100 Tips to Alleviate Self-Doubt

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This post is a crowdsourcing effort to come up with 100 tips to battle self-doubt. Since this post went live on January 20, 2012, we’ve been able to collect 83 distinct tips.

Click here to download a 1-page handout: 83 Tips to Alleviate Self-Doubt.

The original post & comments are below. If you’d like to contribute tips, we will update the handout until we reach 100. A big thanks to Matthew Turner (also known as Turndog Millionaire) for launching this experiment.

Do you sometimes look at your writing and want to throw up? You know the feeling, surly. One day you write something, read over it and think, “Wow, that’s some rather snappy content!”

Then, just 24 hours later, you glance over it, scream at the screen and wonder how you wrote such dribble.

It’s a similar feeling to when I look at pictures from five years ago, hair like a Cure groupie with a quiff nestled a good five inches above my head. Seriously, what was I thinking?

This constant tennis match of self-doubt is a regular part of my life, and I reason with myself that it’s normal and everyone goes through this. Just like getting cold feet on your wedding day or panicking during a test you know you’re prepared for.

The real problem here is I doubt my self-doubt! What if this self-doubt’s telling me something? Maybe I should run away and leave it to the professionals?

But I keep on plugging away, because if I didn’t I’d be a quitter. So I cling to the fact that others go through this, including people who have “made it” in every sense of the word. Just about every blog I come across has a post like this, describing the eerie feeling of hating your own work and discovering you’re a fraud.

People like Joanna Penn, who’s now a full time writer/blogger with a great deal of respect, had feelings like this.

And I’ve just entered a contest on Men with Pens, the head honcho, James, opening up two free places on his writing course for those doubting their writing. At last count there were around 30 entries, and many of the posts are great, from people who definitely don’t need help with their craft. Saying that, they may look at mine and think exactly the same … hmmmm, or maybe not.

So I insist that this is normal and everyone goes through this overanalyzing crazy maze of AHHHHH. Some people, like me, go through it often. Others may only feel it from time to time. But I’m insistent everyone goes through it.

I’m here to offer three tips that have helped me in my times of need:

1. Walk away from it.

I let my mind sulk, come back a day or so later and try again. If I still feel the same then I make changes.  

2. Listen to music

This is a passion for me and listening to some slow and often depressing folk makes me feel better and inspires me.

3. Exercise

I’m at my most cranky when I’m tired and lacklustre, and a bout of exercise helps me snap out of it. I find self-doubt and whiney go through life hand in hand.

There you go, these are my three wise tips. Funny enough, and unsurprising I’m sure, it took me a few attempts to get to the final three. I wrote them down happily, re-read them and sulked at the screen, and eventually copied this entire article to an e-mail to Jane and already wonder if I could have done better.

But the point of this post was not for me to offer advice, but instead to come to Jane with the idea of gathering ideas from fellow writers who’ve been through, are going through, or feel they will one day go through this episode.

So this is the deal you’ve unintentionally signed up for. To leave a comment below with three tips of your own.

  • Maybe you’re a successful author who’s been through this and given sage advice to lead you through.
  • Maybe you’ve had a teacher, friend, family member, or dentist even who’s given you some amazing tips to deal with this self-doubt.
  • Or maybe you’ve just read something at some point and thought, “Wow, what a great idea.”

It’s not uncommon for Jane to get 30+ comments for a post, which would equate to over 100 tips. You might not find my tips helpful. Hell, you might not even find Jane’s tips helpful either when she leaves them in the comments. But chances are you’ll find one or two in a list of 100 that will help you along your journey—not just in writing, but life in general.

So it’s over to you, my fellow brother and sisters of self-doubt. Let’s help each other move forward and share our unbearable self-loathing.

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Matthew Turner
Matthew Turner (aka Turndog Millionaire) is a Marketing Strategist with an MA in Advertising & Marketing from Leeds University Business School. As an aspiring author, he blogs about book marketing, strategic planning for aspiring authors, and how new marketing techniques can be used in the world of publishing.
Matthew Turner

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Posted in Creativity + Inspiration, Guest Post.


  1. That ugly old doubt thing….I can’t imagine there is a writer out there who doesn’t face it…often…or anyone who is off on a new path. 
    Here are my tips to add:
    1- Dance Breaks….
    2-Read something inspiring like The War of Art by Steve Pressfield
    3-Go do something else that I know I’m good at….like baking cookies…so I can experience that feeling of accomplishment that comes from finishing something!

