1. United
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    United Member

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    Is it normal to self-doubt?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by United, Nov 11, 2014.

    I'm a first time author (working on my first work). I'm constantly filled with self-doubt and thoughts like "Ugh...is anyone even going to buy my work?" or "I'm risking so much to finish this book. Will it be worth it? Will I regret becoming a writer/author?", etc.

    Is all this normal? Or am I just being paranoid and negative about the whole thing? I'm a college student right now, and I'm having a "life crisis" right now because I don't know which path I should take in life. Currently, I'm majoring in mathematics, with an education focus (working to become a math teacher). But ever since I've been enrolled in my creative writing class this semester, it's like I've had an epiphany and revelation about my life's purpose now. Some of my friends have told me that I should just just keep writing as a hobby, but I don't want it to be a hobby. If I write, then I truly would want to do it full-time and become a full-time author (that's why I haven't been doing so well in my classes because of this dilemma ---- I can't even focus in my math/logical-reasoning classes). I'm already a junior in college and I have devoted these past 3 years into my math education, but now it really does seem, for the second time in my life, that I have found my 'true calling'.

    I know this isn't a 'therapy' forum, but I'm pretty sure some of you may have experienced with with writing, etc. I just want to know what you think or what you have experienced. Thoughts/suggestions/advice?
     
  2. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I would be inclined to say at this point in your life you should treat writing as a hobby, albeit a hobby which you take seriously and have long term aspirations of turning into a job.
    One thing you need to be aware of, is it takes many years to get to a stage where you're earning a living off writing (if you ever achieve that at all)
    Many published authors even have 'real jobs' to make enough money to live.
    The most important point I want to make is, don't neglect your college studies. Good qualifications give you far more options in life. Even if you don't end up going into a field to which they directly pertain, they're a proof to employers that you're intelligent and can work hard over an extended period.
    In response to your title question, yes self doubt is normal for writers and I'm told even a lot of successful authors suffer from it. Keep plugging away at your writing, just don't jump the gun and try and rely on it to earn you a living at this early a stage.
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Obviously self doubt is normal. But you won't know how good your work is unless knowledgeable people (like writers in a critique group or writers here) read it and give you feedback.

    I had a different situation, I knew I couldn't write fiction. So I set out to learn how. I think I'm about 3/4 of the way there now. And I'm very confident I will get there.
     
  4. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Amen to that!

    I can remember a professional footballer (soccer player! - became top goal-scorer for Wolves) who was studying accountancy before he got his big break with the team...he's now a successful businessman. I wonder if he remembers anything about accounts?
     
  5. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Absolutely. All the time. Authors constantly question if their work is any good, it's human nature. On the work front, @plothog is right, don't neglect your studies, if you are majoring in maths then am I right in thinking you are at university? There are people (like me) who never got the chance to go to university and have struggled like hell to get anywhere in life so while you are there and have the opportunity, take it with both hands.

    If you don't want to think of writing as a hobby and do want to do it as a job, then do it as a second job because writing is a very fickle business that I don't think anyone should bank on.

    I also believe that in order to write to the best of your abilities, you need to have the basics in life covered, the very basic, being a steady income so that you are not constantly worrying about where your next meal/utilities payment is coming from as this worry could make your writing suck.

    Good luck with your chosen career and remember, two strings to your bow are better than one ...
     
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  6. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    Self-doubt may as well be my middle name. ;)

    Although I'm considerably older than you, I've recently found myself at a cross roads. I was made redundant and the job I trained for doesn't exist any more, so I'm having to figure out where I go from here.

    And therein lies the problem; at this stage in the game, two choices have occurred to me. Do I take any old job, and hope it will give me enough time to work on my writing, (and believe me, it needs a lot of hard graft to bring it up to publishable standards) or do I try and make an income out of my other interest, (photo manipulation and compositing.)

    I've been chasing my tail for weeks now, unsure what to do. Do I go with the innate skill I know I possess, something that I know could be turned to my fiscal advantage, or continue to learn to write knowing my considerable short comings. I just don't seem to have time for both.

