Self doubt

“Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are your own fears.” Rudyard Kipling.

This is a beautiful quote. Really. Look at the way Kipling works the words. He takes something as fundamental, complex and intrinsic to all mankind as the emotion fear, and calls it, quite simply, a liar. A teller of an untruth. A false statement or thought.

Why does this quote resonate with my writing? Because I am loaded, chockfull, with fear about what I write. I never think : it is good enough, worthy to be read by others, humorous, sad, though provoking, etc. Simply, I am constantly afraid my writing is not up to par and, that has kept me from allowing others to read what I’ve written and stockpiled for decades. My fear renders me incapable of sharing or even discussing my work. Most of my friends and co-workers never knew I wrote for pleasure until last year and even then I was loathe to tell them I wrote romantic stories.

The fear of not being considered good enough can be traced way back to my childhood. Parental abandonment, overweight issues and family mental illness all helped shaped me into the fearful young adult I became. Don’t ever let anyone tell you the experiences of your childhood don’t lead to lasting traumas in adulthood. How we deal with those traumas, and hopefully move beyond them is key. My family life was a melodramatic gothic novel waiting to be published and I finally realized that in my thirties and was able to push through it to become the strong willed, confident ( most of the time) person I am today.

But the one thing I’ve always kept locked away was my desire to write and be published. The fear of showing what I wrote to professionals and then being judged and rejected was too much for me. I never considered they would actually like something I’d written, or see some kind of potential in it. No, I knew it wasn’t good enough,so I just saved it to the hard drive and that was it.

Until last year.

Last year I was finally able to reconcile my fear of public knowledge about my writing and began pursuing options. I joined a writing group, something that had terrified me for years. I knew they would be much more polished writers than I was, published and well known with large reader followings.  They would recognize me immediately as not worthy of being in the group. I had nothing to add to the discussions about publishing and writing. What I never imagined, though,was that they would be so warm and welcoming to a new member. That they would bestow wisdom and encouragement and support to someone nowhere near as far in a writing career as they were.  First lie proven untrue – you are worthy and welcome – first fear overcome.

Then I started entering contests. Because I never had to face the judges across a table or room, I thought that when their negative comments came about my work – and I knew they were going to be negative – I wouldn’t feel as upset as I would have if it were given to me in person. Second lie dispelled – you aren’t a good enough writer – I got a great deal of positive comments and even got asked for full manuscripts from some editors. Second fear overcome.

I started traveling to writing conferences and began to feel as if I really did belong to this elite, special group of people. Third fear gone.

Every day when I write something I still agonize about whether it is good enough to be viewed by other people. I don’t worry they will laugh at my work, or me, though anymore. I don’t dread the thought of negative comments if they are tempered with constructive criticism. And I have even begun to start answering the question, “What are you working on?” with some confidence in my voice.

So, back to the quote: read it again and determine if your fears – and the lies that they are made of – are worth dispelling. For me, they were.

Any thoughts?




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4 responses to “Self doubt

  1. Yes, fears can be suffocating, paralyzing even. My own fears kept me from putting my work out there to be critiqued for the longest time. The first times weren’t easy. But every day it gets a little easier, and after a while you learn to take what criticism is helpful, and let the chaff fall away. Writing – and evaluating writing – is a subjective business.
    Now I look forward to the feedback from my critique group. They catch those little “prairie dogs,” i.e., typos, double words, missing words, awkward phrasings, etc., that elude me no matter how many times I real the thing out loud. Sometimes, they catch a big problem – and these are the most eye-opening. I recently had a crit partner ask me, four chapters in, “what’s the conflict keeping the hero & heroine apart?” Hmm. Couldn’t answer that. She kept me from struggling through another 15,000 words aimlessly.
    The important thing is to KEEP WRITING, KEEP SUBMITTING, KEEP TRYING. I’m like Stephen King. I’ve had to replace the tack holding my rejection slips to my cork board with a nail, then a spike. But I try harder every day to make my work better. Just keep going.


  2. I feel some of the same fears when it comes to my photography! Getting over those mountains one at a time!


  3. Peggy Jaeger

    Your photographs are beautiful Steph! I wish I could write a story with my words as beautifully as you tell a story with your pictures.


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