On Writing —The Doubt Monster

Boy oh boy, do I struggle with self-doubt sometimes, especially when it is something that I really want in life, like becoming a published author of children’s books (middle grade & YA). I attended a writer’s workshop recently and listened to published science fiction author, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, wax and wane about the long and sometimes difficult road to publishing. “There are many fish in the pond now,” Danielle told us, “And if you don’t work really hard, and manage to have some luck thrown in, it’s just not going to happen.”

I already had doubts about my skills as a writer, since I’m untried and untested, but now with so many wannabe writers flooding the market, making the competition intense (getting published is like winning the lottery nowadays), I started to shrink in my seat to the size of Mrs. Potato head and felt like her too. The self-doubt monster sat on my shoulder and whispered in my ear. “You’ll never find a publisher now, who are you kidding? Do something else, this is way too hard, too much work and for what?”

Now, Danielle did offer all of us at the workshop some sage advice, such as start thinking of your writing as a hobby instead of a career, at least until you are published. That did help. A little. But self-doubt has a way of showing up no matter what affirmations I tell myself. My fear of failing is always lurking in the back of my mind, and Damn it to H-E-double toothpick, I really want to be a published writer! So I devised a plan to slay this monster for good, or keep it in chains until it breaks loose again.

Enter the DOUBT CLOSET. Every time that I feel a doubt I tell it to go into the designated closet and slam the door shut. And then I will say quietly myself or out loud (not in public places unless you want people to think you have turrets syndrome or something. Come to think of it, that actually sounds like fun, but would probably land me in a straight jacket), the exact opposite, thereby making a positive statement and slaying Mr. Doubt Monster.

Yeah, that works.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. fox81j

    If you will not stand for yourself, who will? You’ve managed a successful blog from what I understand, so you know you can capture attention and have skill with your words. Believe. Take the chance. It may be like trying to win the lottery, but no one EVER one without obtaining a ticket, right?

    1. Shelley Szajner

      Thank you for your wise words, TOTF! I will buy that ticket!

  2. fox81j

    That’s “won without obtaining….”

  3. Danielle Ackley-McPhail

    Oh! Shelley,

    I’m sorry I fed your self-doubt, I SO didn’t mean to. I only meant to convey that writers couldn’t just sit back and expect it to happen…to be handed to them, as some do. I think you have come up with a great way to stomp on it, though.

    Yes, publishing is tough, and yes luck can play a part, but so does skill and hard work. Please don’t be discouraged.

    And just so none of your readers come away with the wrong impression, the reason for thinking of writing as a dedicated hobby, rather than a career is to–with hope–stave off the frustration and depression authors can experience when they don’t become a blockbuster overnight. When you start to depend on the writing for your future and livelihood you no longer enjoy the process and you lose perspective on why you love doing it. If it is a dedicated hobby, as I like to call it, there is no pressure to succeed on any particular timetable…you do what you’re doing, you work hard and pursue opportunities, but there is (I hope) less stress if it takes a while to take off.



    1. Shelley Szajner

      Hi Danielle!

      Oh gosh, no, you didn’t feed my self-doubt at all—it was already there! lol I just think that when a distinguished author, such as yourself shares their how-to story, most newbie writers are already intimidated by the whole process of getting published, so that no matter what you say, we are scaredy-cats. I know that I am! I really just wanted to share my feelings of self- doubt and how I remedy that malady as a way to help others in the same boat and I used the writing workshop as an example.

      I am most grateful to you for commenting on my blog and clarifying further about the topic of publishing. Also, sharing your expertise and experience at the workshop was VERY helpful to me and I’d gladly go to another workshop of yours anytime. You’re a wonderful writer and speaker and very supportive of other writers, which is a great combo! I agree with you that we can’t just sit back and let it happen. The ‘dedicated hobby view’ is also an excellent way to view a writing career as it does take the stress off quite a bit <—–Thank you for that tidbit!

      May the Faeries shower you with Blessings,


      1. Danielle Ackley-McPhail

        Whew…my own self-doubt slip showing 😉 Glad to hear all is well and that I have been helpful.



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