Self Doubt

“If I write rapidly, putting down my story exactly as it comes into my mind… I find that I can keep up with my original enthusiasm and at the same time outrun the self-doubt that’s always waiting to settle in.” -Stephen King, On Writing

On Tuesday night, I wrote six pages, and then I got a horrible sick feeling about the whole project, and I went to bed cringing against an internal monologue that goes something like this:

Why are you writing this?  It isn’t any good.  It’s mediocre.  It’s run-of-the-mill.  It’s a better idea than you are a writer.  You can’t write this well enough to make it work.  This is the tricky part, and you’re not equal to it.  

It got worse.  I started giving myself terrible advice. 

You should go back and read the whole thing so far and rewrite it. You should rewrite it until it’s good enough, and then go on when you’re sure it’s worthwhile.  There’s no point in writing any more right now, because it’s probably going to suck anyway, and you’re going to end up rewriting it all in the end.  You should take a break.

For three days, I haven’t written anything.  I’ve been locked up in the emotional fetal position, rocking. 

The truth is that there’s nothing wrong with taking a break.  I probably did need a break after generating as much as I did in such short order.  If I were a professional, full-time writer, it would be different, but I’m not.  I’m writing full-time on top of teaching full-time and being a mom and being a wife and all the other massive demands on my internal resources.  Yes, I needed a break.

But this break wasn’t really about that, and I knew it.  I had the energy to write.  I even had the WILL to write.  For the past few days, I’ve actually sat down to write, and I’ve had the next sentences typing themselves up in my head.  And then I’ve psyched myself out.

Here’s why: the next part of this story is HARD.  All the action threads are beginning to intersect, and the logistics are tough to keep my head around.  And I have a horror of characters being stupid.  Not that sometimes people aren’t stupid, but I hate it when, as a reader, I’m thinking, “Why doesn’t she just do X?” because the solution seems so clear, but the character conveniently doesn’t think of it, because then the story would be over.  I’m imagining all the situations from every angle and thinking, “Wouldn’t she figure this out?  Wouldn’t she at least try this?  If she tried this, wouldn’t that solve it?  What barrier would reasonably prevent that?  If that barrier is in play, then wouldn’t he see that happening?  If he saw that happening, then wouldn’t he ask X for help?  If he asked for help, wouldn’t they give it?  If they gave it, wouldn’t that solve it again?  What would prevent this?”

It’s hard.  That’s all.  I’m shrinking from the hard part. 

Reminder to self: This is a first draft. The important thing is to keep writing it.  Even if it really is mediocre.  Even if it DOES suck.  Keep on trucking.



  1. I call that voice Grogsnot. Also I’m gonna just leave thisrighthere:

  2. I am so happy I found your blog. I was one of the old school AtE YahooGroups members and SQ habituees. Your writing has affected me more than anyone else’s and I am thrilled to hear you are still writing. Even the worst possible days were turned heavenly by discovering a new chapter of AtE in my Inbox.

    That internal monologuist obviously has no taste because you have written some of the most heartbreaking and funny stories I have ever read. Those 3 years between GoF and OotP were better than any HP book in my mind, because being on the receiving end of a serial such as yours was an event I will always remember fondly.

    When the agent gets back to you, tell them you already have an international audience (I’m in the UK).

    • Doris Crockford! I saw your username pop up in my Gmail with this comment and I was so excited! I’m so glad you found this, too. Thank you for your comment, which has made my day and will continue to make my day for many days to come, because I will be rereading it whenever I feel the doubt come creeping back in.

    • Wow, Blogger hates LJ. I’m going to try this again. 🙂

      You are very welcome! Your writing has given me so many hours of pleasure, I can’t begin to tell you. My husband always knew to leave me alone with the computer when I said: “Ooh! An After the End update!” Nothing he said then would have been heard anyway. 🙂 It was my first experience of internet fandom of any kind and nothing since has come close.

      Now I must stop avoiding my NaNoWriMo (which is what I was doing when I found your blog: searching for other writers’ insecurities, LOL).

      Very best wishes and know there is an audience out there for your marvellous (in all senses of the word) voice and worlds.

      ~Beth aka DorisCrockford

    • Thank you again, Beth. Good luck with your NaNoWriMo project! Are you anywhere near finishing? Are you having fun?

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