Sunday, January 20, 2013

When you were first starting out, did you ever have any self-doubt in your writing ability? If you did, how did you deal with it?

I’m not sure if the self-doubts that have lurked around the edges of my consciousness since the very beginning of my career will ever fully disappear. Despite how many books I write, I still approach every project with a trembling hand.
Will it be any good?
Will people like it?
Will I ever actually finish it?
Will it be better than the last one?
Over the years I’ve written more than three dozen books and hundreds of articles, but still I don’t have the confidence in my ability that you’d think would come naturally at this point.
Maybe that’s encouraging to aspiring writers, and maybe it’s disheartening. Depends on how you look at it—on the one hand, the apprehension might never go away, but on the other hand, you won’t be alone in feeling that way.
However, there’s a paradox to all of this. Intermingled in with all that hesitancy there has to be a certain sense of confidence in the process, or we wouldn’t know where to begin each day. And also, there has to be a certain degree of ego.
After all, every writing project is in a certain sense an exercise in egotism. When I write a novel that will take someone ten hours to read, and I encourage that person to buy it, I’m basically telling her that there’s no better way for her to spend ten hours of her all-too-short time on this planet than reading my story. If there was something better, I wouldn’t feel right trying to get her to read my story than to do that other thing.
If that’s not egotism, I’m not sure what is.
The truth is, if you like long hours in solitude, emotional turmoil, constant self-criticism and bouts of heart-wrenching disappointment, you’ll make a good writer. And if you can actually tell an engaging story, you might just make a great one.


  1. Thanks for this post, Steven. I appreciate your candidness in sharing your fears. It does encourage aspiring authors like myself. I think when we start a new novel and these questions go through our heads, it makes us strive to write even better than the last!

    Thanks again! Love your books.

  2. I was so happy to read this! After dreaming about writing fiction since childhood, I finally worked up the nerve to share my writing and ask for feedback. Support from those first few readers led to me join a writer's group. Now I'm about halfway through the book idea I've carried around in my mind for years...and I'm absolutely terrified! I'm glad to find out it doesn't just plague new authors. It's nice to know I'm not alone.

  3. Paraphrasing the old joke—that post resembles me. I blog and I write. I have completed two full length novels and a large part of two non-fiction books. What do I do with them after I am finished-nothing. I put them away and write some more.

    1. Because of self doubt, or because you wrote them for your eyes only?
      Maybe take the risk and get them out there.