  2. I actually have a very different experience with self-doubt. Sometimes, while I’m writing, I feel out of sync with the story and that the words coming out on the page aren’t flowing correctly. The problem with this is that this feeling usually comes alongside a terrible urge to stop writing altogether.

    After I’m finished, I still consider that part manure-level writing, but I usually hit a point of true gold if I keep slugging through that manure. My tip? Keep going despite the bad writing and you’ll more than likely find something worthwhile in it eventually.

    I did think my work was yuck when I came back to read it when I was younger. Problem was, I was right. But I wouldn’t be writing as well as I do today, if I didn’t keep slugging through the manure.

    Just keep going, don’t worry about the manure, and keep an eye out for that flash of gold. And keep in mind: your opinion is biased.

    Hope that helps and that you’re all having a great day! Thanks for the great article, and I hope my tips don’t detract from this fun discussion. Happy writing, all!

    • I feel your pain, i often go through bouts of avoiding writing. This mainly comes from self doubt, and it often takes a few days or weeks to face the story again. I don’t think this is always bad though as it helps clear the mind and you can come back refreshed. 

      Like you say though, it takes a lot of ‘slugging’ to get somewhere near to good

      Happy writing to you too

      Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

  3. I agree with Kyla.  I think it was Lawrence Block (in his Telling Lies for Fun and Profit) who said to keep writing straight through, even if you’re writing crap, until you’re done.  It’s a lot easier to edit and re-work crap than nothing.  He’s got a point.

    When I read the garbage I’ve written, and believe I ought to hang up my pen and go wait on tables, I remember:  not many people can write thousands of words of garbage.   In fact, most people can’t pump out book after book, or story after story, or article after article.

    Besides, who ever said live was fair … or easy?

    • ha so very true. Life is certainly far from fair, and quite right too. Nothing wrong with a challenge. Certainly keeps you on your toes.

      I remember reading once 90% of writing is rewriting, so I guess it shows there’s always quite a long process for most

      Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

    • I actually disagree with this quite profoundly. In the past I’ve wasted so much time trying to fix a bad passage or a passage that went whimsically to the wrong place. In fact that’s the hardest editing there is, deleting a really well written passage that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Stick with the spine of the story people! I cannot emphasise that enough.

  4. Turndog, 
    Frankly, I don’t have the problem. Even stories I’ve written twenty years ago sound great when I read them today. That’s why I’ve made friends with Honest Bob, Teresa “Your Story is Good But” Smith, and Betty “No Tact” Simpson. My one tip is to associate with a small critique group (like the one above), and they will confirm that your writing sucks, and why. The “why” is important. If you give them a great story, like one of mine, they will tell you that your writing sucks, and why.

    Step two is to rewrite it and re-submit to the group. Do this over and over until Betty says, “I’ve seen worse.”

    • Ha i love the confidence. Can you mail some over to me please? Sounds like you have some to spare 😉

      And yes, i think finding some critique partners is important too. I’m yet to find them, but hope to discover some in the next 12 months. Betty sounds tough though, not sure i could handle her

      Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

  5. My favorite self-doubt erasers:
    1. go for a run
    2. play my flute
    3. listen to a guided meditation from “The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write” ( http://markdavidgerson.com ) and do some free writing.

    • Nice, i feel exercise is a biggie for a lot of people. Always helps clear my mind of the crazy anyway

      And i’ve tried meditation before in the past, i’m just useless at sitting doing quiet and still though. Saying that, going to a meditation retreat is on my list to do. I feel it could be so good for me, not just writing, but life in general.

      Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

      • I’m going to interject that there are many ways to meditate and some don’t include sitting in silence.  

        Walking meditations can be done anywhere.  If there’s a labyrinth near where you are, you can see if there are scheduled times when it is open but Thich Nhat Hanh has suggested that a special place is not necessary and one can even do a walking meditation in a shopping mall.  (Personally, I have yet to try that but I don’t doubt it can be done.)

        There is moving meditation.  Yoga is a moving meditation practice if you enter the experience with an intention, focus your breath within each pose, and do a slower but still challenging practice.  Holding a pose if you are accustomed to a more flowing practice may sound boring but you can really get to know the pose and your body if you can make time to breathe into the pose.

        There are, of course, dancing meditations.  Sufis have used spinning as a means of reaching altered states and there are other dancing meditation options as well, some are even available on dvd so, if you the thought of embarrassing yourself in public is prohibitive, you can find dvds to support your meditation exploration.