    It's quandary all right, but needs must. Don't do what I did and metaphorically write yourself into a corner. ;)
     
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  7. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    How I see it:

    Don't be so dramatic. If you're absolutely sure you're going to be a writer. Go ahead and devote full time to it if you can afford it. Steven King didn't. He taught classes first and worked other jobs. He also wrote for the school paper when he was a kid and was by then submitting short stories. But that's one guy. Maybe you're more of a prodigy than him?

    If you're not absolutely sure, continue your studies, and pursue your passion (writing) like you'd pursue any passion, that is, basically all the time, but it's not a job to you, it's leisure. Get better, grow, and have fun, and if one day the time is right to actually try and become published, then go for it.
     
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  8. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Has anybody (who knows what they're talking about) told you that you should make writing your career?
     
  9. Joe King
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    Joe King Member

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    I was actually just having a few doubts in my work before jumping on here. It seems common, though I think you'd have more thoughts about it since you're considering making it your career choice. The way I see it, you should stick out studying, especially since you've already been in it for a decent amount of time, it would be a shame to stop now, begin writing full time then down the track realize it's harder than you thought and want to go back to studying. Stick to it as a side project, you can still do both it's just that the writing will be like part time work for the time being, that's my take on it :)
     
  10. Darkkin
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    Darkkin Reflection of a nobody Contributor

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    You're a year away from being done and the semester is approaching mid-term and if I'm right, you'll soon be done with your creative writing class. Here's my question, without the influence of the class, how much are you going to be focusing on writing? Finish out your major, keep writing as a hobby. If it continues to grow, go back to school and persue it, but you still need a job that pays for heat and lights.

    I majored in English. Teaching isn't something I was interested in doing, so I work at a bookstore and proofread on the side. My writing is purely recreational at this point. Does my parental unit think I should be doing more with my life: Obviously. But here's the catch, I love my job, the books and people I work with and the sheer diversity of the days.

    You wouldn't be majoring in mathematics and education if it didn't actually matter. I've had friends, who have majored in those fields and the course work is no walk in the park. You've come this far, so just finish it out, see what lays at the end of the path.

    The beauty of the life is possessing the ability to change our minds, but in order to have a well rounded opinion you do need to complete the journey. Don't get stuck on the sidetrack. Just remember where you saw it and eventually, if the chosen path wears thin, revisit it.

    - Darkkin, the Tedious
     
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  11. Revanchist
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    I suppose I'm in a similar situation but reading all the replies above has really made me think a bit more clearly. The greatest fear I see we share is the concept of losing time and thinking how much of it can be lost on writing if it potentially turns out to be a waste. But I suppose that's a risk we have to take. I think it should be a hobby as far as time is concerned but as far as your passion is concerned it should be devoted to writing, as someone said before something has to pay the bills if not that.

    I guess this is the bitch of life. Personally I've always been thinking of the year like a pie or something. You take out a piece intended for something, say studying college and you think that after a month you finish the studying and you can focus on writing but it doesn't work like that. Turns out you have to balance it out in your every day life, just like a hobby. I frequently find myself "resting" from studying and saying to myself that I shouldn't work on my stories because today was a day for studying. It would be very easy if life was like:" okay, here is a month for writing" but it doesn't work like that. You have to balance it out every day and risk losing time because after all if you care so much about writing you should be willing to risk losing time on it.

    Worst part is I can say all this but I struggle to follow it myself. As for the self confidence bit, it's definitely normal but I can easily understand how it feels at the stage of the beginning. When you've written a few works you have at least something to fall back on and say " At least I wrote other works that were good." But at the start it's very uncomfortable because there is no safety net. Everyone had to go through it and so can we.
     
  12. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    It isn't the prospect of being a successful, selling writer that makes writing worthwhile, even if publishing is your ultimate goal. So, I would never view my writing as "time lost". It's time spent, and from the time I began spending, I've enjoyed it, and will continue to do so, whether I ultimately attain success or not.

    @United - my advice is to continue your career plan, with the understanding that you will pursue writing as well. That's what I did. Life intervened and threw some unexpected curve balls my way. It may well do the same for you. But I've always had my love of writing.
     
