Practical Ways to Tackle Self-Doubt

Today’s guest post is by Cat Friesen:

One of the biggest obstacles I’ve come across in my writing career is self-doubt. The little voice in your head tells you all kinds of nasty things: no one likes your writing, no one cares what you have to say, and worst of all, other people’s writing is way better than yours, so why even bother?

These are all valid fears, but you know what? They’re wrong. There are more than seven billion people on this earth, and if you tell me that not one single person here will like your writing, then you are mistaken, my friend.

There will always be people who enjoy your style of writing and will take genuine interest in what you have to say.

Want to learn to silence that voice that whispers to you from the darkest corners of your mind? Here’s what you can do.

Practice Makes Perfect

As much as some people want the ability to be excellent at something right out of the starting gate, that doesn’t happen often. The only way to improve at something is to practice. You won’t become a better writer by passively staring at your phone screen or by feeling jealousy toward writers you deem to be “better” (which is subjective, by the way).

As much as you may not want to hear this, talent and good fortune (usually) don’t fall out of the sky; they come from late nights, hard work, and numerous cups of coffee.

And guess what? Those writers that you judge to be so much better than you went through the same years of practice, rejection, and self-doubt that you’ve struggled with.

Act Before You Think

Often, I advise people to think before they act (otherwise situations tend to go south quite quickly), but when it comes to writing, one of the best approaches is to act before thinking.

One of my favorite exercises is to start writing immediately after I wake up in the morning.

Write about a dream you had, about your day yesterday, about that attractive person you saw on your walk last evening. Write before your brain is fully awake, and let everything flow from your brain to your pen or keyboard. It doesn’t have to be anything groundbreaking, but the simple act of automatically writing will make it easier when you want to get your head in the game later on.

Face Your Fears

You know what’s terrifying for a lot of us? Showing our writing to others, be it friends, family, or classmates. What if they don’t like it? What if they laugh at you?

A horrific thought, I know. But you know what slaps self-doubt in the face? Getting honest, helpful feedback from like-minded people. You’ll get an idea of where your work stands from individuals who share your love of writing (and who will probably be able to give you some stellar advice), and you get to be a part of a supportive community that will encourage growth in both your writing and your self-confidence.

The best method I’ve found for doing this is signing up for a university class where there will be a workshop component, but looking for writing groups both online and within your community will work just fine.

You’re Human

Remind yourself daily, or as often as you need to, that you are human. You are going to make mistakes, and occasionally you are going to write something awful.

But that doesn’t mean you have the right to give up. Writing bad things and continuing your craft anyway are marks of a true writer. No one gets anywhere without creating a few terrible pieces. Do you think master chefs get to where they are by always cooking five-star dinners?

No! They started out by learning to toast a piece of bread and worked their way up from there. We all start somewhere, we all make mistakes, and we can all get better if we work at it.

It’s true that there are some for which writing comes naturally. But, of every single writer I’ve spoken with, or listened to podcasts of, or read about, not one has admitted to never feeling self-doubt. In fact, many state that they still suffer from crippling self-doubt, even after publishing several well-received books.

Even Margaret Atwood, a widely known and applauded Canadian writer with more than seventy published works to her name, has dealt with and spoken on her own experience with self-doubt and anxiety.

As humans, it’s inevitable. We care what others think of us and, by extension, our creative endeavors. But we can’t let our doubts and fears stop us from doing what we love. If writers all did that, there would be no Harry Potter, no Lord of the Rings, no Chronicles of Narnia. And I’m not prepared to live in a world without masterpieces like those. So, do yourself a favor: pick up that pen and write.

Cat Friesen is a writer, blogger, and artist from British Columbia, Canada. She is an avid reader, tea enthusiast, cake aficionado, photographer, and lover of nature. Cat is currently writing her first poetry book, which she will be self-publishing in November 2017. Connect with her via her website or on Instagram.

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  1. Cat, thank you for getting inside my head. Self-doubt is part of human nature. I’m happy to read I’m not alone.

    1. C.L. Charlesworth, you’re definitely not alone! Everyone suffers from self doubt in some form or another, and it’s nice to know we have a community to turn to when it surfaces.

  2. Hi Cat,
    I have a question that pertains more to poetry than to self-doubt but does include anguish over making a decision. Since you’re publishing a poem book maybe you can shed a little light.

    I’m ready to publish a book of short stories and poems in e-book format and have a number of graphics to go with different items. I’d like to include them, but you hardly ever see e-books with graphics. A few reprints of old books including original drawings, but nothing modern.

    Now, do I go with the norm or follow my own inclination? The spirit of dither assails me. 🙂

    1. Hi Christine,

      I’m so glad you’re taking the steps to publish a book! As for your question, I’d say follow your own inclination. I personally love seeing illustrations in poetry and short story books, and am in the process of drawing out some for my own book. I think adding imagery related to the content adds a whole new layer to the book itself.

      I hope this helped! Let me know when you’ve published your book (or if you have a blog I can check out?), I’d love to see what you’re working on.


  3. Thank you for your blog. I am looking forward to trying your method of writing first thing in the morning while my mind is waking up.

    1. Cindy, I’m glad you’ve found value in this! I hope the writing first thing method helps you, and feel free to email me if you want to chat about how it goes.

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