Setting Self Doubt on Fire: The Horror Tree Crew tackle Mr Self Doubt
Hi all! I’m back again and this time I have a very interesting post for you. Since starting my self-doubt fighting posts I have shared with you all my little tricks and ways you can fight your own Mr Self Doubt, however, this time I thought it would be great to see how other writers deal with Mr Self Doubt. So I called on the other Horror Tree contributors to answer some questions, and share how they deal with self-doubt.
So here you have it the Horror Tree crew deal with Mr Self Doubt.
Nicole J Simms (Me)
- What do you write, why, and when did you start? I mainly write horror, fantasy and crime (the crime bit is new). I tend to write more horror than anything, there’s a darkness within this pink bubble. As well as writing fiction, I also write articles about dealing with self-doubt as a writer on this lovely website here. I used to write a lot when I was younger: plays, poems, etc., however I decided to give up the “unrealistic dream” (shocking, I know), and concentrate on a “real” career, the “real” career didn’t go to plan, so to fill the void in my life I started to write again. It’s been over 2 years now since I started on this new journey, and any success I’ve had has been a real surprise to me. I write because I have something to say and because it makes me feel complete, cliché I know. It’s like I’m home, and that dream I had that I would once affect readers the way authors have affected me is alive and brighter than ever before.
- Have you ever experienced self-doubt? If yes, what causes it, and what do you do to overcome it? I experience self-doubt all the time; the only time doubt doesn’t creep in is while I’m writing, but once it comes to editing or submitting it’s there saying all those mean things. What causes my self-doubt is the fear of rejection and failure. I have this big issue with failing, and rejection hurts like you’ve been kicked in the gut. What I do to overcome my doubt is to write these posts and to keep on writing because I will never reach my goal if I don’t keep on trying.
- Has self-doubt ever stopped you in your journey? If yes, how did it stop you? Yes, earlier on in my writing journey after facing so many rejections I stopped writing, it didn’t last long though I soon had to give in. However, I stopped editing and submitting, which I hugely regret because I now have a huge pile of unedited stories that is still taking forever to bring down.
- What part of the writing journey do you fear the most and why? (Rejection, submitting etc.) Rejection, that someone will confirm my fears that I’m a fraud and couldn’t write a shopping list. It’s not as bad as it used to be; I don’t spend ages hovering over the send button anymore, and I bounce back from rejections a lot better, but it’s still there.
- Why do you keep writing, and what are your future writing plans? It’s simple, it’s because I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t write. I get grumpy if I haven’t written for a while, it’s crazy, but I just love it. I feel complete, and so proud after I finalise a story. I’ve had a taste of success and hunger for more.
In the short term I’m looking to submit loads more short stories, work on my novella and start editing that novel of mine. Future plans, I would love to write full time. I had a lovely day the other day, I wrote, did some baking and then edited a story, it gave me an insight into what could be the future and to be honest there’s nothing better. I’m not after fame and fortune, I just want to be able to live a comfortable life doing what I love, and doing something that gives me life.
- What do you write, why, and when did you start? I write speculative fiction, usually the dark stuff. I think a lot of my writing is therapeutic, not in the sense of working through trauma or the grind of everyday life, but rather as a way to work through a kind of existential crisis that pops up every time a story announces its presence in my thoughts. I get drawn into these story ideas and I just have to write them, though first I have to work them out in my head like a puzzle. Who is doing what, where and how? Why? WHY is WHO doing that WHY WHERE?! It’s almost compulsory. I love it, though, the mystery of inspiration.
I’ve been writing for most of my life. I started composing stories when I was really little, maybe six or seven. They were rudimentary, of course, but had all the elements of an established story: plot, characters, settings, etc. I’ve loved the act of committing stories to paper my whole life.
- Have you ever experienced self-doubt? If yes, what causes it, and what do you do to overcome it? I’ve wavered in my confidence as a writer, though I’ve always known I was talented and creative (hey, we’re all allowed to step outside the circle of modesty every now and then). The rejections were the worst probably, as every writer worth their salt can attest. That and just how S L O W the process of creation to publication can take. I’ve really had to learn patience in the last fifteen years.