        Chanting and drumming and sumi-e and calligraphy can all be meditative practices.  There are workshops for all forms of meditation somewhere out there.  It’s simply a matter of looking around and, when you don’t see one nearby, perhaps ask a local venue that might typically have workshops like these if there could be one.  Sometimes all it takes for something to be created is for someone to express a need for it.

        And let us not forget, there are books that equate journaling, writing haiku, and all sorts of personal, reflective writing as meditations.  Clark Strand, Natalie Goldberg, and Jeff Davis just off the top of my head.  In another ten minutes, I’m sure my list would be much, much longer.

        • very interesting, i wasn’t aware there was so many meditation types. It’s certainly something i want to have as part of my life one day, i feel it will help me be much more zen (in other words not stressed to my eyes).

          It’s good to know there’s plenty of options out there. I may have to try the walking one :)

          Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

  6. Like Kyla and others, when I have one of those moments when I not only doubt my writing ability, but also whether I should be writing at all, I force myself to continue. But first I take a moment to remember why I started writing, and why I thought anyone might want to read my writing. The passion for and conviction in what I’m doing moves from the background to the foreground in my mind, and my motivation is sparked again. That conviction gives me the will to keep typing.

    Find the spark within. It’s there, waiting for you to call upon it.

    • Nicely put Monica, i always like to think we’re at our strongest when we fail, or at least think we’ve failed. It’s easy to be full of confidence when things are going well, but if you can pick yourself up when times are bad, and take strides forward then you truly have something to look to

      Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

    • Maybe part of the reason I can keep plodding is because I take two 20-minute walks with my dog every day, regardless of the weather.  Okay,  when it’s pouring or below 0 we only go for one 10-minute walk…  But, man, that first walk every day, when no one else is around and all that potential is just out there waiting…  Gets me every day.  And the midday walk keeps me going.

  7. I’ve just read Matthew Turner’s blog and must admit that I completely
    and totally related to every word he said. I swim in self-doubt
    constantly. It’s only when I dog-paddle hard and desperately that I
    manage to come up to the surface and smell the sweet scent of
    confidence. So here are my three suggestions for paddling out of the

    1. I pretend my mother is sitting next to me saying:
    “Cynthia, you have as much right to your thoughts and opinions as
    anybody. Since you can’t please everyone, concentrate on pleasing
    yourself. If nobody likes what you wrote [or did, etc.], it doesn’t
    matter if YOU like it and are pleased with it.” Hearing her voice [even
    in my head] always makes me smile.

    2. I have many distractions
    at home and often can’t get a break. My 12-year-old boy doesn’t take my
    writing seriously and constantly demands my attention, distracting me
    from my thoughts. There is only one place I have complete,
    uninterrupted privacy — my bathroom. It’s my thinking room and I take
    full advantage of it.

    3. I try to do one bold, unCynthia-like
    thing everyday. I’ve always struggled with insecurity and this exercise
    seems to help me.

    I can’t wait to read everybody’s suggestions.

    Cynthia Triplett

    • Very touching Cynthia, and i totally agree. Accepting you that you can’t please everyone is massive, and so so hard to master. If you can please yourself though, well, you’ve made a good start

      And i’m with you about the bathroom too, i find a lot of my ideas come when i’m in the shower. It’s always the shower or one particular pub in Halifax. It’s rather spooky actually how it always happens there

      Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

  8. I started the sequel to my first novel yesterday. I look for advice, but most tips were do not do one. However the feedback I have had from early readers was, when is the sequel out.
    I must have sat for a few hours wondering how to start, looking at that blank page on the pc, but I got there and now I have my first page.
    I still have a mountain to climb, trying to encompass previous and new readers of my work and I still wonder if I am just on a time consuming  ego trip.

    While I had been searching I did come across a golden nugget of advice, twice in fact.

    Just F****ing  write it!

    • Congrats on the sequel Steve, and your advice is to the point! 

      It seems a lot of people turn to the idea of just writing and it will all come up rosey. I like this, it shows writing is a way of healing writing. 

      Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

  9. I really enjoyed this… I DON’T have 3 new tips to share – I think that you’ve covered a lot of ground already.  But I do have one more.  I find I’m stabbed with self doubt mostly when I’m already tired.  I sit at the computer after a long day and look at the screen, which is mocking me.  And… nope – I don’t take a deep breath and plunge in, anyway.  I give myself permission to walk away.  I find writing when I’m really exhausted is nothing but a slog and I rarely write anything worth the name, anyway.  Just fuelling those horrible internal sneers…

    So my tip would be – there’s times when you SHOULDN’T sit there and keep struggling.  Allow yourself to get up and walk away WITHOUT beating yourself up.  Or then the guilt will start to cripple you…

    • We have a rebel everyone 😉

      I must say, although i do respect those who dive in and write (and there’s times i do this too. Just write and worry about the quality later, if i’m not feeling something then i’ll often take a break, go watch TV, read a book, go to te pub etc

      There’s always tomorrow, and i often come back with vengeance. Well, until the next bout of self doubt that is 

      Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

    • You’re right.  I hadn’t thought about how awful it is to try to write when I’m overtired … or having a migraine.  If I think about it, I can probably come up with a few other circumstances under which I [should] walk away.  Thanks for the reminder!

  10. I just remember that self-doubt ain’t gonna get the job done, so I kick it unconscious long enough to allow me time to write then when it rises up again, I laugh in its face. Okay, most times it eats away at my arse, but I ignore it and work. Just work. Write write write.

    I also jump on the treadmill and do “treadmill aerobics” —something I don’t recommend for everyone because one day I’m going to bust my arse, but slinging myself about all over creation and working up a sweat shakes Mr. Doubt right outta my head and onto the gym floor where it lies there cying its wittle eyes out as I go THERE! Ha! and then I do the Rocky Triumphant Jump Fist Pumping Yeah!

    • Heck yeah, a bit of Rocky training is enough to crush anything!

      And yes, i too figure if you run fast enough there’s no room for doubt in your head. I mean come on, it’s too busy trying to figure out if that extra hundred yards will kill you or not

      Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

  11. Write everyday, but let go of what you write, or for how long, or when. Just write every day because you can’t not.

  12. The best piece of writerly advice I ever got was from a friend who reminded me, in a crisis of self-doubt, that we each have to “sing the song we’re given.” This helped me tremendously at a time when I was feeling awful because I write nonfiction and not fiction, when I was worrying over whether I should be accomplishing more or different things with my writing, and when I was sunk in despair over my lack of talent, etc.

    It has continued to help me over the years.

  13. When I can’t go on, find it hard to believe there’s anything in my written word but trash and failed ideas, I edit. The same thing applies when my muse has run dry.

    I edit about 3k words a day, first because I found it a way to get others to look at my work, but now, because it’s how I learn and improve. So, I dig in: punctuation and word count and what’s clear and what’s not. Before long, I remember why I do this: the love of words and ideas. Before long, I back at writing and learning and moving forward. For me, it is the process, not the product that drives me on.

  14. “Be strong. Don’t give up. Destroy all obstacles. Crush your enemies. Defy gravity. Abandon reason. Use the force.”

    • Great advice, I’d say everyone should use the force. If it’s good enough for Obi One then it’s good enough for me :)

      Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

  15. Some really good ideas here, everybody.  Well done!  Here are my three:

    1: Join NanoWrimo.  Nanowrimo is a yearly thing (writing 50,000 words in one month is the goal, shared by hundreds of thousands of people around the world!) held in November.  However, the site and all of its wonderful threads are usually up all year long.  Some wonderful gems can be found there…to help us laugh at ourselves and to remind us that we aren’t alone in this journey.  Usually I can find something there that helps me go on to writing the next page.

    2: Get a local support group.  Someone you can meet with on a regular basis and exchange feedback with.  It really helps if you have people of varying writing levels in your group.  My group (actually a local NanoWrimo group that meets all year long…Thank God!…) meets every other week.  It’s a way to hold yourself accountable to actually write, and to compare your work to others.  A win-win situation that motivates me like no other.  Not to mention the fact that their critiques make my work stronger.

    3: Attend a writing workshop.  I went to the Midwest Writers Workshop last year for the first time and was simply stunned.  Where has this arena been all of my writing life?  Not only do you come away with very real and practical ideas to make your writing stronger…again the knowledge that there are others out there in your shoes means so very much.

    And to break the rule and repeat what others have already said:
    4: Just keep writing.  If you need motivation to write something each and every day check out 750words.com.

    Hope this helps someone out there!

    Belinda Whitaker (aka Belinda White, TheBenandanti.com)

    • Great to hear Belinda, i’m hoping to attend a writing workshop this year (my first) and you’re the second person this week who has said hoe wonderful of an experience it is

      Hope mine is just as good

      Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

  16. There are so many great tips here already! The only thing I can add is to take a look at some of your older stories. I know that when I look back at my earlier pieces – the ones I thought were good but were really (bless my heart) awful – then I see how far I’ve come with my writing. That’s enough of a boost in confidence some days to keep me moving forward.

