Do You Worry About Your Writing? How To Stop And Fall Back In Love With It

    Do you feel insecure, anxious and doubtful about your writing?

    If you’re not careful, these emotions can take over your life.

    Many writers spend too much time fretting over unanswerable questions:

    • “Is this story brilliant or terrible?”
    • “Is this novel going to get published?”
    • “Will I ever be successful?”
    • “Am I just fooling myself?”

    Worry and doubt are not only painful, they are deadly to a writing career. As author Gary Korisko points out, doubt can keep you from new projects, force you to abandon good work, and prevent you from sending your work out.

    But it doesn’t have to be this way.

    Much of our worry comes from misconceptions about what it means to build a writing career.

    We all have ideas about book marketing, the publishing industry, and what makes a writer successful, but where do these ideas come from? They’re often based on hearsay, or things we’ve simply imagined, with little basis in the real world.

    Becoming aware of a few basic realities can eliminate a lot of pointless worry about your writing.

    Here are four facts that can help you stop worrying, and renew your confidence so you can enjoy your writing life.

    #1. Failure doesn’t mean anything. 

    Yes, rejections and disappointing sales hurt.

    When they start building up, they can feel downright devastating — but only if we think they actually mean something. But do they?

    Here are some of the things we tell ourselves about failure. None of them hold water.

    • Failure means you have no talent. We should ask Herman Melville, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Margaret Atwood, and John le Carre about that. They all experienced repeated failures in their careers — and they are all now recognized as among the greatest writers of their generation.
    • Failure means this specific work isn’t good enough. Even if you’re fairly confident of your writing skill, you may question the value of a particular story, poem, or novel when it starts racking up rejections. That would mean that Stephen King’s Carrie, J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and George Orwell’s Animal Farm weren’t any good, either — they were all rejected dozens of times. So we can chuck this idea, too.
    • Failure means we’ll never make it. It can feel like this sometimes. But again, all it takes to dispel this idea is a quick look at some authors who failed again and again before they became successful.

    So what does failure mean? Nothing.

    Failure might sting—but it tells you absolutely nothing about your talent or your future.

    #2. Everyone else is confused, too — at least some of the time.

    “Every writer – every person who shares their art — doubts the value of their work at some point in their career,” writes Claire DeBoer. You might be surprised if you knew how many successful writers have felt the same way.

    After his first highly successful book of short stories, Junot Diaz went into what he called a “no-writing twilight zone,” when he seemed to be stumbling in the dark. “I wrote and I wrote and I wrote,” he said in an article in O Magazine. “But nothing I produced was worth a damn.”

    It took Diaz years to come out of this difficult spell, but when he did, he wrote his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

    Sue Grafton, the author of the bestselling Kinsey Millhone series of detective novels, has a similar experience every time she writes. In an interview she said, “When I start a new book and I’m dismayed and distressed and can’t find the story line, I’m always thinking, ‘Uh-oh—maybe the juice is gone, and that’s why this is so hard.’ ” And yet, her bestsellers keep coming.

    Almost every successful author has had spells of feeling ‘lost.’ So when you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing, don’t despair. Remember that it’s just part of the writing life.

    It will pass.

    #3. Publishers and agents don’t have a secret key to success.

    Writers often think that publishing professionals know a bestseller when they see one, and could — if they chose to — list the qualities that will lead to success in the marketplace.

    If this were true, every agent would only represent bestselling authors, and every book published would soar to the top of the charts.

    Instead, the history of publishing is littered with rejected manuscripts that later became bestsellers, and giant advances on books that never sold.

    I’m not saying publishing professionals don’t know what they’re doing; just that the market is unpredictable, readers are fickle, and the qualities that go into creating The Da Vinci Code or The Hunger Games are simply not that clear.

    In short, you can stop wishing you knew the magic formula. There isn’t one.

    #4. You can choose to “have what it takes.”

    Many writers worry about whether they have the right stuff for success.

    They ask themselves:

    “Do I have enough talent?”

    “Have I had the right training? Am I interesting enough? Smart enough? Educated enough? Lucky enough?”

    But anyone who has been in the publishing game for awhile knows that natural talent, luck, and education are not the essential ingredients for a successful career.

    The main thing you need to succeed is something you can choose to have: perseverance.

    “Writing is a life-long journey,” writes Mary Jaksch. “To keep going, we need to overcome obstacles, fight the dragons of doubt and fear, find nourishment along the way, and taste the joy of being creative.”

    As Jaksch makes clear, there is nothing mysterious about this. All you need is the will to work hard, develop your skill, and keep submitting your work, even when the going is tough.

    Do that, and you already have what it takes. The decision is yours.

    Worry plays no useful role in a writer’s life.

    It doesn’t help us write better, nor does it increase our chances of success. In fact, it can get in the way of success by stifling our creativity and diverting our attention away from our work.

    The next time you feel yourself sinking into worry mode, remember these four basic facts about the writing life.

