Positive Writer

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Doubt Is The Writer’s Troll (How To Defeat It!)

Note: This post is by Jackie Johansen, she is a writer who combines personal development with actionable writing strategies. She is the creator of the ebook, Is Writing a Struggle? How to Author the Words that Inspire the World. Get it free at FinallyWriting.com.

I begin writing by feeling inspired, motivated and with an idea that is pushing on my insides, full of potential, wanting and needing to be expressed. The words start flowing, and my fingers dance across the keyboard.

However, inevitably, my fingers begin to slow-down and eventually they come to a complete stop. I feel deflated, uninspired and full of doubt…

Doubt Fear Writing

Accept that writing is about writing, nothing more and nothing less, it’s not about being perfect. You don’t have to be the next Hemingway. You get to be someone unique and rare. You get to be you. So, be the matchless, remarkable you.

—Bryan Hutchinson

The catalyst to doubt is often a small moment when I pause to rewrite a small error, or become unsure what I am trying to say. These small moments snowball and eventually I am experiencing doubt in a big way.

Small moments of insecurity create huge experiences of doubt.

I wonder if the idea was really as inspired as I originally thought. I wonder what people will think of the work. I wonder if it is any good and I wonder if I am a good enough writer to have begun the project in the first place.

This experience is what Bryan Hutchinson, the author of one of my favorite blogs, Positive Writer, calls writer’s doubt.

Writer’s Doubt is the feeling that creeps up and can stop writing in its tracks. This is also the doubt that prevents us from ever sitting in the chair and getting writing. This is the doubt that leaves projects half finished.

Writer’s Doubt

Because Writer’s Doubt is such a universal experience, Bryan Hutchinson wrote an entire book on the topic to help you and me deal with it and overcome it.

In his book, Writer’s Doubt, Bryan shares his own tumultuous relationship with writing.

He shares the doubt he experienced as a child from external critics in his life. Also, he shares his experience of the inner critics that wreaked havoc on the writing process, long after the external ones were gone.

Yet he continued to write anyway. Not only did he fill pages with words for his own healing, but he went on to write highly acclaimed books, and one of the most popular writing blogs on the web.

He has made it to the other side of doubt.

Write anyway

In this book, Bryan shares the wisdom he gained from learning to write in the face of doubt.

He gives us insight into how we may hold ourselves back from being the writers we are meant to be.

He gives us practical tools to move through doubt, to face writer’s block, to keep writing.

He becomes the writing teacher we all wished we had: kind, nurturing, practical and in full recognition of our potential.

No excuses

Additionally, Bryan writes valuable bonus chapters that provide practical tools and encouragement to put our writing into the world.

He takes out the guesswork of publication and blogging by sharing resources and strategies to take our writing to the next level.

We now have no excuses to not write.

Doubt is the troll under the bridge

While I was reading Writer’s Doubt, I kept thinking about the ugly troll that guards bridges in fairy tales. This is the troll that puts up a fight, the one that asks for a sacrifice, a payment, a duel, before the hero can cross.

For me, this is the perfect image for Writer’s Doubt.

When faced with a journey that will bring us closer to our truth, and that pushes us to grow, we will be faced with this battle.

Doubt, like the troll, pops up to ask us to fight for what we believe in. It puts us through a symbolic transformation. It builds our strength and importantly it builds the fire that we need to really bring out our best work.

Facing doubt, and moving through it, is necessary to find the gold in the shadow.

Doubt is the bridge keeper that indicates we are on the right path. It tells us that we are embarking on a journey that is important. Moving through it, and writing anyway, means we will experience new growth as a writer and as a person, and that’s who we defeat it.

By writing.

To write is to experience doubt and fear (Click to Tweet)

This happens because when we write, we give our deepest selves air to breathe, to expand, and to take on a life of their own.

When we write we are asked to grow, to heal and to face our fears.

This vulnerability can trigger feelings of resistance, distraction, and the need to retract like a turtle into a hard shell; writing asks us to soften.

However, being vulnerable asks us to feel alive. It is an exhilarating feeling that comes from when we write regardless of doubt.

Your story matters

Reading Writer’s Doubt I am reminded that our stories are important.

Writing our stories is about connecting to our selves deeply and to others.

I am more empowered than ever to keep writing, to keep sharing and putting it out into the world.

We all learn as we go. We fight doubt and fear every day, numerous times a day. But, like Bryan, we must write anyway.

When my fingers start slowing down over the keyboard, I will remember Bryan’s words:

I’m here to tell you as long as you love to write and have the inner desire to express yourself, no one can stop you but yourself.

I trust my fingers will pick up speed once again.

We must keep writing, our stories matter, our voices matter.

Have you ever given in to Writer’s Doubt? How do you overcome it to write words that matter? Share in the comments.

About Jackie Johansen

My name is Jackie and I am a writer. I believe that sharing our stories, and unique voices, can create big, beautiful, positive change in the world. You can find me on my blog finallywriting.com and follow me on Twitter: @finallywriting

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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



  • Jackie, I have shivers reading this, I so resonate with your experience. I can go from feeling capable, enthusiastic and in the flow, to being hit by doubt which can spiral into a confidence crash and avoidance if I don’t catch it quickly enough.

    I have found that it helps me to pay close attention to the smallest cues that doubt or fear have been triggered and take reparation action immediately. I have also found that learning to increase my capacity for discomfort has also helped my keep going in the face of severe doubt.

    Thanks for keeping on writing in the face of doubt. You have just proved what you believe, that sharing your unique voice can have a positive impact on the world!

    • Alison, thank you so much for your thoughts! Your kind words mean a lot to me. I can completely relate to your experience and love your ideas about how to combat those small cues. I think you are right–we must nip them in the bud, look inward with curiosity and gentleness to see what is being triggered and continue to write boldly.

  • Right now I’m having doubts about writing the perfect haiku to match a photo to create what is called photo-haiga. I’ve had many published in on-line journals, but recently I’m questioning every haiga I create. After spending 10 hours over three nights I have only two photo-haiga which please me somewhat. My plan is to put this work aside and do something else: write a post for my blog or begin a new story with an idea which has been germinating for about two weeks. When doubt hits regarding some particular writing, my advice is to switch gears and start writing something else. This has worked for me.

    • Adelaide, I think that is great advice! I love what you said about having an idea that is germinating coming to the surface. I think our work blossoms in it’s own time and often we are called to follow where the energy of the writing is taking us. The other projects will fall into place and come together in their own time as well.

  • Great post Jackie – Doubt is a troll. I did not grow up dreaming about being a writer. For me the desire (a love hate relationship really) to write came late in life, so I have to be diligent to keep doubt at bay.

    • Hey Jon, I think you are right, we have to be diligent to keep doubt at bay. I also think this is true for all writers, wherever we are at in our process. It is so powerful to articulate our doubts as a way to diffuse them and face them boldly. Thank you for sharing your experience, which helps us all become more in touch with our inner power to face doubt and keep it from getting in our way.