#IWSG: Perpetual Self Doubt Machine

Are you a writer?  Do you feel insecure about your writing life?  Well then the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is the support group for you!  IWSG is a monthly blog hop created by Alex J. Cavanuagh and co-hosted this month by Jemima Pett, Debs Carey, Kim Lajevard, Sarah Foster, Natalie Aguirre, and T. Powell Coltrin.  If you want to learn more about this amazingly supportive group and see a full list of participating blogs, click here.

Hello, friends!  For today’s IWSG post, I’ve decided to turn the floor over to my muse, the magical fairy person who encourages me (sometimes by brute force) to do my writing.  She has something to say, and perhaps it’s something your muse would like to hear.

* * *

My fellow muses, what do you do when your writer stops believing that they’re a writer?  Writers write.  It’s the most natural and normal thing for them to do.  And yet many writers (my own included) make themselves miserable with self doubt.  My writer often starts asking himself questions like “Is writing really worth it?” or “Why am I doing this to myself?” or “What if it’s time to quit writing?”

From talking with other muses, I’ve learned that many creative humans struggle with these questions.  If only there were a way self doubt could be used to generate energy, the perpetual self doubt of writers and artists could be used to solve the humans’ energy crisis.

Recently, another human said a thing to my writer.  An insensitive and cruel thing.  As a direct result of this thing that was said, my writer started asking himself more frequently and fervently: “Should I give up on writing?”  Again and again, day and night, for weeks on end: “Should I give up?  Should I give up?  Should I give up?”

Obviously, the answer is no, but it was equally obvious that doubts and insecurities of this kind had been simmering beneath the surface for a long time already.  Otherwise, one single, careless comment would not have caused so much duress.  So rather than simply saying “no” to all this self-doubting and self-questioning, I offered a different question: “Should you, perhaps, give up on writing this one project—this one particular project that you’ve been stuck on for the past two or three years?”

That gave my writer pause.  That got my writer thinking again, got him wondering what he might write instead of that old writing project.  It got him to consider ideas that were fresh and new, ideas that are true to the person my writer is today, rather than the person he used to be several years ago.  Of course, my writer did not come up with these fresh new ideas without help.  I contributed to the process.  I am his muse, after all.

So, my fellow muses, if your writer keeps getting stuck on questions like “Should I give up on writing?” a simple “no” may not be sufficient.  A better answer may be to change or rephrase the original question.

19 thoughts on “#IWSG: Perpetual Self Doubt Machine

  1. Flitting from project to project may mean you never get anything completed, but staring at the same blank screen over and over gets nothing completed too. It is possible to be too responsible, have too much grit. On to an exciting and inspiring project! Good advice.

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    1. As a wise man once said, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” I am very excited for the new project I’m working on, but I also have one or two small side projects to play with as well, to keep things from getting dull.

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  2. James, I’m feeling there’s lots of new energy and excitement coming from you for the writing road ahead – your muse is a wise bird, and she serves you well. Looking forward to seeing your projects develop and to giving you joy in 2023.

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  3. What matters to me right now? If we ask this and just start doodling, something meaningful may ensue from the pen / keyboards… for us. For something always matters if we give it a chance to say it to us… and then to share with others too.

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    1. The “right now” part is what’s important, in my mind. What mattered to me a few years ago was important, for sure, but it’s not the same as what matters to me right now. I needed to let go. I needed to move on, and so did my writing. It took me almost all of last year to get to this point, but I’m finally ready to move on.

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  4. That’s a long time to be stuck. Two choices are there. One, rewrite the project from scratch. Without looking at the original. You may make a breakthrough. Or second, like your muse was saying, start something else.

    It can be small. Something to distract while your little gray cells think things through.

    Whatever you choose, enjoy the ride and don’t look back. 🙂

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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    1. Both the old project and the new one use some of the same concepts and characters. I suspect that, in time, I’ll circle back around and reintegrate that old story into the new story universe. But right now, I know exactly what I want to work on, and I’m super excited to get to it.

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  5. Oof the self doubt monster. I’m quite familiar with that particular beast. It’s really easy to get stuck in a cycle of worry and frustration which only adds to being stuck (speaking from way too much personal experience). Walking away from the project might be the way to go (for now) because when you’ve been on the same thing for so long with little progress it starts to be harder to see a way forward (again way too much personal experience LOL). Put aside that one for now, let your very wise muse lead you to other things and then when you’re ready and out of that funk, go back to the original if the mood hits. Best of luck!

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  6. There’s definitely something to be said, when stuck, for starting again fresh. And the wide discussion of how much most of us suffer from self doubt helps me in dealing with it.

    I actually wonder how good of an idea it is for writers to set all of their stories in one shared universe. It seems like it increases the pressure on every story not to mess up, not to commit to something that will complicate future stories. And I’d imagine it complicates later stories since they have to maintain compatibility with everything that came before.

    Of course, if you can pull it off, it does build a lot of synergy between the stories. But maybe it doesn’t all have to happen in only one universe. Maybe it will lighten the pressure if you give yourself permission to break out into a new universe when necessary.

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    1. I feel like there’s a trade off, sticking to just one story universe. On the one hand, I have to plan ahead and be careful about continuity. On the other hand, I don’t have to keep inventing new ways to (for example) travel faster than light. I can just keep reusing the same fictional technologies in story after story.

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  7. We really could solve the world’s energy problems with our self-doubt, couldn’t we? LOL. Anyway, I loved your Muse’s advice. I learned a while back that working on multiple projects keeps me moving forward. When I get stuck on one I have something else to move to. Sometimes I never go back to that other one, but often, I find that letting it sit while still writing frees my mind and relieves the pressure I’ve put on myself. It’s the pressure that blocks us and feeds the doubt. Good luck with your shiny new projects!

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    1. Yeah, in my experience switching between a few different projects can be helpful—maybe one main project and one or two little side projects. It can help stir up the creative juices.

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  8. I’ve asked myself that question several times: should I just give up writing? This is especially the case when I see the low or no sales of my books over a long period. But I still keep writing because it’s a part of me. If I didn’t write I would have killed a part of myself and probably wouldn’t function right.

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