I have a theory....that self-doubt is as necessary to the writing process as the writing itself. Sounds strange, huh? Let me explain.
I’d sum up writing as the wackiness in my head put into words for you all to (hopefully) enjoy. Those words, at times, can be a jumbled up mess that comes flying at me with light speed; barely giving me time to get the words down onto the paper before scattering off into the great abyss. Amidst all that wackiness and speed-racing, is the ever present doubt that lingers; has someone else written a story like this before…will this be any good…am I any good? The simple answer is yes…and no. Someone else has written this story before, but no one has written MY story. Yes, it will be good….to some….and no, there will be plenty of others that believe I pecked out a few pretty words and hit the publish button. As for whether or not I’m any good…well, I suppose that will always be debatable. In my eyes, I can never be good enough and no story I write will ever be perfect in my eyes. There’s always room for improvement. Always.
Without the doubt, I would peck out the few pretty words, hit the publish button, and sit back and gloat. I’m fairly certain most writers never sit back and gloat about anything. We sit back and panic. We sit back and constantly second-guess ourselves, our story, our process. We sit back with fingers crossed and hope that one person gives it a decent review, and then we spend an entire day in a funk when a bad review comes in. If you don’t think your 1-star review matters, you’re dead wrong. It does. In fact (speaking for myself only), it matters more than the 5-star ones. Why is that, do you ask? Because the 1-star review is the one I’m interested in. I want to know all the ‘whys’. Don’t get me wrong, I’m damn grateful for ANY review I get. Reviews are constructive criticism and are important to the process as a whole. Reviews push us on, provide us with the encouragement we need, while also gifting us with the truth; that not everyone will like what we write.
I find it amusing that I never felt this level of self-doubt when I was writing just for myself. Sure, I saw all the ways I could improve and there has never been a harsher critic to my work than my own judgmental eye. But when you put yourself out there and hit the publish button, you open yourself up to other’s opinions. For good and for bad, you are quite literally parachuting…without the parachute.
Back to my initial statement that doubt is important part of the writing process….without that doubt we’d simply be floundering in the wind; the occasional 1-star review pushing us forward to do better. Self-doubt is that little voice inside each one of us, the voice doing the heavy lifting; always reinforcing that we can and should do better.
For the record….I hate self-doubt. I want to be confident in what I put out there and be proud. I am, but as I said there’s always that little voice (mine is obnoxious and whiny) who is constantly reminding me I’m never going to be good enough.
You would think, at my wise old age of 51 (gasp!), I’d have developed a thick skin. Nope. Not at all. For each new book release I’m a hot mess of nerves and worry. For every manuscript I complete, there’s always that nagging concern that I will have finally hit the wall and the ideas will stop coming. Worry…like self-doubt…is another staple of this writing process. And a subject for another day.