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  1. DeadMoon
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    DeadMoon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Self Doubt

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by DeadMoon, Mar 19, 2015.

    Whenever I am writing something new, I hear the words in my head in a voice different from my own. I don't know if this is me unconscious remembering that I have heard or read the words somewhere else, or is it my own self doubt telling me that I didn't really write anything good.

    Anyone else think this way?
     
  2. Darkkin
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    Darkkin Reflection of a nobody Contributor

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    That voice is always, always whispering in the back of my head. I hate that voice because I know it speaks the truth...more often than not. :dry:
     
  3. Turniphead
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    That voice is very valuable - we all have it. With no self-doubt you'd become overconfident, then produce poor writing.
     
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  4. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think even the most popular and successful writers feel self-doubt. It's instructive to read interviews with famous writers, books of their letters, diaries, etc. You get a glimpse behind the mask and see the insecurities that produce the work. John Steinbeck wrote classics that are still in print today, but even after great financial success, winning Pultizer Prize, etc., he still fought self-doubt.

    I guess you can never escape it.
     
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  5. DeadMoon
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    DeadMoon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Very true now that I stop to think about it. Stephen King didn't think "Carrie" was any good and that book launched his writing career. Hunter S Thompson often wrote that he thought his work was crap. I know there are many more examples too.
     
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  6. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    There should be a middle ground for self-doubt. On one extreme, you're arrogant and assume your writing looks to have been scribed by God himself; you can do no wrong. On another extreme, you're so insecure that you don't even have the courage to open up the document and type 'Chapter One'. In both extremes, your writing suffers. On one end, you write horrid prose, but you don't realize it. In the other end, you've got nothing at all. The middle ground is the voice that says, "Keep it up, keep going. Make notes on troubled spots, but keep going. We can edit it out later."
     
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  7. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    And that's the best thing about writing ... Editing.

    You don't have to get it right the first time. Or even the second, third, ninth ... because you can edit it.

    What I find really valuable, is having an extremely trustworthy friend who I can bounce my ideas off. She then tells me, quite honestly, if I'm on to something good or if I'm barking up a gumtree!
     
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  8. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have it massively of late. Everything I write just reads like shit. It seems to come and go in phases.
     
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  9. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I think a bit of self doubt is normal. And pretty healthy.

    You should read what some of the better writers thought of their own work. Of all the critics that have ever slammed H.P. Lovecraft, none were ever so violently dismissive, harsh, and relentless as one H.P. Lovecraft. It got to the point where some of his best stories, stories that have terrified readers for soon-to-be 100 years, and have left a powerful mark on the development of horror as a genre, he regarded as doggerel and was ashamed any other eye than his own even seen them. One of his greatest stories, I forget which one, he almost threw on the fire.
     
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  10. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I've said it before in this forum: Sometimes I read what I've written and it seems brilliant to me. The next day, I read the same thing again and it seems like worthless sewage. The same pages, but I have completely different reactions to them depending on how I feel at a given time. This is a huge contributor to my self-doubt. I cannot trust my own evaluation of my work; how, then, am I supposed to have confidence in my abilities?

    I took a few Gotham writing courses to try to dispel this fog. They helped a lot - independent readers (including the published writers who served as instructors) told me my work was good. Now I just have to sell it to a publisher. I haven't done this yet, but I hardly ever submit anything, so that's not surprising.
     
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  11. Poziga
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    Poziga Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, he actually threw it in the garbage, but his wife picked it out, read it and told him how excellent it was. He continued and she helped him with advices how does a teenage-girl life look like. :)
     
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  12. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with Link on the importance of the middle ground. I think I come across just as many writers who are way too arrogant about their writing as writers who are insecure about it, and I don't think either extreme is a useful tool for improvement.

    Are any of us Shakespeare? Nope, probably not. Are any of us completely without any ideas or creativity or thoughts worth expressing? Nope, probably not.

    I think we should always be trying to improve, while also celebrating our victories. And, for me at least, I think we should try to train ourselves away from a mindset of extremes. When something goes well I make sure to talk myself down - That was cool, but there's still lots to do. When something goes poorly, I can talk myself up - That sucks, but focus on the good stuff for a while. I don't want to live on an emotional roller coaster.
     
  13. Megalith
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    Megalith Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think we are the most bias judges of our works and the harshest at the same time. That is because we understand the work, and with it, its weaknesses. Sometimes those weakness overwhelm us and we overreact.

    As long as we recognize those weaknesses though, we can always find room for improvement. Remember that as writers, we make the most important decision. That's deciding when a book is done. And really that is our satisfaction or frustration but usually both.

    It's a sad and joyous day when your work grows beyond your capabilities to improve it. Whether you like it or not, you feel that there is little more you can do for your child. I think it's those moments when writers consider tossing the baby with the bathwater.

