Many writers struggle with self-doubt. I don’t know if this is a product of type of people who write, or if it’s the result of the subjective nature of measuring what’s “good writing” that leaves them crippled when trying to assess their work. Whatever the reason, I find some level of self-doubting is nearly ubiquitous among artists.
Should I write more? Do I spend too much time writing? Did I get rejected because my story was bad? Is this story any good? Sounds familiar?
Writer Robert Dawson has put together what he calls a Writer’s Bill of Rights (check out his original here), and I think it’s an excellent document. It sets out what all writers should understand as they enter the profession: it’s full of failure, rejection, and unrecognized genius. If a writer doesn’t know this going in, there can be emotional trouble ahead. Understanding this makes it a lot easier to handle. So if you’re writer, remember that “you are allowed to have a family who need and deserve large quantities of your time,” “you are allowed to write stories that are not as good as the best thing you ever wrote,” and “you are allow to have stories that haven’t sold and may never sell.”
Some might argue that Mr. Dawson’s list are excuses, but you know what, I think he’s right. While writers should never settle for mediocrity and should always strive to improve, writers also need to keep perspective. Not every story I write is better than the last. Not everything I write deserves an award, and that’s okay. I don’t see these as excuses, especially if these ideas allow me to keep writing, when self-doubt makes a lot of people stop.