Friday, November 6, 2015

Harnessing the Doubts

How could I have thought I could write a book?
I don’t know anything. I haven’t lived. What I write about is all conjecture. No one will glean anything of value from it.
Wow – pattern, mirrors, symbolism? My story doesn’t have any deeper meaning or cohesive shape! People will think it’s so clumsy and amateurish.

Have any of these doubts ever run through your mind? They have in mine, from time to time in my writing journey. After a brief bout of acknowledging the doubts and feeling depressed, I prayed, pressed forward, and ignored them.

Lately, however, I’ve been contemplating those doubts from a different angle. I had a recent, fairly strong attack when I was stuck in a part of my story that required me to write something I knew little about. Helpful, informative sources were eluding me. I prayed about it and the thought came to my head, This is actually good for me. It keeps me humble and reminds me where my strength comes from. Wait a second – “harnessing the doubts” would make a great name for an article! I began to consider several ways doubts can actually help writers.

First, and I think the most powerful, is: doubting our abilities can drive us to the throne of God. Just like any other part of our life we’re unsure about or have no control over, writing troubles make us pray for the wisdom that’s beyond us. Problems remind us whose work it is we’re doing and that the final product and its potential to bless people results from God’s hand upon it, not our own.

Humility in a writer is a good thing, I believe. Writers could be arrogant, because people tend to look up to them: “You wrote a book? Wow!” But when doubts assail, we’re reminded how hard we have to work and that being any good in writing is more a result of hard, hard work and God’s grace than because of innate superpowers.

Doubts make us work harder. If we feel that we’re weak in some area of our writing, we just might be, and we should therefore seek out resources to help. Continual learning is vital for a writer, just like in any walk of life. There’s always room for improvement. In fact, I’ve heard it said that having doubts like that means a person is a real writer. It means we really, really care about our craft. If we thought everything we wrote was perfect, or if we never gave any thought to perfecting what we write because we just churn it out for money, that’s called “hack writing”—and it isn’t very complimentary. Working past the doubts is what strengthens us.

(I really like how a contemporary writer named Dani Shapiro puts it in her answer to the second question in this interview HERE; I can’t reprint it because of copyright. Just ignore the tabloids on the side!)

If you have doubts, you’re in good company. Plenty of famous and talented writers have had them and persevered in spite of them, creating long-beloved works. Feelings don’t always mirror reality.

HOWEVER. Never, never dwell on your doubts. Never let them convince you to stop writing. It’s okay if they occur once in a while—it often can’t be helped—but if you’re continually having them, you need to root them out if you’re going to keep with this high calling. “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt,” says Sylvia Plath, a twentieth-century writer. I would say perpetual self-doubt can be debilitating. Overarchingly, the writing life needs to be confident; occasional doubts only serve to keep you on your toes and seeking God’s help. A book or story is never absolutely perfect, but you should be happy with it when it’s finished, because it is a labor of love, creativity, and skill, and God gifted you with those assets for just such a purpose. He will use it!

How do you deal with your doubts as a writer? For encouragement when you need it, read this blog post that features inspiring quotes by successful writers: 20 Inspiring Quotes...

Kelsey Bryant is an author, blogger, and copy editor who loves the Lord. She revels in many things: the beauty of God's Word, the music of English, the wonder of nature, the joy of creativity, the freedom of motion, the richness of literature, the intrigue of history ... and much more. To learn more about her, visit her website or blog 


  1. This was a great post! Thank you for sharing.


    1. Thank you, Bekah! You're welcome, and thanks for commenting. :) Keep up the writing!


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