In the last post, we looked at the relationship between self-doubt and comparisonitis.
But what if your feelings stem from a fear of others judging your work?
Because they will.
It’s comforting to know that even established writers worry about criticism.
In an interview with Unwin and Allen, Khaled Hosseini describes going through this. He had recently started his second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns. His debut novel, The Kite Runner, had sold millions of copies and won several awards. As his fans waited eagerly for his next book, Hosseini began to worry about his literary abilities.
He pushed through by realizing his experience was normal. Numerous authors before him had battled with the same thoughts. As he got further into his story, he was able to focus all his energy on his characters and forget his fears. To help himself get into the zone, he rented a windowless office that he referred to as his bunker.
You might not have the money to rent a special writing room.
But there are a lot of other places you can go to immerse yourself in your writing and shut out the voices in your head.
Try using a spare bedroom as a temporary office. If it’s difficult to find your own space at home, get out of the house and write in a public place like a café or library. We don’t always need silence to write. A change of scene can also be a great distraction from our mind chatter.
Sometimes I write in food courts as they’re much bigger than cafes. I don’t feel pressured to give up my table as soon as I’ve finished my coffee. I can be alone and have company at the same time.
And they have good air conditioning too!
Self-doubt doesn’t stop after you’ve published a certain number of books.
In 2012, journalist Decca Aitkenhead interviewed J.K. Rowling. They spoke about the upcoming release of Rowling’s first adult book, The Casual Vacancy. When Aikenhead mentioned how much she enjoyed the book, Rowling could hardly contain her excitement.
After Harry Potter, Rowling was under enormous pressure from her readers. She explained that she approached this by imagining the worst case scenario.
You might be thinking it’s easy for J.K. Rowling not to care what people think. After all, she is a multi-millionaire.
But she never set out to be one. Before anything, she was and is a writer. After Harry Potter there was no need for her to keep writing, but she did.
As writers, we all have one thing in common:
Our stories are part of who we are.
When someone criticises our work, it’s like we’re being judged as human beings and found lacking.
Push back by imagining the worst. If we put our fears out in the open, we become lighter and freer.
When I’m imagining the worst case scenario, I find it helpful to go back and list all the reasons why I write.
The first one that comes to mind is that life has so many layers to it. I can’t just live it. I have to write about it too. I need to capture tiny pieces to reflect and reimagine.
If people don’t like what I write, will it hurt?
Will I stop writing?
Why do you write?