Rumor has it that authors have been navigating the perils of self-doubt for at least 400 years.
Don’t believe us? Just ask William Shakespeare. In his seventeenth-century play Measure for Measure he wrote:
“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”
Even one of the most famous writers in world history acknowledged how detrimental self-doubt is. Fighting the concern that we aren’t good enough – and getting back to one’s writing in spite of that fear – is a tale as old as time.
What is self-doubt?
As a writer, you might know a little too much about self-doubt. That persistent worry that we’re not good or capable enough can strike at any moment. It’s normal to be bitten by the self-doubt bug when we’re embarking on a particularly challenging journey. Prime example? Writing or publishing a book.
Author Sandra Bond described their experience with self-doubt as “[t]he (hopefully mistaken) belief that your writing is of such poor quality that it is futile to persist with it.”
If similar types of negative beliefs have your writing on pause, remember that this experience is extremely common. Unfortunately, self-doubt is par for the course of this particular career and is liable to crop up from time to time.
What causes self-doubt as an author?
Writing a book is often just the beginning of dealing with self-doubt. Receiving negative reviews, experiencing imposter syndrome over positive reviews, or facing a myriad of post-publication challenges can get you to this place of writer’s doubt.
Even comparing your writing style to someone else’s can have you wondering how to deal with self-doubt. As they say, comparison is the true thief of joy.
While self-publishing can oftentimes feel like a particularly isolating pursuit, it’s possible to deal with self-doubt and eliminate that sense of being alone. By assembling and donning a toolbelt of self-doubt-fighting strategies, you’ll be back on the road to writing in no time.
We’ve put together a list of five strategies on how to deal with self-doubt.
Strategies on how to deal with self-doubt as an author
- Assemble your very own publishing team
- Subscribe to media that supports you
- When in (self) doubt, write it out
- Get in touch with fellow self-published authors
- Compile a “smile file” or folder
Assemble your very own publishing team
No literary agent? Not a problem. You don’t have to be traditionally published to assemble a team of supporters when you’re wondering how to deal with self-doubt.
In recent years, you may have seen business articles written about how to build a personal board of directors. Similar to how those in corporate settings are “CEOs of their own careers,” you are your very own business-of-one as an indie author. This is often why many people pursue a path in self-publishing, but it can also make for a lonely ride.
One suggestion for combatting loneliness and self-doubt in one swing is to create a publishing team all of your own (for free, too!)
You may not have a literary agent, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask your most reliable supporter to be there with words of encouragement and motivation when they’re needed. This could be a spouse, family member, friend, or fellow self-publisher. Hearing what makes you talented can be the boost of confidence you need right now.
If you don’t have an editor on your payroll, look to your friends or family members for help. Ask them to step into a quasi-editor role and tell you when you’ve written something spectacular.
Much like a board of directors provides counsel for a company, a personal self-publishing team will be there to lend an ear when you’re struggling with writing. These are the people who will advocate for you and your work, provide personal support, and help you get back up on your feet.
Subscribe to media that supports you
We live in a digital world. It’s likely that, at the time of reading this article, you’re subscribed to countless newsletters, blogs, and social media channels. But are you following people who will support your writing journey? If not, subscribing to media that understands and caters to the author mindset is one additional way to deal with self-doubt.
Below, you can find a list of newsletters, blogs, and Instagram accounts we’ve compiled that can help you put self-doubt into perspective.
If you have additions to our list, feel free to let us know in our comment section.
Best newsletters for writers
- Electric Speed from Jane Friedman
- The Write Life by selfpublishing.com
- Total ANNARCHY by Ann Handley
Best blogs for writers
Best accounts on Instagram for writers
In addition to newsletters, blogs, and Instagram handles, writing podcasts for authors can serve as a helpful bolster to prop you up in moments of self-doubt. We’re big fans of Mark Dawson’s Self-Publishing Show and the Sell More Books Show. Both of which frequently discusses author mindset.
When in (self) doubt, write it out
Writing is what you do. While it might be one of the last things you want to do while struggling with self-doubt, it’s crucial to return to the pages right now. After all, many self-published authors likely initially turned to the written word for its therapeutic benefits.
