Positive Writer

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

Why Doubt Stops You From Creating Your Best Work (and What You CAN Do About It)

To doubt is to be human. To fear things is useful and wise.

But too much of either and creating art with your words, your paint, your music, or really, in any form, becomes practically impossible. Despairing feelings of not being good enough can start to overwhelm us, even if others consider us extraordinarily talented and brilliant.

But not everyone is ready and willing to do something about them. You can.

I’ve struggled with this and perhaps you have, too. Because to do something about one’s doubts requires facing off with them in more ways than one and none of the ways are particularly easy or comfortable.

As you’ve discovered, talent and intellect have little to no power to overcome suffocating doubt. Even Vincent van Gogh was afflicted with severe doubt, which all too often led him to believe others would not find worth in his work and as you know, although we celebrate Van Gogh today, during his lifetime his work was not well known, much less as appreciated.

Doubt is not simply something of an inconvenience.

Doubt can stop even the very best and most talented from reaching their full potential if they do not face it with intention and conviction.

It can stop you. It stopped me, too.

If doubt merely stopped us that would not be so terrible, but doubt is insidious and often will allow us to still create, yet doubt what we are creating is of any value. And thus, whether we realize it or not, we become inhibited and create work far below our abilities.

We’ll even believe such mediocrity is the best we have to offer.

Not true! Don’t believe it.

Irrational Fear

Doubt is derived from fear, but the real problem isn’t fear itself. I know, we’ve all been taught this and we’ve struggled with it in futility. The real culprit, though, and what we must overcome is the rationale behind our fears. Because, as I’m sure you realize, fear is not always rational.

The real problem isn’t fear itself

Fear that stops you from walking over a cliff and falling to your death is rational and based on survival.

However, fear that stops you from writing words that mean something to you is all too often based on another type of fear, one that is derived from the apprehension of how others will judge you.

Such fear plants seeds of doubt that grow quickly and uncontrollably, and if left unchecked will generate roots that go so deep it becomes implanted in our minds to the point we believe it’s always been there and always will be.

Such deeply rooted doubt cannot be overcome with facts and reality checks. In fact, doubt can cause you to sincerely doubt whether anything can, or if it even should, be done about it.

With doubt, it is believed that there is a point of no return

It’s this belief that stops us from even attempting anything to defeat it.

It’s too hard, it’s too expensive, it’s not the right time, I’ll try next year, I’ll wait until the spring or I’ll do something else. Excuses are created by doubt. It’s why our parents, teachers and all the adults in our lives chastised us for making excuses when we were young and impressionable.

Not because excuses were simply bad per se, but more so because excuses are created from something that is far worse (DOUBT) and limits our growth into confident adults.

As a matter of fact, if you think about it, whenever you hear a young person give an explanation that sounds all so familiar as an excuse you’re likely to cringe and immediately rebuke the excuse. I believe it’s a protective instinct. Consider it.

What excuses does doubt cause you to make? Which ones would you correct a young person from vocalizing?

This, my friends, is where the rubber meets the road and when most of us hit the brakes. I’m betting you feel your feet reaching for those brakes right now. But it’s not you. It’s doubt. We think it’s us. It’s not. We all have our triggers that cause doubt to take action to stop us, especially if it feels under attack.

So, what can be done about it? Actually, quite a bit.

A great way to confront doubt is to do what it says not to do. If you need to learn something and it stops you, well, learn it anyway. If you write something important to you and you want to share it with the world, then share it with the world.

Sounds easy. It’s not. Doubt makes these things hard. Very hard. You know that. So you have to start small, but start you must.

What is doubt currently stopping you from?

It’s stopping you from something, even if it is not obvious. Figure it out and then closely examine the rationale behind the doubt. Not the rationale behind the decisions, no, I’m talking about the rationale causing the initial doubt itself. It’s cloaked and sometimes you need help to discover what it really is.

That’s why therapists get us to talk so much because they’re trying to get us to reveal the core foundation of our angst. Personal journals help us in this way, too.

But let’s be clear. If doubt is stopping any of us from doing anything, such as creating the art you were born to create, it will not simply go away some day in the future.

Without direct action of some kind, it is unlikely it will ever let go and your best work will always remain inside of you, dormant and hidden from the world.

Don’t let that happen. I’ve been there. I’ve written books and created an online course that is designed to teach others what I learned about how to overcome doubt and write work that matters to us.

What’s it worth to any of us? Doubt dictates that it’s worth very little and that the payoff will be insubstantial and irrelevant.

But that’s doubt talking. And we need to be done with listening to it.

