Do you ever struggle with the fear that your writing might not be good enough? If so, you’re not alone. I’m sure we’ve all felt this fear at one time or another – I know I certainly have.
It look me quite a long time to first pick up a pen, because I dreaded having to share my work with others. What if it turned out that my ideas were rubbish? I eventually plucked up the courage and took my first screenwriting class. And yes, it was hard sharing my work, but also kind of thrilling, especially when people told me they liked it!
A few years after that, I remember sharing my very first feature film script with two well-meaning friends who had offered to give me feedback.
I desperately wanted to write films, so this script was my baby. We set a date and arranged to meet and talk about it. I vividly remember soon into the conversation they started to share a joke about a factual mistake I’d made. Nothing to do with the story or the script itself, but it turned out I’d made a relatively minor error, that they appeared to find hilarious. After that, the rest is a blur. All I heard was their laughter ringing in my ears. I felt ridiculous and I couldn’t wait to go home and hide myself away!
Struck Down by Self Doubt
Maybe they thought it was rubbish, maybe not, but I don’t think I ever worked on that script again.
I didn’t give up writing, though, but I did change tack. I resolved to keep learning my craft, improving my work – and keep getting feedback all the way through the process, from idea onwards. But from then on, I only sought feedback from writers who had experience of giving feedback — and not from well-meaning friends!
To be honest, I still find the process of getting feedback painful, I guess it taps into that deep fear that I’m sure we all have that perhaps I’m just not good enough. But I usually manage to push it out of my mind, and concentrate on the process of writing, word by word, day by day.
Words of Wisdom
I was delighted, recently, to hear a wonderful interview with author Ann Pratchett, who shared a tip about her own writing. When asked about how she deals with self-doubt, this is what she said:
‘I have the ability to forgive myself. I think it’s the most important thing for writers. The story that you imagine in your mind, no matter what your level, what is in your head and what is on paper, bear no resemblance to one another. Never, ever will they meet. And what is in my head is so beautiful, so moving, so important, but I cannot get what is in my head on paper. No-one can… You have to say, this is the best I could do today. And I forgive myself.
Every time I go to work, I’m confronted by my lack of intelligence, and my lack of talent and if I never went to work I would not have to be confronted with those things. But I do, I go, I look, I break my heart and then I have something.’
I found this interview so reassuring, somehow. Even the most talented and celebrated of authors worry that their work isn’t good enough. We all do. And yet if we have to write, we must write, it’s as simple as that.
Finally, she shares a little affirmation that she uses: ‘I have to write, I may not pass judgment today.’
So if you ever fear that your writing might not be good enough, know that you are not alone; remember Ann Patchett’s words of wisdom, and forgive yourself. We’re all just doing our best.
If you’d like to hear the interview in full, you can listen to it here, on Gretchen Rubin’s Happier podcast. A quick word of warning – there are some spoilers regarding her latest novel The Dutch House, in case you’re planning to read that.
Drop me a line!
Is there anything in your writing that you’re struggling with? If so, get in touch as I might be able to address your issue in a future post.
Finally, if you find my posts helpful, you can sign up for my weekly newsletter where I share tips on all aspects of writing, productivity, habits and different ways of marketing yourself and your work.