Positive Writer

Writing through doubt and fear, and you can, too!

What Joss Whedon Can Teach You About Writing (The Avengers Writer)

As a writer, I am prone to doubting myself, my writing, and whether or not the Earth is round.

In fact, on the days when I can’t string a few sentences together to save my life, I become convinced that the world is flat. In other words, I doubt the truth. I doubt I am a writer. On those days I give up, throw my pages in the air, and go sulk on the sofa while half watching a grandiose movie like, The Avengers.

Have you ever had days like that? I hope you haven’t had too many. If you have, I have some good news for you…

What Joss Whedon Can Teach You About Writing

The Others Have It Better Syndrome

It’s interesting how much better we think others have it when we’re enveloped in self-pity, self-doubt, and self-loathing.

While struggling through my most recent bout of Writer’s Doubt, I thought about how easy it must be for someone like Joss Whedon to write a script for a blockbuster movie. He probably sits down, stretches his fingers, and writes until he’s done.

Joss is perfect. He’s prolific. He never makes a mistake and above all things, he never second guesses or doubts his work. He can publish the first draft of his grocery list.

Joss’ last movie, The Avengers, is the third highest grossing movie of all time with a global take of $1.5 Billion at the box office. (Source)

Now, that, my friends, is a writer’s writer. I hate him! Color me a hater.

Whoa! Hold on, not so fast.

The Master

Do you believe in the Master? You know the one I am talking about. The one from: “When the student is ready the ‘master’ will appear.” Yep. That’s the one.


It was Joss’ own words that brought me back to reality and pulled me from the cold clutches of Writer’s Doubt. While reading a recent interview I was relieved by his answer to this question:

Q: Are you still writing (The Avengers 2)?

A:The writing is never done because I haven’t finished it. It’s not like it was good enough yet… there’s still some scenes that absolutely need to be much better.  This happened on the first one because I came in so late and it happened on this one because I am an idiot. I am stupid.” -Joss Whedon (Source)

He’s an idiot? He’s stupid?

Couldn’t be, he’s the screenwriter of Toy Story, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Avengers, Firefly and Serenity, and The Cabin in the Woods, and so many others. (He’s, well, kind of known for his directing skills, too.)

But even Joss has days when he thinks he’s not that great of a writer, that he’s an idiot and that he’s stupid.

Joss is an awesome writer. He’s not perfect, but no less awesome! Color me a fan.

What Joss Whedon can teach you about writing is:

Sometimes you just won’t feel that great about your writing and you may need to work on it and improve it, but you should know that even the great writers of our time, the most prolific storytellers, have days when they feel doubtful, too.

You are not alone. You’re a writer, after all. (Click to Tweet)

Feel better? Share how you overcame your latest bout of Writer’s Doubt in the comments.

Be honest, we all have moments of doubt about our writing. It’s what you do about it that matters. Keep writing.

About Bryan Hutchinson

I'm a positive writer and when that doesn't work, I eat chocolate. I help fellow writers overcome doubt and thrive! In my free time, I love visiting castles with my wife, Joan. Join me on Twitter and Facebook.

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  • http://celiackiddo.wordpress.com/ Dana Schwartz

    I love Joss Whedon for Buffy, but I’m thrilled that he’s found uber success in the Avenger franchise (it’s just not my thing, personally). Thanks for including his candid and down to earth interview answer! It helps to know even geniuses have moments of doubt.

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Thanks, Dana. I agree.

  • Jody Lebel

    Not every day is going to be rainbows and unicorn poop. As adults, we do know that, right? I’m a fan of Joss, but this article wasn’t particularly insightful. So Joss has down days, too. Um — he IS human. Anyone find that amazing?

    • David

      Actaully, yes I do. Your comment is a bit repulsive but that’s ok, we’re all human and such a reminder is welcome.

      Great post, Bryan!

  • http://www.ivalueinvesting.com Aidan Sweeney

    I write on my laptop. This is also where I’ve downloaded the PC Kindle app with my copy of Bryan’s “Writers Doubt,” so I can switch over to quickly revise when I have some trouble.

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Ha – I like that! Thanks for letting me know. I hope you’re enjoying the book.