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  18. When you are a writer, there is no cure. Everything you do becomes an excuse to write. We can only be ourselves and write.

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  20. Erg, Blerg – Doubt, I know you well. I face it, swear I’ve conquered i,t and then it slaps me around again. Every writer I know faces this sneaky little Imp. Here’s my three:
    1. I move around. Walk, exercise, jump, whatever it takes to shake off the doubt.
    2. I’m right there with Joanne Tombrakos on this one – I also bake something. It’s a passion of mine so when in doubt I take the cookie pans out. 
    3. I meditate. Very helpful for coming back to my creative center.

  21. Oh my goodness. Self-doubt is a real pain in the coccyx. I’m one to advocate throwing your hands up and walking away from it for a while. Mostly because if I keep staring at something that’s driving me crazy, it might get tossed out a window. I hear that’s bad for computers.

    1) Take up knitting. Or crochet. Something with yarn. There’s something satisfying about making soft things. Like potholders. Warm and fuzzy potholders.

    2) Take a dance class. Not necessarily RIGHT NOW, but it’s a good idea. When you get annoyed with yourself, get up and practice a move that you didn’t QUITE get in class. You’ll get yourself moving and – more importantly – distracted.

    3) Bitch. Loudly. Dramatically. Practice your sighs. I have become a champion at the dramatic sigh. Call a friend and just -sigh- at him/her. Then, when s/he invariably asks what’s wrong, you have the right to go on a fifteen-minute rant about what a terrible writer you are and how you’ll never be published and how could you even think to pick up a pen and you’ve developed a sudden allergy to adjectives. Then you will be laughed at. And comforted. But it’s good to be laughed at by a friend. Because sometimes, it reminds you that an adjective allergy isn’t as bad as a chocolate allergy could be.

    4) WRITE SOMETHING ELSE. You’re working on a novel? Great! Good for you! Now go whip out a few sonnets. If you’re like me, they’re gonna be wretched. And you’ll look at them and think, “Wow. I should really stick to prose.” AND THEN YOU’LL FEEL MORE KINDLY TOWARDS THE POOR MISUSED AND UNDERAPPRECIATED WIP. Poor little guy. He just needs some love. :(

    I’m gonna go have more coffee now…

    • Yes, i like the bitching and screaming one A LOT :)

      I excel in this and quite often take it to the next level by waving my arms excessively

      Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

      • The problem with screaming here is that I have a military macaw with a sense of humor. He mocks me. :(

        When a bird masters the evil laugh, there is no rest for anyone. Because whenever you try to make a serious point, you’ll hear: “Ah.ha.ha.ha.ha.”

  22. Doubt, frustration, crappy writing. UGH.

    1. I clean. Dust, mop, vacuum, fold laundry, wash dishes. The entire time, sometimes an entire day, I’m playing my problem scene over and over in my head until I get it right. Once I sit down to get it on paper (I use pencil and paper for first drafts), I can usually continue from that scene to the next and finish my story.

    2. When things/characters aren’t going like I want them (just because I’m a pantser doesn’t mean I don’t have goals) I step away. I sit down at my dining table and interview my problem character. I actually got this idea from Orson Scott Card in his book on fantasy world building. At first I felt dumb talking to myself, but then I clearly saw my characters, their body language and often things that none of the other characters would/could have told me.

    3. I read a book. I can’t read and write at the same time. I often find myself mimicking someone else’s style, characters, plot, prose etc. So I’ll put my writing away for a day or two and read a book, escape my story and come back refreshed.

    Even when I’m not having trouble I play scenes over and over in my head all day long. It keeps the story fresh. It keeps me on track. It drives my family and friends crazy. 

    Reading the other comments I have to agree with Dane Zellar. Honest, if brutal, critiques help me develop a thick skin. If those I care most about care enough about me to be honest, then when I aggressively begin publishing, I’ll be able to take negativity from strangers in stride. I never forget, “You can please all the people some of the time, some of the people all the time, but never all of the people all of the time.”  Mostly I try to please myself and hope others like it too.

  23. Ask yourself if the idea that’s making you doubt yourself is fiction or non-fiction. The stuff that comes off your keyboard may not be fiction. The stuff that makes you doubt – hmmmmm.

  24. wow i go away for some coffee and record buying and come back to so many great tips and comments. Massive thanks so far to everyone contributing. I came to Jane with the hope fellow writers could share wisdom and pain, and i think the results so far are great.