    I think it's important to remember; the bias that gave your story beauty wasn't false. A new reader who stumbled first upon your novel might feel the same thing. The harshness is the reality that stumbled through your mind after the rose colored glasses wear off. How it compares, how those other things did it better. Maybe then is seems shallow and cliche'. This important part of the story now seems to be lacking on all fronts. But then you remember how you use it to make something that you haven't heard of anywhere else; something you dared to call your own. Then finally in that moment of re-triumph a sudden flash of inspiration. You add depth and wonder to that moment you suddenly found so weak- All in conjunction with that spectacular set up you have conjured.

    Little by little we patch up the weakness to our works, getting closer to our personal perfection. And although it will never achieve that, to the point where it may even seem incomplete, it is still worth following through with your vision till the end. We should all be a little more confident about our visions. Only through our skills as writers do we find the power to express our visions so that other may find value in them. It is this skill that is more important than the vision itself; as far as becoming renowned is concerned.

    The vision is just as important but something that will most likely be misunderstood or lost altogether. At least for some time. Rather it is the vision that will make people come back to the book after it has been read. It is the writing that will draw them in and keep them interested. But the vision will always bring them back for more.

    So I guess what I'm trying to say is that self-doubt is important and it is less of a balance and more of a mis application. Do not doubt your visions so carelessly, because then your work can lose direction, themes, and even genre. It is important to exercise and improve visions, but that isn't exactly an improvement on writing but an improvement of yourself.

    At least that is my take on the art of writing and how self-doubt applies; which I know doesn't include people who pump out popular stories every other day with little regard for anything I said here. Like always, factors can be min-max'ed to get a satisfactory result. But it just depends on what kind of result you want.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2015
  14. Tim3232
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    Tim3232 Active Member

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    I don't hear my words in a different voice but I certainly have loads of self doubt. I can't see what's wrong with my latest - but i'm sure there is loads wrong with it. A couple of people have had a look and picked up a few typos but nothing more - which just tells me they are rubbish at critiquing.

    If your self doubt is telling you that you didn't write anything any good - it just might be right - but I doubt very much that it is totally right. You could find a buddy to swap with so you both point out what's good about each other's writing, if you're desperate. I always like to hear what's wrong with my writing because I can't see the wood for the trees.
     
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  15. cazann34
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    cazann34 Active Member

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    I hear a voice in my head too. It isn't self-doubt but it is a voice I heed. It says, 'you should be writing.....you should be writing." Self doubt always dissolves when I'm writing. It may be bad prose or unrealistic dialogue but as long as I'm writing I'm learning the craft.
     
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  16. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Pffft. Take that self doubt and send it out to learn. Whatever skills we lack, whatever our writing's shortcomings, it's not the end of the road. You're unsure of it, go learn more.
     
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  17. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    We must all have a ceiling of competence we hit despite studying, or a point where the extent of the edits required are prohibitive. Sometimes I have a strong image in my mind and my inability to translate it into the appropriate words becomes infuriating.
     
  18. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do you think you're unable permanently, or just not able YET?

    (I think both options are equally valid and equally possible, I just think it's important that we develop the ability to distinguish between them)
     
  19. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It doesn't work like that. If it did, we'd all be Shakespeare-level geniuses. As I've pointed out, even the best writers are usually plagued by self-doubt, even as they're writing masterpieces the world will long celebrate.

    Off the top of my head, the only two writers I can think of who were were convinced of their own greatness were James Joyce and Vladimir Nabokov. Nabokov's Paris Review interview is such a blast of egomania that it verges on the comic - which may have been what he had in mind.
     
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  20. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I don't believe that. Sure, it might take me three lifetimes to learn theoretical physics. But there is always something more you can learn about writing.

    The thing I see that most often keeps writers back is thinking either you can't learn any more or you don't need to learn any more.
     
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  21. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    A bit of both. There is a level I would like to achieve (as would we all, and it is a high bar), which I am unlikely to achieve due to lack of time, commitment (there are other pastimes I simply won't give up in favour of writing, plus work), and also a limit to my natural talent.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2015
  22. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I didn't say you'd never feel self doubt, I said channel it into learning instead of wallowing in it.
     
  23. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Fair enough, but easier said than done. That's the thing with self-doubt. ;)
     
  24. Megalith
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    Megalith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Quite the impossible thing you ask. Both feel equally possible to anyone in Chinspinner's shoes. The edges of our cage are not so easily defined or so easy to find. How committed are you @Chinspinner, to the images in your head? Only be accepting the possibility that it will never come will you find the courage to find out if it will or not. Because that is the bet you made on yourself as a writer, whether it is possible or not comes second. And I guess part of that is a serious commitment, which won't guarantee anything either way, just increases your chances of success.

    Well that self doubt is the application of your learning. If you are missing that voice than it is possible you are putting your story on a pedestal or aren't well versed enough to find it's weaknesses.
     
  25. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    No, just no.:dry:

    It's not what you feel, it's what you do about it.
     
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