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  13. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Years ago I had a quote stuck to my wall in my home office. During a move, I lost it so I don't remember who the author of the comment was. But I do remember the quote (though, perhaps, inexact in content.) The author of the quote was, and I'm guessing still is, a very well-known, successful writer. His words really hit home for me.
    "Every time you publish a new book, you are always certain, this time they
    [the reader public] will realize that I am a fraud and what a really bad writer
    I am."

    And this from a guy who had been in the business, at the top of the heap for many years. So, yes, it is normal to have self-doubts. But that doesn't mean you have to give in to them. But, to underscore what others have already said, don't stop doing what you do. Keep working toward that degree. Even if, someday, you end up as the world's best selling novelist ever, you will never regret having that degree.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2014
  14. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    I have self doubt, too. And I'm not planning to make a living off this. My plan is to stick the book online somewhere and hopefully make enough to take the kids out for ice cream. (And write more after that.)
     
  15. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Doubting yourself is completely normal, and everyone succumbs to it at some point. In fact, if I posted all the things Kafka wrote about doubting himself, I'd be here all day.
     
  16. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Maybe self-doubt is the reason so many writers drink. Alcohol is liquid courage! Liquid confidence! ;)
     
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  17. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'll drink to that!
     
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  18. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Throwing your career prospects into the air to become a writer, out of the blue? On impulse? No. Bad plan.

    Once you have written and sold your work and built it up to a level where you know you can continue to do this for a living, THEN consider chucking the day job. Not before. You won't actually gain as a writer by stopping living 'life' anyway, especially if it means you can't pay your bills, keep your internet connection going, replace your computer when it goes phut, etc. You kind of need the interaction you get with a job, work colleagues, getting to and fro, etc, to keep your writing juices flowing.

    I'm retired now, but I know I was a much more productive writer when I also had a 'day job.' I think it had to do with the discipline of needing to fit writing into my schedule. Now that I don't have to fit it in, I find myself putting it off! Perverse. I know. o_O
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2014
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  19. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have the same sort of problem, jannert, and I'm not even retired! But every time I have down time or vacation time or a long weekend coming up, I always think, "Ahhhh. NOW I'll be able to get some productive writing done!" A week later? I'm lucky if I've gotten ten pages done!
     
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  20. MaryMO
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    MaryMO Member

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    Self-doubt is normal, but like they've already replied here don't quit your education to become a mathematician. If I could go back to school to further my knowledge on writing I would. But I have other obligations and people to take care of that require me to have a steady income.

    Writing to me isn't a hobby, it's a passion. A way to express my thoughts and feeling, but writing is lucrative. It doesn't pay the bills or feed my kids. Use your writing to do that if you want, but remind yourself that you'll need a job to work towards your goal to become a full time writer.
    At least that's what works for me, but I also enjoy what I do. That's not to say I don't find myself wanting to quit my current job either.

    It all comes down to your choice. Do you want to be one of those that struggle everyday and worry about income, picking up odd jobs here and there? Or would you rather have a career as a teacher who has the opportunity to surround yourself with people who can give you some incite on writing and still have a steady income?

    Imagine what it would be like if you didn't have a career and spent most of your time worrying about money. It takes away your focus on writing when you get the chance to do so.
    Good luck!
     
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  21. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was just reading about Stephen King and how he still doubts himself with every new book... http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/stephen-king-the-rolling-stone-interview-20141031

    Now, his doubts are on a more artistic level rather than a financial one. I don't think he needs to worry about making a living. But in terms of self-doubt being natural? Yeah, apparently so!
     
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  22. aikoaiko
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    aikoaiko Contributing Member

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    Yes, you should stick with the day plan, but that doesn't mean you should stop writing. Life is hardly ever an either/or proposition, and if writing is what you were meant to do, it'll get you back one way or the other.

    There are very few great authors who produced anything of value in their twenties. There are some I can think of offhand, but most needed time to develop their talent and experience life enough to have anything of importance to say. Writing is a unique 'sport' in that the older you are the better you get, so finishing a degree won't hurt you, and will actually add to the store of experience you can draw on later for your first masterpiece. :agreed:
     
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  23. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    @BayView
    Thanks for the link, it was a good read.
     

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