Beating Writer’s Doubt with Positivity

I am participating in the Writing Contest: Writers Crushing Doubt. Hosted by Positive Writer – See more at:

Writer’s Doubt is worse than Writer’s Block, because Writer’s Block has an end. Writer’s Doubt is like a nag that tells you that your writing isn’t good now, nor will it ever be good enough (even if you’ve been published or received a monetary award), because it will convince you that the competition was worse, or that you won’t be able to pull it off again.

Despite having a modicum of success or accolades, I still suffer from Writer’s Doubt, because even though I believe my work is good, I wonder if anyone who matters in the publishing world will believe it is, and even if they will, will it be what they’re looking for. These are the times I remind how my third-grade teacher, Miss Cahoon (all teachers are “Miss” when you’re a little kid), told me how much she enjoyed reading my journals (which made me feel like Francie Nolan in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”). I do this because I can say, “See, someone not related to me liked my work!”

When I was sixteen, I placed first in the fiction category in the Gulf Coast Writers Association’s “Let’s Write!” literary contest for my epic poem, “Nova” (our English class was studying Greek mythology at the time)—a piece which I received a C for because my teacher said it was “too creative”. The win not only gave me a boost because I’d beat out adults, but also “showed” (not told) my teacher that creativity counts.

Then, just before my high school graduation, Troy Moon, a local newspaper columnist whose speech at a local school had stuck with me, recommended me for the “Mary Roberts Rinehart Award” (after reading a short story I wrote). I didn’t win, but that recommendation meant a great deal.  I don’t have the original letter, but a copy of it has been preserved in my scrapbook for almost twenty years (see below).

So, how to get through Writer’s Doubt? Save every rejection (most of mine are tucked away in an e-mail file), but keep them put away (only to be taken out after a triumph), and display your successes (frame any certificates, that kind of thing), because positivity breeds positivity. For example, when I toil at my craft, trying to prove something or beat someone, inspiration evaporates, but when I am writing for the joy of it, when my focus is on the writing itself, and not just on getting published (or even getting “likes” from my friends), that is when I do my best work, because that is what my focus is on—the work. Getting published will only add to my joy. It can never be the joy.

That said, sharing what I write (but not everything I write—many publications consider something “published” even if it’s just on your personal blog of 100 followers) and getting constructive feedback, whether online or in person, may not keep the dogs from barking, but it keeps them from biting.

Troy Moon



2 thoughts on “Beating Writer’s Doubt with Positivity

  1. Sarah this is wonderful! We all struggle, but please know that your talent is incredible. I’m just honored to be connected to you. I’ve already learned from you! I’m avoiding excessive “ly” words! I only hope that I can return the favor.

    • Lori, I feel the same way. I love your descriptive writing. I have had to slow myself down at times because I get so caught up in the dialogue.

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