    I really hope this article is helping some people and allowing everyone to see that self doubt is a very common occurrence, not just to writers, but people in general :)

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

  25. Matt,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Even wildly successful novelists have self-doubts. It’s in the DNA of a writer. And it’s healthy because we need to be hypercritical of our own work. I find when I have self-doubts, I need to do a diagnosis of my WIP. There’s usually a problem there that I need to fix. I also find chocolate helps. Thanks again.

    • Yes, chocolate certainly helps!

      And i think you’re right, it’s healthy we’re always trying to make it better. I suppose that’s what self-doubt is, isn’t it. The assumption you can do better and eager to take the next stage in your own development

      Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

  26. Been there, felt that . . . and I’m sure there’s more doubt to come down the road. Here are my 3 tips:

    1. I remind myself that writing something bad is less humiliating than quitting altogether, after investing so many years. As long as you keep on writing, you keep on trying; you’re in the process of improving your craft. You’re learning, and making mistakes is part of it.

    2. If you don’t write anything, there’s nothing to rewrite and revise and that is how your writing actually becomes good, in reality.

    3. Finally, I read stories about other writers’ journey to publication–the ones that went through years and years of trying, bad writing, gazillion revisions, a thousand rejections, depression, a drinking problem, a suicidal agent . . . and after all, made it on the bestselling lists. That inspires me to keep going.

  27. Been there, felt that . . . and I’m sure there’s more doubt to come down the road. Here are my 3 tips:

    1. I remind myself that writing something bad is less humiliating than quitting altogether, after investing so many years. As long as you keep on writing, you keep on trying; you’re in the process of improving your craft. You’re learning, and making mistakes is part of it.

    2. If you don’t write anything, there’s nothing to rewrite and revise and that is how your writing actually becomes good, in reality.

    3. Finally, I read stories about other writers’ journey to publication–the ones that went through years and years of trying, bad writing, gazillion revisions, a thousand rejections, depression, a drinking problem, a suicidal agent . . . and after all, made it on the bestselling lists. That inspires me to keep going.

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  29. Okay, here are my three:

    1) Things always look better after a good night of sleep. I lay in bed at night obsessing over things, but if I get a good solid sleep, everything (including my writing) looks better in the morning.

    2) When I am editing, I read the same text over and over. The more I read it, the worse it gets — it’s just a bunch of words swimming in my brain. Just realize that this is what naturally happens when you read the same material over and over.

    3) In my meditation I heard: Doubt out!!!!

    Gail Kushner

    Author of the forthcoming book: My Psychic Search, discovering what psychics do, what psychics know, and how they can help us improve our lives.

    (So, did I spell everything correctly? Did I write well? Oh, that continuous self-assessment! :) )

  30. Well, you’ve touched on the main solution already.

    1. Don’t assume your self doubt is a prophet of your ultimate failure. Just know it’s along for the ride.
    2. Reread Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird and think about putting those spiders in a jar.
    3. Keep going.

  31. I have one suggestions:  Just write something!  I write mystery novels by the seat of my pants.  On the days, which are many, that I sit down at the appointed hour and look back over the previous day’s work, usually I can keep going. When I can’t this little voice says “Just write something.”  Doesn’t matter what it is, may not fit the plot, but it is a ploy to get my fingers moving over the keys again and it usually works. It may get edited out later, but I’m off dead center.

  32.      I thank you all for your thoughts, I truly do. I see a common thread… a web. I think perhaps we should remember just who we are; not just as  individuals, but as a collective, a whole. We share what, doubt? No… I don’t think so. My friends… we share FEAR! The word doubt… is nothing more than a shroud to cover up, wrap around, and hold it’s mother… Fear.
         I, as well… am not exempt from it! But I see  it, smell it, and my god, I scream at it… until it becomes afraid of me. Doubt, a.k.a. fear is something we acquire. Some what of an instillation process of life that tries to bind us to the so called”rules.”
         We are not common folk. Oh, you might think that you are, or want to be… but when you wield that sword in you hand; the sharp knife that births prose… you know you are not common, you know, and feel a gift, and it… well we know what happens now don’t we. The pen gets dropped, and we run, bake, exercise,make love, war, release endorphin’s any way we can… for it is what we must do!

    I have never given advice before because… I am not worthy. See how it works!

    An idea or two that might help. It’s really rather simple.

