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When doubt creeps in…

put on your kick-ass boots and stomp it to death!

Well, at least that’s what I tell myself. 🙂

Let’s face it. Living with doubt is part of a writer’s life. Whether it’s your first attempt at penning a novel or you’re cranking out the twentieth best seller, we all have those moments where we think “This is a peice of poo!”

Am I right?

Yes. I am. Gosh, I DO love to be right.

I mean, even the NYT bestsellers have to sometimes wonder if it all might end. And as for me, I’m left to wonder if it will all just begin.  Am I good enough? Lucky enough? Tough enough to keep doing this?

I really would like to think that I am. I’m purty darn stubborn. But the self-doubt still eats away at me. Every time I get a rejection, a little piece of my determination drops to the floor. I don’t want it to. But it does. And those contests…sure, I final in them. But then I wonder who the judge was. Did she just run out of time and give me high scores cause she doesn’t want to have to write anything but, “I loved it. Can’t wait to see it on the shelves!”? Yeah, you and me both, sister!

I’m really having a hard time here lately. A real pity party. Haven’t heard too much from anyone who’s got my stuff, yet I’m really afraid to hear from them. Everytime the phone rings and I check out an area code I don’t know, my heart drops straight to my knees and my mouth gets dry. Usually it’s just the guy who wants to sell me an extended warranty on my car.  I’ve finally got that area code memorized. Or when I check my email, I pray that I don’t get anything from any editor whose got my stuff. Mainly, cause an email is not a call. Know what I mean, Vern?

So I fret. I convince myself that I should’ve taken up selling Avon or children’s smocked clothes or just kept my flippin’ job rather than venture out onto this bumpy, dark and sometimes terrifying road I’m on. I convince myself that my writing is not original, not nearly as good as what is being bought. I convince myself that I am a loser and all that rah-rah cheerleader stuff I have taped to my computer desk is just a bunch of crap some guy thought up to make someone feel better about herself and thus leave him alone.

Since I’ve given into a massive case of doubtitus, share with me how you combat the dastardly self-doubt when it comes knocking at your door?


29 Responses

  1. Hey Amy,
    I’ve read your stuff. You’re a great writer.
    This is such a strange industry. Hurry up and wait, hurry up and wait.
    Just put but in chair and write something else. It’ll be nice to have an inventory to offer when that class does come one.

    Or have a bowl of ice cream. It always works for me!

  2. I totally know where you’re coming from. It’s when we reach what published authors tell me all the time, “You’re right there”, place that it gets harder. What does that mean? You’ve got it, but will anyone ever want it? Crazy. And it’s a hard place to be.

    It will happen for you, it’s just not always when we think. Ugh! I don’t like that part.

    Check out Diana Peterfreund’s blog – actually this link so you’ll go directly to the post.


    It inspired me and I know Diana, she’s an amazing writer and yet she’s been there too.

  3. Thanks, Connie, for the vote of confidence. I’ve been putting my butt in the chair writing, so I’ve been getting plenty of writing done.

    And ice cream sounds good!

  4. Thanks, Vicki,

    I’ll check out her blog. And I guess it is that plateau I’m sitting on (like that last ten pounds). I guess there’s a lot of us gals there.

    I just don’t want to have to get out my lawn chair and stay awhile. But then again, as my momma says, “You don’t always get what you want.” Or was that the Rolling Stones?

  5. The only thing that seems to work for me throwing myself into another project. I’m quite obsessive and can’t pull myself away from e-mail when I’m waiting for a response!

    But I tend to bottle up my fears which is probably not a good thing. Better to just let it out and face it as you’ve done. Best of luck Amy! You’re doing fabulous and I have no doubts that the call will come. 🙂

  6. *I convince myself that I should’ve taken up selling Avon or children’s smocked clothes* Now that makes me laugh cause I see you selling a lipstick and telling a story about how a woman used that color to get a man or all the dresses have stories written on them. This is the week for self doubt. Every loop I’m on someone has brought it up. Is it the time of year or did we get something in the drinking water? Remember this, like the flu, shall pass.

  7. Thanks for the comments, Jeannie and Rita. I’m working on a new project…a follow up to one I’m waiting to hear on. So I do have something to keep me occupied.

    I wonder if it’s just the time of year. Everyone putting nose to grindstone and reasseessing where they are. Guess that reassessment can bring doubt and fear. For me, I’m rethinking my decision to pursue writing fulltime. Perhaps even feeling guilty that I’m sitting here in my pj’s while my hubs works to support us.

    Maybe I just need a therapist 🙂

  8. Maybe we all need a therapist.

  9. Oh Amy –
    I soooo know how you feel. I just received a rejection letter this week from one of the agents I pitched to at the conference. And although I expected it (not because I didn’t think she’d like it – on the contrary. She did like it. But she pretty much told me in DC the story would be a tough sell and that she already had clients she was trying to sell set in the same time period. ), it still cast a huge shadow of doubt. I’m good, just not good enough. That kind of thinking sucks!

    So I’m just going to stick out my tongue and keep pluggin’ along. HA!

