D is for Doubt

2016DYou know that “artist”? The one who sings, or paints, or writes, or… dances? Whatever. The one who makes everyone cringe, because everybody in the room—except the artist–knows how awful, and untalented she is?

No one ever says anything, because “the artist” is so enthusiastic, and so earnest, and so committed. No one wants to break her heart. You know the one.

Yeah. I think that might be me.

After a while, you learn to question the good things people say. We’ve all been in writers’ groups where people dig and dig to find the one nice thing about a story that just isn’t good. Poetry readings where people applaud the writer’s courage, or their effort. Nobody ever looks at that optimistic writer and says, “Wow, you’ve got good penmanship.”

I do okay, most of the time. But there are moments of doubt. Where I don’t just think my stuff is crap, I’m absolutely certain of it. And it’s probably the crappiest crap since Adam’s very first crap after getting crapped out of Eden.

Part of this is taste. I’m comparing myself to giants, to classics, to the best stuff I can find, not to the latest trend or the guy down the street. And I have to. Because looking at things that are genuinely, objectively better than I am is how I learn.

And part of it is pure hubris. I keep trying to catch up. I believe–on a good day–that someday, if I work hard enough and long enough, I can be as good as those lofty role models of mine.

On a bad day, though… when I’m finding mistakes and suffering my own clunky metaphors, I wonder if I shouldn’t be aiming a little lower. I could write the future fish wrappers the world so desperately needs. No one likes naked fish. I could write fortune cookies, or children’s books. (You know. The kind with no words. And pictures. Drawn by somebody else.) Or very special special interest books. (High Tech Robotics for Your Rumspringa Rebellion) The market’s small, but at least there’s no competition.

So, what about you? How do you face down the doubts?


  1. Reply

    Oof, that’s a difficult one. Two agents (including mine) comped me to an author I hadn’t read. I downloaded one of her books and felt this rising horror as I was reading. Her writing seemed so effortless, so clean, so GOOD and then I went back to my work-in-progress and… ouch.

    I think I deal with it by knowing that an author is never the best judge of their work (either over or underestimating how good it is by a MILE) and thinking of the feedback I’ve got. Sure, I’ve had some rotten feedback but I’ve also had some wonderful comments that made my day. I mean, is there anything better than hearing “I couldn’t put it down” and knowing it’s true because you got 100k words back, with track changes, in 12 hours?

    Of course, I also remember the negative feedback because I don’t want to go to the other extreme.

    • Reply

      Two agents comped you to the same author? Wow! I’m not going to ask who it was, just **ahem** hint that I want to know. It sounds like an incredible compliment the way you describe her work.

  2. Reply

    I am often troubled by doubt. I have learned to shrug it off, but sometimes it insists on hanging around for days. I think it is a mark of an artist.
    Visiting from atoz

  3. Reply

    I don’t know that was pretty good writing right there and entertaining. Loved your word choices and your metaphors. No crap there. You did say how I feel about my own too half the time.

    Happy Writing A to Z

  4. Reply

    We can be That One Artist together! Well, once the doubt sneaks in we aren’t really anymore, but if we present a confident exterior despite all the doubt it works out to the same thing, really.

  5. Reply

    Erm, if we’re an artist, no matter how “good” we are, we suffer doubt. It’s part of being an artist. If you think you’re awesome, you’re probably crap! (As you described.)

    As long as we keep creating, it’s fine.

    And PS don’t hate on children’s books. They aren’t that easy. 🙂

    @dSavannahCreate from
    #AtoZChallenge2016 theme: dSavannah Defects

    • Reply

      Thanks for the encouragement! I do know children’s books aren’t easy, but I see them as having a completely different set of problems than adult books. In this case, I meant the ones with absolutely, literally, no words. Sort of picture stories.
      I think I’m too out of sync with parents in general to be allowed to write children’s books.

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