’m still writing, thanks to the support of my husband and my critique partner, but still, Doubt sits at my desk endlessly telling me that I should quit now. I’ve made a good effort. No one will blame me for stepping away. I’ve done it so many times before, after all.

And then there is another fear, the fear that if I do manage to finish this project, that if I do self-publish, it will have been all wasted effort. There is the fear that the book won’t be good, that readers won’t like it, that all the effort put into this career, all the years telling everyone I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, all of that will be wasted. It was all a pipe-dream.

At the same time… I’m stubborn. Really, really stubborn. I want this more than anything, so I will do it. I will finish this story. I will publish it. What happens afterward is anyone’s guess, and there will always be that fear. Doubt will forever lurk in the shadows of my writing desk.

But I have committed to face that doubt. It’s a challenge. I will overcome my writing fears. I will overcome my doubt. I will face them head on, and I will defeat them.

This time, I won’t give up.

And neither should you.


  1. I know what you mean there. Sooner or later, you run out of steam (hah) and you wonder if you've been punk'd (more hah).

    I managed to finish two novels — or at least stories of novel length — by serializing them on my blog. People read them, and I know I have to keep writing because I don't want to leave the readers hanging (for more than a week at a time, anyway!). I'm working on a third novel, really a continuation of the second, and I'm not pressuring myself at the moment because I'm in edit mode on its predecessor. But I found myself wanting to at least go in and look at it last night, so sometimes it just comes.

    Like you, I recently decided to go the self/indie-publish route. Kristin Kathryn Rusch's blog post about agents no longer advocating for writers pushed me off the fence. I need to line up beta readers, editors, and all that, but it'll be a good exercise.

  2. Just push through the fear and do it anyway. Trad or self--doesn't matter. I know a lot of authors who still fight doubt. It never goes away. The trick is to beat it back and go for it!!

  3. Like you said, you've done this before! And if you were good enough then, you're definitely good enough now!

    Besides, I think you have a much better take on steampunk than what's being published right now. You'll find plenty of readers, even if it's slow going at first.

  4. I agree with Christine. Give doubt a swift kick in your anatomical region of choice and keep going!

  5. Happens to us all. As they say, keep on truckin'.