Self-doubt and Creativity

Most creative types I meet have at least periods of self-doubt. They wonder if what they are creating has any value, if it will touch anyone, if it’s worth all the trouble and sacrifice.

I have had this issue myself at times. More than once I have contemplated just walking away from writing. Or maybe just going back to writing for myself and never showing it to anyone.

Because sometimes I am positive that what I write is no good and never will be.

That no one will like what I write and no one cares anyway.

Lately I have been feeling that way when I read about other authors who have their characters talking to them. I know what they mean—in my younger days, my characters were that real to me. They had minds of their own. They did things I did not expect.

But they don’t anymore.

I have characters, of course. They are real to me. I know them well. But they do what I tell them. Of course, this is my first time trying outlining, which may have had an unintended consequence.

But maybe it’s something more sinister than that. Maybe I do not know my characters as well as I think I do. Why are they being so obedient? My answer, of course, is that I am simply not as creative as the other writers I am reading about. And then the self-doubt crashes in on me.

But no matter how doubtful I feel, I never give up. Because I can’t stop writing. It’s been almost 40 years I’ve been writing, so any idea that I might be able to stop is laughable. I am a writer, for better or worse, for richer or poorer.

The one boon of self-doubt, for me, is that it pushes me to be better. After all, if I feel like my work is not good enough, and I cannot stop writing, the only answer is to find a way to improve my craft. So hopefully the self-doubt is a blessing in disguise.

Stepping back from my self-doubt, I think perhaps this complacency of my characters is a signal that I am not yet completely recovered from the 4.5 year, post-baby creative drought I experienced. While I am miles ahead of where I was then, perhaps I have a little farther to go before I get back into the full author groove.

Maybe next year, when my daughter starts school full day, and I suddenly have more concentrated time to work.

It will come. And I will be ready and waiting when it happens.

Because no matter how much self-doubt piles up, I will never stop writing.

Have you ever stopped writing, or seriously considered it?

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  1. I feel the same way! I’ve been depressed for some reason. All my life, I’ve tried to write a novel but I always lost steam and intrest. Recently, I’ve been having to throw out stuff I’ve accumulated over the years. It depresses me so much that I can’t or won’t get off the couch and get my act together. I have to push myself onto the computer. I still get depressed when I have to throw things out.

    • If you always lose steam with a novel, perhaps you should be writing shorter works–short stories or novellas.

      I’m a pack-rat, so throwing stuff away is hard for me, too. Give yourself permission to keep a few items you’re not ready to let go. But once I’ve done the clear-out, it feels kind of freeing.

      Good luck!


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