A helpful place to start with writing out feelings of self-doubt is to begin with repeating “mantras.” These motivational sentences or slogans can positively influence your thoughts.
The art of repeating mantras or affirmations has become increasingly popular. One way to do this is by spending 15-20 minutes in the morning writing mantras out. You can then go to the mirror and speak them out loud.
This might sound cheesy, but practices like mantra-speaking can do wonders for confidence. Thinking and speaking highly of your writing can make it more of a reflexive reaction within your brain.
If you’re ready to put mantras into practice, cherry-pick the ones from the list below. Or, feel free to add your own.
Daily writing mantras to practice
- “I get to pursue one of my greatest passions when I write.”
- “Writing energizes me.”
- “I’m growing as a writer every day.”
- “Everything I need is within me.”
- “The possibilities I have are endless.”
Simon Whaley, author of The Positively Productive Writer, gives us one final mantra to consider: “Keep writing. Keep Improving.”
Get in touch with fellow self-published authors
We’ve mentioned that the act of self-publishing can be incredibly isolating for some authors. Fears of self-doubt, on top of an existing feeling of being alone, can mean that you want to turn increasingly inward. One of our biggest tips for how to deal with self-doubt is to resist those feelings and reach out to other indies who have likely been in your shoes.
No one knows the process of “create –> fear –> create –> fear” more than your fellow authors. If you don’t already have a community of fellow writers to contact about mindset, now’s a perfect time.
How to deal with self-doubt through a writing community
- To get started, you can contact fellow self-published authors through Facebook groups for writers.
- Next, reach out to companies that work with indie authors (like our team at Written Word Media) and ask if they have networking opportunities for customers.
- Attend indie author conferences.
- Check sites like Meetup for author events in your area.
It’s scary to work through something like self-doubt and then open up about it to others. The more you share fear or sadness, the more likely you are to meet someone who has been in your shoes. Ultimately, though, it’s worth it to feel less alone. Browse through many online author communities and you will see fellow authors asking for and receiving support.
Compile a “smile file” or folder
Much like a personal board of directors, “smile files” have emerged in recent years as a cure-all for cases of the Monday blues. Smile files are exactly what they sound like: purposefully curated files that bring positivity and joy to your life.
The idea for a smile file is to have a well of positivity to draw from, so when that self-doubt creeps up you have a quick fix to fight it off.
Start by creating a place where you store all of your “big wins.” This can be a paper folder on your desk or an online folder in your Gmail account. You can include glowing reviews you’ve gotten, positive messages from members of your email list, or anything that makes you feel good about your writing.
Smile files are effective because they have the ability to put self-doubt into perspective. Case in point? Author Simon Whaley says when wondering how to deal with self-doubt, he pulls up a smile file all of his own:
Look at the evidence. Five (and four) star reviews are from people who loved your book so much they wanted to comment and share this with others. These people loved your book so much they took time out of their busy lives to write a fab review!
When we’re questioning ourselves, it can be easy to think we don’t deserve anything good… Good reviews, feedback, any type of kind words. Your reflex to creating a “smile file” might be that you don’t deserve it! Fight that with the knowledge that having something sweet to turn to will make you feel better when you really need it.
Our final tip for how to deal with self-doubt? You’re almost there.
In the midst of figuring out how to deal with self-doubt, it can be helpful to remember that this too shall pass. Turning to a smile file, confiding in fellow indie authors, or reading a blog about author mindset can make these feelings pass faster. But regardless of the steps you take right now, you will overcome self-doubt.
Author Sandra Bond beautifully describes the reason it’s important to not let self-doubt take over: “Remember you are the only person who can write the story you are trying to write, and if you don’t, that story will forever remain untold.” Continue to let the story that’s inside of you be the fuel to your fire.
To close, we want to give special thanks to authors Sandra Bond and Simon Whaley for contributing their thoughts to this article. Sandra and Simon are living proof of how common this experience with self-doubt is… And how it’s possible to get out!