I think a lot of people think that a writer’s biggest fear is rejection. We all hear the stories about how many times a writer gets rejected before their big break – the famous authors that so many people turned down. And sure, rejection sucks. No one likes hearing that someone doesn’t think you’re good enough.
But I think DOUBT is actually a writer’s biggest fear. Doubt is when you, yourself, don’t think that you’re good enough. And that’s way worse, in my mind than rejection. Especially to your career.
Rejection stings, but it isn’t so bad. Brush it off, re-submit, find someone new. You can’t get hundreds of rejection letters before you get that acceptance unless you keep trying. And rejection means that you’ve at least got something to be rejected for.
Doubt, on the other hand, can prevent you from getting anywhere to begin with. If you think you aren’t good enough, you won’t send out the manuscript to an agent to see what they think. You won’t edit the book because it’s not worth it. You won’t type up that idea because it’s not good enough.
Rejection is a temporary roadblock. Doubt can derail the entire train.
I doubt myself a lot. I doubt that I know what I’m doing (and I’m not just talking about writing – I mean in my day job, as a mom, as a wife, and as an adult). But here, I’m talking about writing. I often doubt that the idea I have is unique enough or interesting enough to write. I doubt that the words I’m writing are funny or entertaining. I doubt it all.
And the only advice I can give is not to not doubt yourself (because I’ve yet to meet a human who can manage that all the time), but to not let it stop you in your tracks. Sure, you might think to yourself “what if this idea isn’t good enough?” but then you just have to ignore the thought. Tell yourself, “Fine, it might not be good enough, but I’m going to give it a shot anyway. And then we’ll see.”
In other words, sit your ass down in the chair and write anyway. Who knows? The idea might suck. It might not go anywhere. It might be the biggest cliche that ever cliched. But at least you gave yourself the chance to explore that option.
Words on the page is what matters and what can be judged, not an ephemeral idea. Give yourself permission to suck. You might be surprised to find that you don’t.
And after that, after you have words on the page, then you can worry about editing and re-writing and improving. And making it suck less. But you can’t edit what you haven’t written. And you can’t improve a blank page, other than by adding words to it.
So get to work. And trust me, we are always our own biggest critic. Chances are, if you take the chance, tell your doubt to go suck it, you might not even get that rejection after all. Who knows?