Positive Writer

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

The Most Crippling Issue for Writers (and How to Beat it!)

Since starting Positive Writer and publishing Writer’s Doubt, I’ve received thousands of emails from readers from all over the world asking for more guidance and specific writing exercises they can do to beat the living hell out of their fears and doubts.

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The emails have also proven to be tremendously beneficial, in that I’ve learned firsthand from fellow writers in the trenches just how much, and why, their fears and doubts were crippling them, but the #1 most consistent and crippling issue was something so obvious, and yet, we all seem to underestimate it.

Our doubts are traitors,

and make us lose the good we oft might win,

by fearing to attempt.

― William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

Having fears and doubts about one’s creative abilities is absolutely normal.

If you’re human, you’ve experienced them and what’s more is that they’ve stopped you cold on more than one occasion. Shit happens, and for some of us it happens all too often, and in some cases, it appears to be permanent.

We see people succeeding all of the time as writers, as bloggers, as authors, or you name it, and we wonder how they’re doing it.

How are they doing it?

Maybe they’re lucky, maybe they’re especially gifted, maybe they work tirelessly, or maybe they’re utterly fearless and doubt free.

What I have discovered is that it’s not any one of the above, and nobody is completely fearless, or doubt free for that matter. Nobody.

However, there is something they all do seem to have in common. A choice. It was made consciously or subconsciously, but they made it. They chose to acknowledge the Elephant in the room.

In one way or another they addressed their fears by acknowledging them and by doing so they discovered ways to work with them by finding the confidence they needed to accomplish their goals. For everyone this is different and in some cases has been done with the help of a teacher, a coach, a parent, a friend, or in some other way.

For writers I have some other way for you today in two steps, but before we get to those two powerful steps, allow me to make clear that becoming confident doesn’t somehow turn everything into sunshine and roses, and the eF’d up things in the world are still going to be eF’d up no matter how confident a writer you become.

I will say this, though, and you can quote me, without genuine self-confidence we can never reach our potential or achieve our dreams.

If you’re going to be a true artist, someone who actually creates work that matters, despite his or her own inner chaos, you must, absolutely, positively must, have confidence in yourself and be an enthusiastic advocate of your own work.

Believing in one’s self is paramount to achieving any dream or goal in life. There is no substitute.

Skill and talent pale in comparison to the power of one’s own self-confidence, and that’s why you see people with less skill and talent succeeding when deep inside of you, you know you are capable of much better.

The good news is that confidence can be learned, and not just the BS kind. We’re talking about the real stuff, the type that doesn’t need to be declared and just is. We can’t be successful without it.

Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.

― Norman Vincent Peale

2 Steps

1: Acknowledge any (and all) fears and doubts you have.

2: Write about them. Expose them in a personal journal or diary.

You don’t have to share this writing with anyone unless you want to. It is essential that you do acknowledge in writing anything that is causing you to stall or is, in fact, stopping you from doing what you want to do. Make a list. Write about all of them, and don’t allow any to stay hidden. Your feelings are valid.

What we imagine, and what we know, are not always the same things, and some fears may no longer have any power over us once we face them for what they really are, in black and white. Some fears we’ve been holding on to for years and the cause is long gone, but the fear remains causing us never-ending doubts because we’ve never acknowledged and addressed the original cause.

Beware with whom you share

When I was about 15 I shared one of my short stories with a friend of my parents. I do not remember why I shared the story with him because I didn’t share any of my writings with anyone back then. Maybe I needed advice and he wasn’t doing anything at that moment. I don’t know, but I do know it proved to be a devastating move.

He sat there reading the pages while chewing his gum in such a way as if chewing dramatically helped him read better. When he finished reading he began to tell me everything wrong with it, and he completely crushed my 15-year-old heart in a matter of minutes. I mean, this dude went the extra mile to bring me down and likewise didn’t have anything good to say to encourage me to keep writing.

Later I was asked why I shared my story with him because the guy was known for being a total jerk. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that at the time.

This didn’t mean my story was actually great, but it did mean he was the type of person intent on showing how important he was by bringing others down. Destroying a 15-year old’s dream of being a writer, who was already dealing with more than enough self-doubt, was right in his wheelhouse.

I held that experience inward for years and years, and then later as an adult when I finally wrote about it in my journal, I realized the lesson I learned was that we can’t ask for input from just any Tom, Dick, or Sue-Ann. I know that seems obvious, but what seems obvious in writing, such as what you’re reading in this post, isn’t always so obvious when it’s trapped somewhere in our brains feeding us constant helpings of self-doubt.

Some people are naturally overly critical and self-important, some people just don’t care and do not want to be bothered, and some people might not like what you’re writing about no matter how well it is written.