Let’s begin with an exercise you can start doing today:

Write 250 Words and Publish Publicly

Journal 250 words of something important to you. Perhaps write about your feelings towards your art and how much it means to you. Or write about a valuable lesson you learned. Or write about something completely random. But write 250 words. Not 500. Not 5000. Just 250, if you go a little beyond to say 300, that’s okay, but not one word fewer than 250.

Publish it publicly on a blog, on Medium, in a forum, or on WordPress. Wherever you like as long as it’s open to the public to read. Whether others read it or not, is not the point.

Doubt’s ultimate goal is to stop you and in order to do that it causes us to not create the work we want to create and if we somehow actually do create it, then it’s next goal is to stop us from sharing it openly.

Repeat.

The more you write and publish in public, the more doubt loses its power over you. Doubt will find other ways of stopping you, but doubt can be put in check. It must be put in check. This exercise will get you started.

Don’t let doubt stop you. We need your art.

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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  • Catherine North

    Thanks again for the inspiration Bryan. I am sharing my work publicly but I wonder every day if the hard truth is that I’m just not good enough.

    https://northcatwriter.wordpress.com/

  • Evince

    Hello my book is at amazon.com/author/doctorevincesung
    Evinced by Evince Sung

  • c-a allen

    Thank you for the encouragement! Good article… Doubts can get us discouraged, but write we must! 🙂 … So I am sharing my blog site: https://forjustaweed.wordpress.com/

  • Hey, Bryan!
    As someone who speaks regularly, I have doubts even while speaking. To the point that I get anxiety attacks and tunnel vision while onstage.
    What I’ve learned recently though, is how to combat the attack and continue even though I’m having it on the spot.
    It’s hard, but I still continue. I have to fight the doubts even harder.

    • How do you combat the attack?

      • It’s different for everybody, but for me, I keep going while I speak.
        It’s like there’s an internal battle happening inside my head and I make sure the good thoughts win. And it always does, because at the end of the day, I stood there and gave it my best shot.

  • Jane Rucker

    Great insight, Bryan, and so true! I’ve written and edited for others for years, but started my own blog this year. I was surprised at the doubts that showed up in the process! Overcoming comes by moving forward, continuing to expand my writing endeavors. It’s surprisingly fun along the way. I just truly enjoy writing, and when that can potentially help someone else, all the better! Doubt has a hard time standing in front of that.

    Thanks for sharing with us!

  • AnaLucky Mlay

    Thank you for this article. This have been my fear for a long time as I couldn’t share my writings with a soul. I have been writing short stories and poems for a while now. To overcome this i did start sharing my poems on:
    https://m.poemhunter.com/anabahati-mlay/poems/ and on my blog : http://anabahati.blogspot.com/ .

    Hopefully soon I will start sharing my short stories.

  • Connie Hall

    Thanks Bryan!

    I’ve blogged off and on, with minimal success. I published on the now defunct Helium and Yahoo contributor’s Network, and worked for some copy mills (never again). I did some academic writing for a company who advertised for “sample papers”. No, they were selling my work to college students to pass off as their own. Sorry, they can learn to write their own papers.

    The thing is that I’ve never really got anywhere. Oh, I’ve made a few dollars here and there, but that’s about it. About the time it looks like I’m going to get somewhere, I lock up. I have to wonder if the doubt (aka mind-numbing, nauseating, terror) short circuits the talent I know I have.

    Yes, I know I have it, because every so often I write something that connects with people in a big way. The thing is that those things always come from my gut, and they seem to flow out of me on their own steam. That is the exception though, not the rule…the rule is work.

    I have bits of poetry, and ideas for short stories swirling around in my head all the time, but they are just wisps that evaporate almost as quickly as they appear. The ones that do make it paper just stay there, half written. Even when I finish them, those are the things that I am really afraid to share.

    Oh, here are the blogs I’m writing now. The first one I write with my husband, who also several files of poetry and half written novels on his laptop.

    http://www.oldfolksathomestead.com
    http://www.thislittlelightofmine.blog

  • Sandy Ayala

    I think the article has great merit. And I did find another way. I have been writing since I was in grade school and have done little with it professionally. But now beginning what is probably the last quarter of my life, I am honing in on my writing. No I can’t retire yet (that would be nice) but I have joined a writer’s critique group. So every other week I share up to 10 pages of my work with the other members and it is eye opening. Everyone is working on different kinds of stories, we all read each others work, comment on what is good, tell them where they need to strengthen the story, where it doesn’t make since, so on and so forth. I so wish I had done this 30 years ago, I would have been so much further with my craft and probably would have been retired from my day time job by now. Take the risk and reap the rewards.