I’ve found that separating myself from the whole business of writing for a few hours or days allows me to come back to the table with a clear frame of mind. Sometimes you just have to let the toilet flush, heh.
- Has self-doubt ever stopped you in your journey? If yes, how did it stop you? I’m a motivated person by nature, so I’ve never given up. As I mentioned before, I’ve gotten down at times, but always seem to bounce right back after a setback (rejection, stalled plot, etc.).
- What part of the writing journey do you fear the most and why? (Rejection, submitting etc.) I used to fear being lazy with my first draft because it meant doing THAT MUCH MORE work when it came to editing, but — like most successful writers will tell you — that first draft is supposed to be a mess and editing is supposed to be hard work. I still find myself dreading the editing process, though, because I find myself getting bogged down too quickly. I have to keep telling myself that the story is worth saving, that all the work will pay off if I truly believe the story I’m writing is a good one.
- Why do you keep writing, and what are your future writing plans? I keep writing because I have to, really. All the stories that I think up demand to be written at different decibels. The only way to truly exorcise them is to get them on paper. But, to that effect, I also relish the pride that comes with presenting one’s creation to the world.
I plan to keep going, one day at a time and to always take more chances.
- What do you write, why, and when did you start? I write horror and fantasy fiction, mainly short stories, along with poetry and journalism. I write for one reason; because I have to. Characters, settings, plot ideas, and first lines will crowd their way into my head, and I have to get them on paper to shut them up. I dread to think what would happen if I let them build up in there! I’ve been writing for my entire life. My mum has a box of stories that I wrote as a young child; so young, that I don’t remember writing them. My late grandmother was a writer, so I guess it’s just in my blood.
- Have you ever experienced self-doubt? If yes, what causes it, and what do you do to overcome it? Almost daily. Every time I submit a story for publication, the self-doubt gets worse and worse the longer I have to wait for a reply. If I get an acceptance, the self-doubt goes away. If it’s a rejection, it multiplies ten-fold. But that’s just what writing is. My way to overcome it is to distract myself by writing something new. I always have to have something on the go. It doesn’t stop me checking my email every three minutes though!
- Has self-doubt ever stopped you in your journey? If yes, how did it stop you? There have been some rejections that have left me feeling like I never want to write again. There have also been comments online that have really hurt. I’ll dwell on them for years. Writing isn’t just standing naked in front of someone, it’s cutting your stomach open and letting them dig around inside you, asking them to judge everything they see. It’s an intrusion like no other. But, if it was easy, it wouldn’t be so satisfying when we succeed.
- What part of the writing journey do you fear the most and why? (Rejection, submitting etc.) The most unlikely of horror writers; I am scared of almost everything in life. As a result, I’ve learnt some seriously effective coping strategies over the years. Everything about writing scares me; submitting, rejections, reviews, public appearances, success. Every time I submit something, I have to count down from five before hitting send. Likewise opening submission responses. I’m a massive wimp who has learnt to look brave. But then, aren’t most of us?
- Why do you keep writing, and what are your future writing plans? I will always write. Despite being scared of every part of the writing process, I love it in equal measure. A few weeks ago I was asked to sign a book for the first time. It was a glimpse of the future I want. I’ll settle for nothing less than worldwide fame! Chances are, I’ll never make it, but that’s certainly not going to stop me from trying.
- What do you write, why, and when did you start?What do you write is a little open-ended. I like to think that I write horror and suspense with a dash of science fiction on occasion. I write because I am passionate about writing. I really enjoy writing and when I have someone else get lost in another world for a little bit, there’s nothing better! I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember though for the longest time I was writing as a side job and not fiction.
- Have you ever experienced self-doubt? If yes, what causes it, and what do you do to overcome it? Who hasn’t? I feel like every time I get ready to send out a submission I feel a little bit of it, but unless you truly feel something hasn’t been edited enough you can’t give into it. Self-doubt is something that can eat at you and paralyze you. For me, I just push through even if it’s there.