It’s important to ask the right people, people who are interested in seeing a writer improve and are interested in giving valuable feedback that will actually be helpful. Writers have this terrible habit of taking every criticism to heart and not being able to separate helpful feedback from the BS. We’re all guilty of wanting to give up and believing our work is worthless after we’ve been crushed.

That one single experience held me back for too long and I would never have realized how much it affected me if I had not finally written about it. So, yes, it’s obvious now, but you might be surprised what we hide within ourselves which when exposed no longer holds any power over us.

You’re a writer, so it’s worth doing the writing exercises. What if they do help? If they do, it could prove life changing for your writing and your art. There are many other effective writing exercises that will also help and we’ll get to those in just a moment.

self-doubt

The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.

― Sylvia Plath

The Most Consistent and Crippling Issue

The #1 issue was that they underestimated how much fear and doubt actually affected them and held them back. They were perplexed as to why so many others with less skill and less talent continued to pass them by.

I’m no psychologist, but honestly, I think it’s normal to hate when that happens. It’s a natural reaction, and it especially hurts when you know you could be doing so much better. You deserve to reach your potential, and you know it. Don’t you? Of Course!

It’s not until they decided to do something about it that things began to change, and for many of them, reading Writer’s Doubt was the impetus they needed to address what was holding them back. We all need something to compel us to give a shit and make a change. We are creatures of habit. Change within ourselves and for our work doesn’t just happen, it needs to be specific and intentional.

We might not be able to change direction and our habits overnight, but we can decide to learn and do something new that will help us bring about change.

I’m not a scientist or a doctor, but what I have is profound personal experiences that I’ve been open about. I have been fortunate to discuss these issues with thousands of people since coming forward, which has given me unique insights and enabled me to help fellow artists. Many have thanked me for changing their lives.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that there are a few who think I’m full of crap. So, you know, there’s the balance of the universe.

Here’s the thing, most people suffer in silence and don’t know what steps they can take to overcome the challenges they face and improve their lot; however, it doesn’t have to be that way. Fear and doubt about our writing and creative work only win when they keep us in the dark, alone, and frustrated. And they’re able to do that via our own built in denial systems.

Put the spotlight on them. Expose them. Write about them.

That’s what we can do right now and the sooner, the better. The power to be the writer only you can be is within you, waiting.

Whether you are ready right now or need to work your way up to it, or whatever you do, never give up on your dreams and your goals as a writer. Never, ever, ever, stop believing in yourself. If you’re not getting the breaks you deserve then it’s time to start creating your own breaks.

For specifically designed writing exercises and guidance, join me in my new online writing course “Writers Crushing Doubt.” The course is designed for you to work at your own pace to reach a new level of confidence in your writing and your creativity.

Your awesomeness demands to be realized.

{**Special thanks to Christine Niles @CRoyseNiles & Shanan Haislip @Write_Tomorrow for their professional assistance with designing the writing exercises in the Writer’s Crushing Doubt course.**}

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
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  • “Your feelings are valid.” Yes! Love this, sharing.

  • Robert Ranck

    Brian, that’s one of the best articles in a while. I quote you: “However, there is something they all do seem to have in common. A choice.” — that is the turning point in the process for most who excel in any endeavor. They choose to step on out there into the dark, knowing it can be for good or ill, but they have had a little practice, a little encouragement from the guides in their lives and they DO IT!

    Everyone should take to heart Mr. Henley’s message https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invictus – – – – ” I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”

    Soloing an aircraft teaches that lesson well. So does the “Dale Carnegie Course in Public Speaking” that was so popular in the sixties. Just get out of your shell and do the thing you want to do – speak or write, fly, whatever. Just go ahead, it’s really a lot easier than it seems.

    : My father’s oft-repeated maxim was: ” If any one person can do it, any other person can as well”.

    • Thanks, Robert. Sometimes, we need some help making that choice. 🙂

  • N K

    Love this post. At exactly the right time! I have been feeling very insecure lately, and today I’m going to address all my fears by writing them down and acknowledging them. Thanks a lot for his brilliant post, just what I needed today!

  • Karen

    Thanks for this Bryan. Straight talking good advice that inspired me to write this: https://karenelizabethmiller.com/2016/07/04/writing-doubts-crushed/

  • samcarter44

    Great advice! Going into my save folder!

  • Adam Derrick

    What an excellent article Bryan, I think you have summed up the pitfalls of writing perfectly. Sometimes you can be so high on your works that you think everybody is going to love this and then in 24 hours the complete turn around: Nobody is going to touch this abomination. Find the balance and hit the Self-doubt head on.

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