Self-doubt is something every writer or artist experiences; we spend hours every day devoted to our craft – most of the time when we don’t feel like it – cranking out words and phrases, hacking and bludgeoning at mental marble, trying to set free the angels of our imaginations. We pace back-and-forth in our rooms, muttering to ourselves, running our fingers through our hair, digging boogers out of our nostrils; anything to avoid sitting down and ruining the beautiful images stored up in our heads by transforming them into profane and imperfect language. No matter how productive we are on any given day, we will more than once during the creative process, have episodes in which we feel inadequate; our approach pedestrian; our prose labored; our ideas cliched and derivative. We go to the bathroom to rub a hot towel on our face, then look at our reflection in the mirror and say to ourselves: “You are pathetic; everything you’ve done today is a mockery to the craft of writing. I f you continue, you’ll be spitting in the faces of all the great artists you claim to admire. You should have listened to your guidance counselor, and majored in graphic design, because then, at least you’d be doing something useful for someone.’
“So, how does one deal with this?” You may ask. Well, the first thing you have to do is relax. Accept that, as an artist, you are naturally self-critical; it’s in your instincts to compare yourself to others in your discipline – how would you have discovered your craft without the ability to recognize good work when you saw it? The important thing to do is not fall victim to your good taste. Show your work to someone you trust to give you an honest opinion and ask them specific questions about the aspects of your work you’re unsure about: as someone viewing from the perspective of a reader, their opinion of it will be untainted by a creator’s bias. And if you are having doubts, it may help to listen to them if they sound reasonable; if you feel like your idea has been done before, try to think of a unique way to present it. Three years ago I was writing a story about a socially awkward boy in college trying to win the affection of a beautiful girl. I knew it wasn’t an original premise, so I decided to make the protagonist completely delusional about how in love he and the girl were; the story ended with the girl tearing the boy apart in front of everyone, and it became the funniest piece of work I had ever written.
But, the most important advice I can give for how to deal with self-doubt while writing, is to keep writing. Things that confused you may make sense once you have finished your work. If not don’t worry; the first or second draft is never perfect, just keep working on it; and if you’ve done everything can, and you still aren’t satisified … look at it this way: it’s better to have a whole bad story than half a good one.