Self-doubt is something that every artist, performer, and entrepreneur deals with. The idea of putting yourself and your work out there can be terrifying. What if people don’t like your work? What if they make fun of you for it? What if no one ever sees it?
I’m sure you’ve all had these thoughts while working on your own projects. As a fiction author, and even as an internet content creator, I know them well. Unfortunately there is no easy set of instructions for combating self-doubt, and honestly it is an issue that every creative deals with, even the ones who are famous or successful. But if you find that it is an issue that plagues you constantly and is getting in the way of you doing your work, I do have some mindset suggestions, especially for writers, on how you can try to cope with this.
1.) Remember only you see your first draft.
As a writer, you don’t have to share your work with the world until you are ready. No one will see your first drafts unless you choose to share them. Most people won’t even see your second or third. Every story will (or at least should) go through alpha readers, beta readers, and editors before reaching the masses. You will have ample time to make corrections and improvements before it hits the market. At that point, it should be the best story you can write, at least at this point in your life, and that’s what people will be seeing.
2.) Focus on improvement, not perfection.
This is a mindset I picked up from playing competitive games like League of Legends and Overwatch. While I’m not a pro player, or even that good, I always try to get better as I continue playing. The people who are successful in these types of games are the ones who focus on learning and improving rather than solely winning. Losses teach you a lot, and no win is perfectly executed; there’s always more to learn.
Similarly, no story you write is going to be perfect, and there will always be things you could have done better. This is especially true during the drafting phase. There have been stories I’ve written that I was really proud of but that my alpha readers actually found offensive. There have also been stories I’ve written that I didn’t think much of but that readers really loved and wanted me to continue. Both of these instances provide opportunities to learn about your strengths and weaknesses an an author.
Even your finished and published works, after all the revisions and edits, won’t be perfect, but you can learn what to improve on for your next story from your audience’s feedback.
3.) Focus on work, not outcome. Or write for yourself.
Perhaps your doubt comes more from the worry that no one will see your work rather than how they’ll react to it. In this case, I would say it is most important to focus on the work and to try not thinking about the outcome. You can control how good your story is, but you cannot control who will like it or how popular it will be.
This is what people are talking about when they say “write for yourself.” Focus on creating something you enjoy and are passionate about rather than chasing trends. While your writing is for other people to consume, you have to be happy with it in order for the pursuit to be worthwhile.
4.) Remember you’re not the only one who experiences this, so don’t give up.
As I said earlier, every author faces moments of self-doubt at some point in his or her career. It comes with the territory of being a creator. Making something is an act of courage, and the worst thing you could do is stop. The difference between famous authors and people you’ve never heard of is that those famous authors didn’t stop working when they doubted themselves; they found ways to push through.
5.) Know there will always be haters.
Sadly, in this world of ours, there will always be people who try to bring you down. They may be faceless trolls on the internet who flame you and tell you how horrible your work is. They may be those friends or relatives who question you and try to belittle you or make you give up on your dream. At some point you have to grow some thick skin and just learn to ignore them. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to handle the problem.
But I would urge you to remember this:
Also, I’m fairly certain you are very capable of writing something much better than the worst story in history.
These are my tips for dealing with self-doubt. Have any of these worked for you? Are there things you do that I didn’t mention here? Please share in the comments so that we can all learn some good ways to get past our self-doubt together.