    1. Remember where you came from, even if it’s a horrible thought, remember it.
    2. Stop running, just sit for minute and breath… no more meditation is required…     just breath.
    3. Sit among the trees and listen, watch the birds fly, smell the salts of the ocean, and settle within yourself.

    We see things that others don’t. I don’t know why, or how, we just do. It is our job to share it. It is fears job to try and stop us. An epic battle that we will win.
    Thank you for all of your words. JUST WRITE!  

    • very true Timothy, FEAR is usually the cause of self doubt. Scared to try, move forward, make ourselves vulnerable. 

      My boss is a real risk taker and seems to have no fear. I have no idea how he does it

      Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

  33. Just for a spot of counter, culture here are my top three ways of agitating my writers self doubt:

    1. Compare myself to others.  Especially established writers who do it professionally and have done for years, with really big lists of followers.  This will surely make me feel smaller than a comma in the complete works of Shakespeare

    2. Listen incessantly to my inner critic, which is telling me my writing is complete boring drivel that no-one in their right, wrong or frontal lobotomised mind would ever want to read.

    3.  Check the number of unsubscribes in Aweber and concoct fanciful stories about the personal nature of these decisions involving amazed (soon to be ex) subscribers wondering how I ever had the nerve to publish this stuff in the first place.

    These tips really help me when I am feeling just too confident and need to reconnect with my crippling self-doubt.

  34. Leaving my work for a day or two really helps me have a fresh look at it when I come back to it later. Once I look at it again, I make huge revisions to make it even better than the original. I thrive on revisions.

  35. Pingback: 100 Tips to Alleviate Self-Doubt « E.L. Taylor III author blog

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  37. I’m not much of a baker, but I cook. Something about choosing the ingredients, peeling ad chopping, measuring out spices, seeing it all come together just unlocks the fear in me and lets it float away.

  38. Go with it. Yeah, you and your writing are a piece of poo, so fling that self-doubting characteristic onto your MC and let her/him deal with it. Maybe by transferring this negative mindset to one of your imaginary characters, you’ll get the monkey off your back for a while. 

  39. when I’m stuck on a scene in my book and have no idea how to write it well, I try 2 other things as well. First, I ask myself am I writing for myself? Must I write? Do I love this story? if this answer is yes, yes, yes than I know I’m being true to myself and just need some help with the craft.

    Then I pick up books by similar authors and find similar situations and see how the masters did them…that ALWAYS generates ideas for me on how to move forward and write the scene well with my unique spin on it. And I can let go of my self doubt…until the next time.

  40. I usually walk away when I have moments of doubt but deep down inside there must be a grain of belief wihtin us or else we wouldn’t start writing again. So apart from all the good tips already posted wait for that grain of belief to pop up again, grab it with both hands and start writing, at least until the next wave of doubt appears.

  41. Love, love, love this (she said, after a productive Saturday turned into an unproductive Sunday)! I’d move up #60 to #1, though. :)

  42. LOL I just wrote  a similar post on my blog. I think creative people are susceptible to the doubt dragon because we do listen. Just have to make sure who it is we are listening to. And watch what we are saying to others. 
    Good post and good ideas.

  43. Definately run like hell from dream stealers, and run into the arms of those who spur you on to make  dreams come true. Hang out with like minded people.

  44. Just want to say a big thank you to Joanna for compiling the list, and of course everyone who’s contributed. The aim was 100 and i’m pretty sure we’ll hit that. If we happen to go over though, well, it wouldn’t be the worse thing ever :)

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

  45. My fabulous critique group is one main way I overcome self-doubt. We are our own best cheerleaders, and we’re also not afraid to say – that is not your best work. Keep trying.
    I almost gave up on a picture book I was recently struggling with, but someone in the group (I had not told her I was thinking of giving up on it) read it and said- “Don’t give up on this. The idea is great. Here is what you need to fix.”
    Having the right critique group makes all the difference!

  46. Hello

    At the risk of sounding like a complete ratbag, I never suffer from self-doubt. Mind you, I often look back over old stuff and am amazed that I could have produced such ham-fisted drivel – but that just shows me how far I’ve come…reason for even more confidence!

    My tips are as follows:

    1 – Inspiration happens in its own time, so if something isn’t working don’ force it. Turn to something fresh.

    2 – I understand that everyone’s different but I believe that you’ll write a far stronger story (and write yourself into fewer corners) if you map out the whole thing in advance. This is not a method for dealing with self-doubt – more a method of preventing doubt in the first place. Doubt happens when you suspect you’ve taken the wrong path – get rid of all the wrong paths in your story map.