    • Failure is meaningless.
    • Confusion is normal.
    • There’s no secret formula.
    • The most important quality is perseverance.

    Post these facts where you can see them. Imprint them on your brain. Live with them so you can stop worrying and start writing with joy.

    How do you nix worry and get on with the business of writing? Share in the comments!

    About the author

      Jill Jepson

      Jill Jepson is the author of "Writing as a Sacred Path: A Practical Guide to Writing with Passion and Purpose," and the Writing a Sacred Path Blog. Receive her free weekly strategies for writers by email.

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    • #4… The last point… The most important quality is perseverance. Yes! And determination. I have lots confidence during the writing of my novel at different times along the way. Now I have determined to finish it and not allow those doubts to prevent me from finishing it. It has required making my writing time a priority.

      • Determination! That’s the perfect word! Good look on your novel, Susan!

    • Corianne says:

      #4 resonates with me the most. It’s sometimes not about how good or amazing you are, but whether you have the audacity in you to speak up and share. It can be scary to speak up, but in the end that’s how you will get somewhere. You won’t get anywhere just dreaming away. That’s what I try to remind myself of.

      • Thanks for the comment, Corianne. # 4 works for me, too. I love knowing it’s a choice, not something magically given to you.

    • #2 is so helpful for me. I often wander around thinking all the other writers have it together and I”m just a dunce. Maybe that’s why writer friends are so important. We need to know some of these things are universal.

      • Thanks for your comment, Robyn. # 2 helps me a lot, too–just knowing we’re all dazed and confused sometimes, not just me.

    • Hi,

      It is so good to read this post. Not that I am happy about others feeling the same way but I wondered many times if it was just me going through it.

      I have days where I cannot seem to put the first word on paper or computer but I won’t let that stop me. Thank you so much for the inspiring post.

      Have a great evening.

      • I’m so pleased to hear this post was helpful to you, Monna. And believe me, it’s definitely not just you feeling this way!

    • George says:

      Wow, there is so much inspiration in this post!

      It really is so easy to find reasons to doubt yourself in the world of writing. I think a big thing that adds to it is when everyone else doesn’t understand why we’re so lazy and sit around doing nothing all day.

      Writing requires some what of a different life than everyone else, and not everybody gets that. So they judge your actions and we doubt ourselves.

      The 4 points you make are so simple, yet so reassuring for whenever a doubt begins to linger into your thoughts.

      Thank you for this great article, Jill!

      • Thanks, George! I’m really pleased you found the post inspiring!

    • Jackie says:

      Great article! The beautiful thing about writing is that it is a difficult, rewarding and inspiring journey. It asks us to face our own “stuff” and work through it through with our writing. Doing so helps us become stronger in our selves and craft.

      • I couldn’t agree more, Jackie. Becoming stronger–yes, that’s what it’s all about!

    • I don’t think believe receiving a rejection letter is a sign of failure. Far from it. I think it’s a sign of progress. It means that you are taking your job as a writer seriously. You are writing and submitting what you’ve written. And you do so, remind yourself that every ‘no’ brings you closer to a ‘yes’–the right ‘yes’, the one that will further your career.

      • Excellent point, Leanne, and well said! Every rejection is a sign of progress. Thanks for reminding us of that.

    • Pratik says:

      Thanks for the motivation and confidence building talk. It is very helpful

    • There are times when things like this come up and we get lost in our own fears and insecurities. I find that if I am fretting about something at this level, I often tell myself no one else cares about the fears I have. If anything, they have the same thing in their mind, but for a different reason.

      I find getting over the fear is always the hardest part since it is a learned belief that we’d rather have that thing happen then be even MORE afraid by giving it a try.

      You did a great job in bringing this to light. I look forward to reading more, and thanks for the reminder!

      • Thanks for your comment, Matthew. I’m pleased you found my post useful.

    • Cynthia Pearson says:

      Thanks for these reminders. I can now square my shoulders, straighten my back and plunge on ahead.

    • Thank you for taking time to write a helpful article. There is so much truth here! I attended the Tucson Festival of Books this weekend and being in the presence of so many authors and writers was fascinating! Writing, editing, publishing is its own category of energy—electric and physical and gravitational and sometimes peaceful. Writing and reading–once you are in the door of either a book or a writing project–is like being in a good dream where nothing else matters. It’s the power of words we all love, seek, admire, sometimes become frustrated with and then…we go back for more!

    • I love #4 You can Choose to Have What it Takes. So true. So many successful writers and artists are not the absolute most talented rather they choose to go the distance. Thanks for the reminder!

      • Thanks for your comment, Esther. I think # 4 is my favorite one, too.

    • *How do you nix worry and get on with the business of writing?*

      I overcome the worry by breaking down the project into smaller manageable daily tasks.

      By focusing on getting these tasks done, the big picture project no longer seems overwhelming.

      “If the problem can be solved why worry? If the problem cannot be solved worrying will do you no good.” Śāntideva

      • Excellent technique, Katherine. Thanks for sharing it!


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