- Has self-doubt ever stopped you in your journey? If yes, how did it stop you? It hasn’t in a long time. I decided long ago that we’re only here once and have to make the best of our time. Stalling or quitting can’t factor into that.
- What part of the writing journey do you fear the most and why? (Rejection, submitting etc.) The submission process. Or better yet, if I am prepared for the submission process. I don’t mind being rejected, but if I’m rejected from not doing my due diligence in editing or formatting or preparing my work, that’s on me.
- Why do you keep writing, and what are your future writing plans?I keep writing as I have a ton of stories to tell. I haven’t even made a dent into my idea list at this point for short stories and that doesn’t even factor in my novel ideas. My short term future writing plans (through the end of the year) is to finish at least 5 of the 10 anthology submissions that I am eyeing as well as finish the first draft of my first novel.
Kerry G.S. Lipp
- What do you write, why, and when did you start? I write a little bit of everything. Mostly horror and I focus a lot on hardcore horror because it’s the most interesting to me. Most fun to write. I try to make it funny too, which works with the right audience but is completely wasted on the wrong audience. The line is razor thin, and I have no idea where it is. I studied a little creative writing in college with some great professors and peers, but didn’t get serious about it until several years later. I’ve been serious for about 2.5 years now. In those 2.5 years I’ve worked my ass off, but I’ve also been very fortunate.
- Have you ever experienced self-doubt? If yes, what causes it, and what do you do to overcome it? Self-doubt and writing (and probably creating in general) go hand in hand. The constant cycles of “this is awesome” followed promptly by “this fucking sucks” is part of the never-ending uphill battle. Obviously you think it’s awesome, because you’ve written or submitted it, but you gotta patiently wait for a judge, jury and executioner to evaluate your story’s value and nail all the shit you missed straight to the wall. Most times, even if they see value, they don’t see enough to take you on-board. Take as little as you can personally. Competition is tough these days and any editor will tell you the same thing, that they reject great shit, shit that they love every day because it’s just not quite right. Vague as hell, but I think a day in an editor’s shoes would open the eyes of every writer out there.
Also, writing hardcore horror, I’m kind of in a different boat. Not only do I have to worry about editors/publishers/readers/reviewers not liking my story, I have to worry about them saying shit like I only write “rape fantasy” or “gore porn” or “I was so offended that I couldn’t even finish.” All of which I’ve heard from time to time. This alone doesn’t bother me, but I really do try to be diverse with what I do and want each story to speak for itself and not have some editor or reader immediately dismiss me as the “rapey gore guy” because of ONE story that they saw. At least read a few more of my hardcore stories before you make that judgment 😉 I don’t even know if editors do that, and I’d like to think that the professional ones don’t, but I’m sure readers due, and combined, that’s my biggest issue of fear/doubt.
As a sidebar, The Wicked Library podcast has been very good to me and its host, Nelson Pyles, a great writer and someone I’m happy to know (who I actually met through horror tree) gave me one of the best compliments I’ve had so far. He’s noticed and voiced my diversity and for that, I can’t thank him enough. It helps with the self-doubt when you KNOW that at least a few people get it.
The best way to overcome self-doubt, at least for me, is to ask yourself one question.
“Have I done the best that I can?” (At least considering the confines of the deadline)
If the answer is “yes.” Then you’re brain gets to proudly say,
“Then fuck it.”
And you hit send.
I try to write honest and fearless and let things fall where they may.
- Has self-doubt ever stopped you in your journey? If yes, how did it stop you? It did at the beginning. I think experience and slowly gathering acceptances, personalized rejections and momentum eventually hinders (or at least helps with) self-doubt. But having said that, some things still poke out. For example, I’m starting to edit a novel right now. I’m not going to quit, but it fucking sucks (the novel and the process of editing 85,000 words)
Also, I don’t like knowing that I’m short-listed for an anthology or contest. I’m not a big fan of hope, especially the false kind. And it seems like more often than not the fiction monkey is throwing shit at your face instead of offering you a banana. I could live without knowing that I’m the best of the worst and that I just missed the cut.