  • http://www.mudpiewriting.com/ Marcy Mason McKay

    Thanks, Bryan. It’s ALWAYS reassuring to find that even the greats struggle with self-doubt and fear: Joss Whedon, Michael Cunningham, and your hero, Stephen King.

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Now, how did you know Stephen King is my hero, Marcy? Have you been reading my books? 🙂

      • http://www.mudpiewriting.com/ Marcy Mason McKay

        Your books, your blogs…anyone following you know this not-so-kept secret!

        • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

          Good point. 🙂

  • http://www.Marketing4Traffic.com/ Devani Anjali Alderson

    You’re so right. When I feel like this, I remember that no matter how “good” my writing is … there’ll ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS be folks better then I am…. AND folks worse than I am. The best part? I can learn from them all.

    Awesome post, Bryan … Also, guess what?

    I’ve started a newsletter for my marketing business and already have the 1st two weeks ready to go! My site is almost done being remodeled & doing my first ever live webinar training session … Finally gone PRO!!! And it feels awesome. 🙂 Thanks for all the advice / encouragement / & “kicks in the butt” over the last year!!!

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      That’s awesome, Devani. Your dedication and persistence will pay off in spades. 🙂

  • http://unleashthewritestuff.com/ Joe Kovacs

    Negative self-talk can really paralyze writers (or anyone) in their tracks including Joss Whedon apparently. I regularly read Marc and Angel’s Hack Life and they talk about this phenomenon a lot. The negative self-talk I typically experience is two-fold: one related to how busy I am, and how that makes sustained writing difficult. The second kind relates to seeing how many other writers and bloggers are out there who have already achieved decent success. I guess negative self-talk has less to do with where we are socially or professionally, and more to do with the experience of being writers who also happen to be human. Great insight, Bryan, thanks.

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Indeed, Joe. We’re all human after all. Sometimes we just need a little reminder. Thanks!

  • http://www.aealbert.com A.E. Albert

    You’re right, writer’s block isn’t isn’t about stunted creativity, it’s fear. There are times when I write I have to self talk myself out of my doubt multiple times. But at the end of the day there are words on my screen. It’s not all about creativity, it’s attitude.

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      It’s surprising how much attitude plays a part in everything we do. I agree, at the end of the day if there are words on the screen, then you’ve won. Keep winning.

  • http://www.annbevans.com/ Ann Bevans

    For the last three years, I’ve stayed stuck in a job I hated because I was afraid I’d find out I was a terrible writer. So yes, I can relate. Some days you write a blog post and it takes off like wildfire. Other days, your posts go nowhere. And that’s just the little feedback loop. The fear of failing at a novel that took a year or five to write is sometimes too much. But you’re right. Everyone struggles with this. Even the stars in our writing pantheon. We have to remember that it’s the long game that counts.

    • http://www.positivewriter.com/ Bryan Hutchinson

      Exactly, Anne. We’ve got to stick with it.

  • http://www.leonardotrait.com/ Angie Dixon

    Yes. Absolutely this. No one who really writes has an easy time of it. I went through a very short stage where I imagined that the people “out front” (my favorite singer/songwriter, my favorite writer) were really just out front, and it was easy for them–that the words just somehow popped up and they wrote them down or sang them. I’m afraid I still find that I feel that way sometimes, but reading about Joss freaking Whedon having these feelings is great. Thank you.

  • http://www.expandbeyondyourself.com/ Michal

    My dobut is the thing of the past. I starved the poor bastard.
    Sometimes (like today) I’m just not in the mood for writing. I slept less than 6 hours 5th day in a row.
    When I’m absolutely drained I write something just for myself (like a novel which no one but me has ever seen). Or I switch topics: from current book to the outline of next one or blog post or philosophical article which will probably never be published anywhere.

  • http://www.finallywriting.com/ Jackie

    Such a reassuring and fun post! What a great reminder that doubt is part of the creative process. When we write through doubt and comparison, we grow, we create and we write with more vibrancy and truth.

  • http://www.myfreelancelife.com/ Williesha Morris

    This is awesome. One of my favorite blog posts ever was about how Joss’ success is a case study on how to dream big. He’s an inspiration as a writer, filmmaker and a human being.

  • http://my168project.com/ Matches Malone

    21st!!!! I agree with everything said above. I just wish that more would get this….