7 tips to keep writing when plagued with self-doubt – Kristin Billerbeck

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By Kristin Billerbeck

If you’ve been around writers long enough, you will meet every type of writer personality.  From the type who thinks they’re the next Shakespeare and has no problem selling their books over the coffin at a funeral, “Hey, I’m so sorry for your loss.  You know, I wrote a book that deals with grief — well, in part of it anyway.  It’s actually a romance.  I have one here.  Should I sign it for you?”♥

Then, you’ll meet the kind of writer who struggles with painful self-doubt regardless of how much success they’ve experienced.  I tend to fall into the latter category.  If you do too, here are my words of advice for moving forward when everything in your head is telling you, “You’re not special.  There are so many writers out there.  Why do you think anyone needs to hear from you?”

1. Keep writing.

When you stop writing, your book loses momentum and so do you. Staying in the story keeps you focused and it doesn’t give you time to obsess on those negative voices that will take over if you let them.

2. Enlist friends.

After a personal loss, I struggled to get back into writing. I took four years’ off and during that time, many other writers had come onto the publishing scene. I didn’t see where I fit in any longer and lost my will to keep writing.  My writing friends were the ones who kept me going.  One offered to read/edit a chapter a day — as long as I wrote!  Others simply encouraged me to keep going and said things like, “This is the best thing you’ve ever written!”

Was it true?  I don’t know, but I certainly needed to hear it in order to keep going.

3. Develop a tougher skin.

Bad reviews hurt. Some are even cruel and very personal — especially if you’re of a more sensitive nature.  It can be hard to face rejection, first from agents and publishers, and then once your book is purchased, from readers. The way you have to think of bad reviews is that the book wasn’t for that reviewer. They’re not your tribe, so try to focus on what your readers loved about your book and do more of that in the next one.

Also, the critics didn’t write a book.  It’s pretty easy to be a keyboard warrior and punch a 2-star review button then move on with your life.  In fact, it takes no thought whatsoever.  While your book took hours and hours of painstaking research, writing, and rewrites, they pressed a button.

Brene Brown quoted Theodore Roosevelt in her book, “Daring Greatly” and it’s an idea that all writers should embrace:

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes out short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…” – Theodore Roosevelt

4. Stay away from toxic individuals.

If you have people in your life who are telling you that you’ll fail, if you listen to them, you will. Use their harmful words as motivation to prove them wrong. But at the same time, limit your time with them and don’t trust them with your fears and doubts.

5. Finish something.

When self-doubt rears its ugly head, a writer can obsess over one paragraph for three days and never actually move forward. Whether you follow an outline, or listen to the voices in your head, keep going.  If you get to the next chapter and realize it was the wrong direction, it’s still easier to fix it than to stare at a blank page — or that same paragraph again.

6. Embrace your gifts.

Everyone tells their stories differently. Your voice is truly unique. What are your talents?  Are you great at dialogue? Do you excel at setting? Is a character’s inner voice your strong suit?  Write your strengths first and fill in the holes later.  It will boost your confidence.

7. Don’t look around.

It’s very easy to watch that writer who came out of nowhere and catapulted to the NYT #1 spot. That’s not your journey. At least not yet.  Focus on your book and what it has to offer a reader, then, use social media to help get the word out — even if you’re still plagued with self-doubt.

Sometimes, that voice in your head is wrong. You’ve got this.

Kristin Billerbeck is a bestselling, award-winning author of over forty-five novels. Her work has been featured in The New York Times and on The Today Show. Kristin is a proud mother of four and a lifelong resident of Silicon Valley, California.  When not writing, she enjoys good handbags, bad reality television and annoying her children on social media.



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