- What part of the writing journey do you fear the most and why? (Rejection, submitting etc.) I don’t like it when people misread my stuff. I’m also terrified of my parents reading my stuff. They’re awesome and cool as hell, but they aren’t exactly my target audience. The biggest fear I have is people who shouldn’t be following me on facebook or social media freaking out and mistaking my online persona or my fiction for who I really am. I usually play a character online. A very exaggerated version of myself, one of these days someone isn’t going to be able to handle it and I’ll probably find myself in some trouble. I kind of answered the second part to this question in question 2. Sorry. I really don’t want to get labelled as a one trick pony. I want to put my heart into everything (even the rapey gross stuff). I want to be diverse. If I catch myself writing too much of one thing, I immediately shift gears with the next piece.
- Why do you keep writing, and what are your future writing plans? I keep writing because I love it. Or love to hate it, or love to use it as an excuse to avoid hanging out with family/friends/drink excessive alcohol. Or possibly because I hate myself and just haven’t realized it yet.
I write because it makes me laugh, it makes me cry, it heals and breaks my fucking heart. Sometimes I even have something to say. And with the non-fiction stuff I’ve done with 666 Bottles of Blood on the Wall I hope I’ve helped a few people. That’s important to me, too. It really sucks that I’ve had to put the brakes on that, but there’s just so much other shit out there I want to write/read/and do plus I have an Xbox 360. I think that was an important part of my beginning though, and I’ll be around as long as Stu will put up with me. And forever grateful for the opportunity he gave me. I’ll even buy that fucker a beer when I meet him at a con one of these days.
Future writing plans are to edit this novel I’ve finally finished, keep writing and submitting short stories like a mad man. I’ve been trying to do a story a week, but one of them turned into a 10,000 novella, (I refuse to use the word novelette) so now I’m like 3 weeks behind. Been collaborating a little bit lately too. I’ve got a few more collaborations in the works.
I will wear every rejection like a badge of courage and stare in disbelief at each acceptance. I know I’ll never be Stephen King, but I also know that I’ll never quit.
And to be completely honest, it’s pretty fucking cool to look at my contributor copy shelf and know that I am a part of all of that. That feels real good.
- What do you write, why, and when did you start?
I write a bit of everything, and I started at four, crayon in hand. As for why – I get unwell when I don’t. It’s really motivating when you get physical symptoms if you leave it too long. Plus, the characters never shut up for very long. Even if I gag them 🙂
- Have you ever experienced self-doubt? If yes, what causes it, and what do you do to overcome it? Yes, and to be honest, I haven’t. I think a healthy skepticism is good for anything, and I use my own self-doubt to question my work, so I never relax and I always write my *best*.
- Has self-doubt ever stopped you in your journey? If yes, how did it stop you?
Yes. For a long time I was worried about the backlash because I moderate a few forums. I was threatened and I began doubting my own ability. It’s taken a long time to bring my confidence back up to where it was – but a lot of that was also about being unemployed. I could talk a lot about that, but the fact that I’m in a job that I love has really helped my self-doubt in general.
- What part of the writing journey do you fear the most and why? (Rejection, submitting etc.) I used to fear rejection, but a lot of what I’ve decided is that it’s ok to learn from feedback, which is what rejection is.
- Why do you keep writing, and what are your future writing plans?
I keep writing because I have to. I don’t plan very far ahead, mostly because I can’t, my life has been nothing as I planned so far, so I’ve decided, for the most part, to go with the flow. I do have a plan to get books out, but that’s the wonderful thing about being self-published. Even with all of the mess and arguments about where we all fall in the scheme of things, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
So there you have it folks. You are not alone when it comes to self-doubt. We have all experienced it, and not just with our writing. The only important thing is that you push that doubt aside and keep on going until you reach that goal.
I’d like to say a big thank you to the Horror Tree Crew for answering my questions and helping me create this insightful post. If you want to find out more about the writers, see the links below.
To end this post, here is another inspirational quote:
“If doubt is challenging you and you do not act, doubts will grow. Challenge the doubts with action and you will grow. Doubt and action are incompatible.” – (John Kanary)