To Doubt Or Not To Doubt

Update: Check out all the Pitch Wars teams here: http://www.brenda-drake.com/2013/12/pitch-wars-mentors-picks/  Go TeamBWords (Team Jessie)!!!


Hello Bloglings! Tonight I’m addressing the persistent issues of doubt and self doubt that have been invading our minds, hearts, and Twitter feeds this past week. By no means do  I know the Universe’s answers for dealing with these issues. No, wait! Don’t click away! I need you here with me! Please don’t go yet! (note to self: next blog post should address emotional neediness in writers). However, despite my uncertainty, I’ve prepared
a journey through doubt that I hope will help us all contemplate this often dark, complex, and twisty emotion.  


Please note: Those who do have all the answers (congrats!) are welcome to post in a blog comments section. Simply seek out the blog of a steadfast narcissist and post away to your heart’s content!


Before we get too deep into this discussion of doubt, my inner-librarian wants to ensure we all have a good, solid understanding of what doubt really is, so I did some checking. Surprise! I didn’t have a great understanding of what doubt really was. I wanted to shrug it off as a very simple emotion that people can feel and then quickly suppress, like: touch my coffee or chocolate and you die OR good lord, you are the stupidest person on the planet.

Alas, dear bloglings, it is not quite that simple. Check this out, and don’t let the part about “delaying or rejecting relevant action” or “unable to assent to either” strike any fear into your beautifully angsty hearts. 

Fine. I admit it. Those struck fear into my heart. Join me?


Doubt, a status between belief and disbelief, involves uncertainty or distrust or lack of sureness of an alleged fact, an action, a motive, or a decision.


Ah, distrust… Yes, I’m very adept at that.


Doubt brings into question some notion of a perceived “reality“, and may involve delaying or rejecting relevant action out of concerns for mistakes or faults or appropriateness.

Yes, it did just suggest that I brought the doubt on myself by not acting, due to

fear! Gasp! Wikipedia, how can you blame me for this? I thought I was an innocent victim. . .


Some definitions of doubt emphasize the state in which the mind remains suspended between two contradictory propositions and unable to assent to either of them


I’m not even going to address this one. I took adolescent psych ten years ago, and I’ve had secret, internal fears about minds being suspended ever since. I included it though, so you could all be appropriately terrorized.


Now let’s examine the history of doubt and people’s perceptions of it: 

Yes, that would have been a very disappointing find had I wanted to argue for persistence in the face of doubt, but I really don’t . . .or do I? Some have argued that Franklin was blessed with very little self-doubt, but I don’t believe that either. The very nature of his experiments suggest otherwise, but I do believe he knew when to trust his intuition, which helped him relieve feelings of doubt and persist where others hadn’t, didn’t, or couldn’t.

What do you do, then, if you’re not sure you can trust your own intuition?

Remember that brilliant, quirky guy you dated who had more issues than National Geographic and ripped your heart to bloody shreds? No? What about that time you thought you should call him back after you had just one more drink? What? You don’t remember? Oh, wait, that was me…

Thank you for that wisdom above, but it really came a decade too late to help me.

Here’s why:

Ah, yes. False hope is the worst. Many people seem to learn this lesson in the hardest of ways, which leaves us asking ourselves: am I just lying to myself again? If so, how long will I continue to deceive myself this time? How long am I willing to hold on, just in case?

Now, I know all the dreamers are internally screaming, “Forever! You have to hold on forever!” but when people struggle in personal relationships or with a job that that has gone downhill over time, everyone shouts the complete opposite.

“Get out now! Suck it up! Move on to something better!” In fact, we frequently encourage people to remove themselves from bad situations, so that they can better protect themselves.

Honestly, those are double standards that have always  confused and bewildered me. How do I know when to fight off my doubt and when to give in to it and walk away?

Clearly, I don’t, and I think that is why this next one is so scary: 

I’m afraid. Yeah, I said it. I’m afraid that I’ll end up being a stupid person, putting too much faith and hope into something that really isn’t good enough.

Last night, I started to read a sample from an Indie book that was published on Amazon by a local woman. Desperate as I was to love it and be proud of a fellow writer in my area, I ended up hating it to the very depths of my soul. The novel was so horribly written, I wanted to poke out my own eyeballs. I was barely able to skim through the first chapter without wanting to scream, and I teach middle school. You should see the kind of work they turn in. 

In one, exceedingly long 12 sentence info dump of a paragraph, full of passive voice, there were nineteen grammatical errors (No, people. I’m not perfect. I make tons of mistake. I have to edit constantly. I know my writing needs to be stronger), but I also didn’t send my baby out into the world, under-prepared for a harsh reality. 

I sat in my chair, after surviving chapter one, and I felt completely and utterly miserable.  How did this poor woman not know? Why did those 9 family members and friends who gave her 5 star reviews not tell her the truth, even just a little bit of truth? Why would they set her up for complete embarrassment and failure? Why didn’t they encourage her to improve her writing first and worry about publishing later?

….and then the worst of all questions came:

What if I’m just like her, and I can’t see it?

What if my writing is incredibly awful, and I’m completely blind to it, like those poor schmucks on American Idol who actually think they can sing? 

This week, we have all angsted together over the excitement that is Pitch Wars. I’ve been full of doubt and sure of nothing except how many horrible mistakes I made (ack!). That being said, I’m excited for any feedback that comes with any of the rejections, because:

Now, I know this is a subjective industry, but sometimes, it’s so much easier to hear what you’re actually doing wrong, than to have one more person say:

  • Everything looks great! (Clearly, it doesn’t, if even I feel it could be improved).

  • It’s not you, it’s me.  (Sure, but let’s call it like it really is. It’s also me…)

  • Keep trying! (Wait! Do you mean on this novel or write something new?)

Now, if any of you actually had the energy to read this far (drop me a line if you did!), here’s what my head says to me on my worst days:

What if I do believe in myself, and it turns out that I’m just wrong? What if I’m fooling myself about who I really am and what I might be capable of?

Then again, what if I’m not?

At the end of the day, I only really know one thing.  If I don’t feel like this about my novel (any of them) on a regular basis, then I’m doing something wrong. Then, it’s time to take a big step back and reevaluate:


When this feeling goes away, that’s when I will have no more doubts. That’s the day I’ll be absolutely sure that I need to step away, set it aside, and start over with something new.  I hope I never see that day, but if I do, at least it will be some kind of answer to my doubts.

Until then, let the angsting continue, within moderation, of course.

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