Updated: Mar 2, 2020
You sit at the computer, fingers poised above the keys, ready to fill the blank page with the epic story making the rounds in your brain. A booming voice drowns out all thoughts in your head with two little words. You suck. The self doubt troll has struck.
He prays on the creative types, chewing away at our confidence until we are merely stubs of the writers we want to be. I became intimately familiar with my troll not long ago while writing a short story with a friend. We agreed that she would write the beginning and I was excited to see what I would be working with. As I read her words, I felt a paralyzing doubt creep into my soul. A voice shouted that I would never be able to write like her. Her words were beautiful; poetic and haunting. They mesmerized me and I was equally impressed and intimidated.
Within minutes, I had conjured up a list of authors who write “better” than I do. A secret society of geniuses I would never belong to. By the time I was done letting the self doubt troll tell me all the reasons why I should never write another word, I wanted to drown my sorrows in a tub of chocolate chip cookie dough and become a race car driver.
Never one to give into defeat, I carried on in spite of the knowledge that it was futile. Shortly after, the final story we wrote for the Team Games, one I had written the ending for, won first place in the final event, securing our team's first place win. It was just the boost I needed. I realized that I may not write like my friend or the other members of my team, or any of the amazing authors I follow, but I am getting better with every story I write.
The troll still shouts at me sometimes, but I found some ways to help banish him back to the shadows where he belongs:
The self doubt troll wants to keep you from improving and succeeding. Recognize these thoughts, then distance yourself from them.
We are all on our own paths. Writing in our own ways, for our own reasons. Don’t get trapped into comparing yourself to someone whose journey is nothing like yours.
If you write today, you will be an even better writer tomorrow. Acknowledge the potential to improve. Believe in the possibility of success.
Don’t be afraid to fail. If you have never failed at anything, it means you have never tried and fear has paralyzed your growth. Every person who has ever had success has also failed.
Remind yourself of all the times you have been successful. Did you take a chance and enter a contest? Have an article published? Finish a short story you had been working on for months? Focus on these successes by keeping visual reminders near your writing space.
Surround yourself with people who are honest and supportive. Turn to your friends and family, join social media groups that are drama free and offer support to their members, make friends with other writers and keep these people close.
Remember, you are not alone. Every single person who has ever written something has felt the same way as you do. Even the most famous authors have battled the self doubt troll.
He may never go away completely, but I’m done letting him keep me from reaching my goals. If he wants a war, he’s got one. I may not write lyrical prose like my friend or have the easy style of my favorite author. I just write like me. And that’s okay.