My Writer Self-Doubts: I am My Own Biggest Critic

There is something that curdles in my chest and stomach; it’s not a comfortable feeling. It’s actually rather uncomfortable. There’s a sense of dread, as if a fist is clenching tightly around my esophagus from the inside. I look at the page and I know there’s something I’m forgetting; I know it’s not quite ready. I can’t let go. It’s not good enough, not horrible…but not great either. I’m prepared for rejection and judgment before I’ve even tried to submit my piece to a journal. I confess to being a rewriting addict to the point that, for me, nothing I write is ever good enough or finished.

When I was writing for class, I always had a deadline that an essay had to be finished by. I always knew, due to my incessant revising and rewriting, that I would miss a half-edited sentence. One of those sentences where it the sentence just starts over in the middle so you can tell the revision was not completed. Eventually, when the clock read 4am, and I realized I had to be at work in 5 hours, I would decide that my essay was as finished as it could be. As a writing consultant this is probably something I should not admit; however, ever writer has his or her problem areas. Knowing what my own writer flaws are helps me to focus on areas where I need to personally improve. For me, one of the biggest areas is simply having confidence in my own talent.

Now that I am no longer in graduate school, the writing I do is for professional and personal reasons. As all creative writers, I desire nothing more than to be published. However, I also know that today everyone thinks he or she can write and that you need something extraordinary to catch the attention of an editor. I’m consistently searching inside for that original and unique creative idea that will make my story or poem stand out. I’m never satisfied with what I come up with though, and I’m never completely satisfied with what I finally produce. I am my own biggest critic. I firmly believe myself to be just an okay writer. I know that I’m not the best; but I’m also far from the worst.

It’s been a slow progression to change, but I’ve finally come to the realization that my own writing fears stems from both my own self-inflicted fears of failure and my self-classification of being “okay.” In order to be a writer, you have to believe in yourself. This is something I consistently tell other writers; but I find it nearly impossible to think about in terms of myself. I was raised to be humble, and to know that there is always someone better or more talented. While this mindset has influenced me to always revise and rewrite, it has also prevented me from ever fully believing in my own talent or writing abilities.

I’m not sure what clicked inside of me, but recently I’ve decided that this fear of imperfection and mediocrity has ruled me as a writer far too long. Maybe I’ll never be the next J.K. Rowling, Chuck Palahniuk, or Sylvia Plath – and that’s okay. While I may feel this incredible sense of fear at the thought of having someone else read and reject my work, I’ll also never experience that incredible sense of accomplishment when something I crafted does get accepted for publication. So, as the year 2012 nears, it’s with this new mindset that I’ve decided to say “shut up” to my inner doubt. After all, what’s the worst (I mean best) that can happen?

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