    3 – Keep your goals within realistic reach. The professional writer’s journey (in most cases) is made in small steps. If your goals are modest and achievable you will be less daunted and more likely to succeed (and thus be ready for the next step). Doubt happens when you suspect you’re not really good enough to achieve your goal, so make your goals realistic and turn achieving them into a habit.

  47. Music and exercise are always top of the list when I write, but when I have doubts I reach out to help others pull through their doubts/anxiety. Somehow it helps me work through mine as well. Great post. 

  48. This is pretty old school, but last year when my books really started taking off I started having major doubt problems. (Crazy, I know.) I went to my whiteboard and wrote “I am successful” about 50 times. If you get yourself in that frame of mind, it can be a powerful thing.

  49. I think I sometimes have more doubt about life in general than about my writing. However that may be, the answers are basically the same. 1) Write in my journal everything (and I mean every little pitiful, annoying gripe, complaint, whine, moan or groan) I’m feeling until I’ve had enough of that and can carry on. 2) Take it to what Julia Cameron calls a “believing mirror,” who is someone who believes in you without doubt even if this particular piece is not the best thing you ever wrote. They believe you will write the best thing any day now. 3) As we say at my house–“move the ball forward.” You don’t have to make a hail mary pass, you just have to take a few steps in the right direction. So, work on it 10 more minutes, then call it quits for the day. Congratulate yourself for not quitting. Then pick up the ball and move it forward again the next day. And now that I’m writing this, let me just say that encouraging someone else in their work is a great way to encourage oneself. I write a creativity blog at hillpoet.com, and those days I get these kinds of comments make me believe, more than anything, that I’m living and working in the “write”world.  Hillpoet

  50. Since picketing or boycotting self-doubt isn’t an option, I’ll settle for these three. 
    1) I leave it there sitting to marinate a bit and go out and do something I won’t get judged by doing… like gardening. Can’t mess up playing in dirt, right?  😉
    2) I’ll even become a dare devil and scan through some of the quotes Google finds me when I put in “Demolish Self-Doubt”. Those are always keepers. 
    3) I’m the type of writer that likes several projects going at once… so I will change courses up a bit and work on one of the bigger ones instead. This usually only works though when I’m working on a smaller project like a post or something like that though. 

    • I like number 3 Deeone. I also sometimes go to another project if things are getting stilted. I do this at work a lot. If something isn’t happening i move onto another item on my list and when i return things are usually a little bit smoother

      Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

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  52. Hi Jane and Matthew – great idea btw – I don’t know if these suggestions have been written down yet (probably), but just in case:

    1. Instead of stepping away and reading a great novel for inspiration (because it only makes me feel worse about my inadequacies) when I’m feeling a little wonk around my work and abilities as a writer, I’ll pick up another novel, something horrible – just stinky and smelly and rotting with too many adverbs, no proper characterization, talking heads, you name it. I revel in its rottenness and I’m inspired to know that “Hey, at least my stuff is better than this drivel.” And then I can get back on track. Now, of course, this is all subjective. One woman’s drivel is another woman’s To Kill A Mockingbird, but you get the point. And, no, I won’t name any of my goto books. That would just be mean spirited. :)

    2. Another thing I do is exactly what I said I didn’t do in number 1. If I’m stuck or just feeling Meh about what I’ve written, I’ll look up a passage in one of my favorite books just to hear the melody of the words, the brilliance of the writer’s style and ease. “I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice…” I mean, come on. That first sentence is one of the most brilliant, I think, ever written. But again, subjective. Regardless, those words inspire me. Help get me back on track thinking, “Yeah, maybe I could be that inspiration some day for someone else.” That’s a nice feeling.

    3. If neither of those things work – I’ll go to my trusty 3 for a little inspiration and confidence boost – “On Writing”, “Bird By Bird”, “Self Editing for Fiction Writers” and if those don’t cut it, I’ll leap into “The War of Art” as a really great ass-kicker.

    If all else fails, I just drown my sorrows in a big bowl of chocolate something or other, go to bed and hope the next day is better. :)

  53. This article was timed perfectly for me because yesterday and today have been Doubting Thomas (or rather, Patricia) days!  Here’s three things that help me overcome them.
    1) Read the plaque on my refrigerator with the words, “If you can dream it, you can do it”
    2) Turn off my computer and find something physical to do
    3) Call a friend and whine, hoping that friend will remind me that I really can write!

  54. Popped over from CLee’s blog. Wow, this is some great armor against the self-doubt beast. Thanks.

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