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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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Like a good friend, Bryan guides you through the process of facing your inner demons, conquering the craft, and creating work that matters. ―Jeff Goins



  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

  • 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!!!

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

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • VladtheImpala

    Whedon is one of the worst writers around, and this article is just plain sad. So, you doubt yourself, but you find reassurance that someone as narcissistic and hackneyed as Joss Whedon experiences the same doubts? Anyone who thinks Joss Whedon is worth aspiring to shouldn’t be writing, sorry to tell you. We have enough Joss Whedons in the world, one is too many. Awful, awful writing.

  • mary3547@mail.ru

    Joss Whedon is without a doubt one of the best author. Joss has days when he supposes he’s not that awesome of an essayist, that he’s a moron and that he’s dumb. Some of the time you just won’t feel that extraordinary about your composition and you may need to chip away at it and enhance it, yet you ought to realize that even the considerable essayists of our time, the most productive storytellers, have days when they feel suspicious, as well.

  • mary5879@mail.ru

    Joss Whedon is without a doubt one of the best author. Joss has days when he supposes he’s not that awesome of an essayist, that he’s a moron and that he’s dumb. Some of the time you just won’t feel that extraordinary about your composition and you may need to chip away at it and enhance it, yet you ought to realize that even the considerable essayists of our time, the most productive storytellers, have days when they feel suspicious, as well.