  10. Very right, kelly!

    And Jenn, you really have an amazing attitude. I need to borrow some of that.

    I’m seriously in a doom and gloom mindset. Just called my little dog inside and couldn’t find him. I started thinkging the worst. I called the pound, envisioned telling my kids we lost him, and then I opened the door again and he came trooting in, tongue lolled out, happy as a pig in slop.

    That’s a bad mindset. I gotta eat some chocolate or something.

  11. Amy –
    We need to go shopping together – soon! One day soon!

  12. Amy. Darlin’. Your life is in flux. You gave up your job. Your babies are off at school. Life has changed. Drastically. Now you are at loose ends. The guilt monster whispers in your ear about leaving the job, you poor hubby, what you SHOULD be doing. Tell it to go pound sand, kiddo. You just haven’t found your stride in this new environment—yet.

    You will.

    Wavering on the cusp of anything can be a corrosive thing. And the longer you waver, the more sure you are that flinging yourself away from the yawning pit of uncertainty is what you need to do. However, that pit holds all your hopes, and what’s a little (or a lot) of wavering in comparison?

    You are not alone. This is a big boat. It’s full. And, yes, the oars leak. But the company is good, and while it may take a bit of doing, with all the ingenuity stuffed in that boat, you can bet your sweet patootie we’ll be getting where we’re going. {{{Hugs}}}

  13. Gwenlyn (it’s hard for me to call you that)

    Your kids are lucky indeed to have such a mom as you. You know just what to say to make a person feel better. I can’t imagine a better gift to have than the one you have. You are one of the best people I know and I am honored to call you friend.

    Thank you for kicking me in the pants and making me realize that this is just a stage I am going through. It is wonderful to have people who can do this for you. My grandmother always said, “this too shall pass” when I went through rough times. You so would’ve liked her. She was a kick-ass sort of woman.

    Thanks for the love and reason.

  14. Well, Amy, it looks like everyone’s been polite so far, so shall i come in and tell you to pull up your big girl panties, you’re a darn good writer and let you know that sometimes editors WILL email ahead to set up a time for a call?? 🙂

    I think with Nationals a bit behind us, everyone’s waiting on either yes/no news and that’s just pulling us all down. There’s more of us sitting around waiting, that’s a lot of anxious vibes being passed around, making us all that much more on the edge. and like I’ve told you, if that editor passes, there’s somehwere else that story can go. So don’t believe you’re standing there holding the very last egg in the basket, go put it back in the carton and keep writing those stories I like to read.

  15. Right-o, Keri! This I know, but sometimes I need someone to remind me.

    Guess I need to find my big girl panties (as if I could wear anything less!). I’m currently in laundry mode at my house. Maybe I’ll find them somewhere in between the football pants and dirty socks.

    Thanks for making me smile!

  16. don’t forget to look in that little spot in the wash where your socks keep getting hung up!

  17. We’re all behind you. I guess we’ve all been in that position. Sometimes it takes a while for me to stop moping, but eventually I get my mind back in the game with help from friends and coworkers.

  18. OMG! That’s probably where they are, Keri! LOL.

    You’re too funny!

    And, Jane, thanks for the commiseration. You know that misery loves company.

  19. Amy, I hate coming to the party late, because everyone else has said it all. Rejections suck the big time, but you need to keep in mind 1) they’re part of the business 2) everyone gets them- even multi-pubbed authors 3)You just haven’t found the right ediotr/agent who loves your voice and is willing to give the first born to see your work in print 4) YOU ARE a great writer 5) You now have extra paper to either shedded and cut into confetti for when you do sale or use for TP. The choice is yours. (((HUGS)) sweetie, You will get there. di

  20. Amy, I feel your pain, girl! And once those blues hit, it is very hard to get back into the game. Like you, I know I’m a good writer, but the question always remains, Am I good enough? We can’t control that. All we can control is the work.

    I’ve been stuck in a mire of writers doubt for almost a year now, that even my GH final couldn’t completely wash away. It returned full force as soon as the ceremony was over. I’m just now starting to come out the other side, and there are a few things that i think are helping with that. If it might help you too, try it. If not, just ignore. 🙂

    1. Have a plan. You can’t control whether you are rejected or whether you sell, you can only get your stuff out there. So plan what to do in the meantime (keeping yourself busy). Plan what you’ll do if that book is rejected (because then it won’t feel like the end of the world). It will hurt, but you can move forward.

    2. Surround yourself with people who believe in you. Actually, that’s just the tip of it. But you’ve obviously done that. Now, every time you feel down, close your eyes and repeat the compliments they’ve given you. We often just let them slide off us, instead of truly embracing those wonderful things people tell us about ourselves. Let those comments refill your well.

    3. Immerse yourself in a new project. But not just any project… one you feel fired up about. One that excites you and takes your mind in new directions. Don’t worry about what you SHOUlD be working on, pursue what you WANT to work on.

    Hope this helps in some small way. I can’t say I’m “cured”, but I’m not feeling as much like an Eeyore clone anymore. 🙂

  21. Thanks, Danielle –

    Funny thing…that’s what my husband said. He said to write off my project under consideration and think about what I should do now. Then do it.

    ANd then the idea of it being something I want to write rather than something I should..well, that’s the best advice I’ve had. I do need something to get fired up with. Something totally different.

    Bingo. Sold!!

    Thanks again!

  22. Well, dang! I’m late! It’s that darn work thing. *sigh*

    Amy, you have gotten so much good advice today (and a little smacking around too apparently) so I don’t know if I can add anything but I’ll try…

    1) I’ve determined that writing is like PMS. The mood swings are freaking insane! But if you think about the writing highs (maybe you haven’t had them in a while, but you’ve had them or you wouldn’t be a GH finalist) then try to relive one of those really good moments. They were real. Seriously! You are that good of a writer or you wouldn’t have experienced it! And being that good doesn’t go away overnight! So think of those highs to combat the lows, just as chocolate would combat those other type of moody lows 🙂

    2) I think Gwynlyn really hit on it. You are basically out of sorts. Don’t you just love that phrase? Out of sorts! Your life is in flux, you fight the guilt of not working (and then feel guiltier because you “think” you’re just sitting at home writing sucky stuff), and basically you need some focus. How anal and structured are you? Maybe write out a schedule of everything to accomplish each day. Not a list, but a schedule. 7:30 – 8:00 get the kids off to school, 8:00 – 11:00 write, 11:00 – 11:30 fold towels and wash jeans, etc… Maybe that will help both make you feel like you are accomplishing something (i.e. work) and if you make the schedule tight enough it might keep you so darn busy you don’t have time to dwell on what you think you are doing right or wrong. You’ll just accomplish a lot and then move on to the next day and accomplish more and then get to the end of the week and look back and be very proud of what you’ve done to move your career forward.

    3) When all else fails, grab a friend (or heck, go by yourself) and go to a 2:00 romantic comedy. Give yourself permission to take the afternoon off, buy some popcorn, and then sit in that theater and laugh out loud at the funny stuff and cry at the sad. Embrace all the feelings and know that by living all those feelings, along with all the bad ones you’ve been having, you are that much better able to write characters who have all those emotions themselves. Because YOU ARE A GOOD WRITER!!!!!

    Ok…that’s all I’ve got. I hope something from that can help. Oh! Here’s one last one.

    Why did you quit your day job to write? Because you had faith that you could do it and sell? OK, then…what’s different today then from when you quit? Only that you’ve gotten more writing experience and are better than you were then. You can do this and you will do this. You know it deep in your heart or you wouldn’t have ever quit.

    Now put your butt back in the seat and write a best-seller!

  23. Yikes! Sorry for such a long post.

  24. Oh, Amy, I hear you!! Waiting, waiting, waiting to hear is more wearing than climbing a mountain…. And I’m doing the same “jump whenever the phone rings” thing, and of course it’s always the orthodonist, or the vet, or my mom-in-law. It hadn’t even occured to me to NOT want email from the editors I’m waiting to hear from!!!!!! Yoikes!!! Another thing to stress about!

    Hang in there!

  25. Kim,

    Apologize for a long post? Never. Especially when it’s got such great advice in it.

    I’m liking the movie thing. I’ll try that the next time I’m feeling blue.

    Already did the chocolate!

  26. Sorry to give you something else to worry about. IDK, I figure if it’s bad news it will come in an email. A phone call could mean a variety, I guess. But I don’t think an editors gonna do that with an email.

    Don’t sweat it to much…just go to a movie (Kim’s advice) That’s what I’m going to do when I get too overwhelmed by it all.

  27. Hi, Amy! When you don’t hear from that special someone (ie. your future editor) in a long time, you do start to wonder “What is wrong with me/my book?” But you’re obviously great at what you do; look at what you’ve achieved so far, Ms GH finalist!

    No news is good news is what I tell myself! In the meantime, I’m keeping busy enough to not think about my homeless manuscript trudging around New York. Callous of me, I know, but I’ve sent it on its way and now I can concentrate on the next book.

  28. Oh Amy, I wish I’d seen this yesterday. I have been working my way out of the same pit of doubt. Of course, one of my problems is that the MS I was pitching was not-quite-finished (about 5 chapters shy, what with all the traveling I did before National), which made the rejects, kind as they were, sting particularly hard. As in, is there any point to finishing this? Fortunately I got three of those chapters plus a little done before the two rejects got here. So yesterday I hauled myself up by the bootstraps and got started again, and now I’m rolling through the last chapter, energized all over again because darn it, I LIKE this book! It’s still in the hands of one agent and one editor, so we’ll see what happens. And if they don’t like it, I’m going to start sending it out other places and get going on the next MS.

    But teetering as I was, it sure would have been comforting to read that I wasn’t teetering alone.

  29. Amy, You are so lucky to have so much support and good advise from all your friends. I want to personally thank them cause they are just justifying what I have already told you 100 times. You have it girl. Now go get em. You have a wonderful talent and somebody is going to recognize it for sure.

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