The Witch of Self Doubt

Hi! I’m Lee and I was actually one of the founders of NHWN and the Live to Write, Write to Live blog. I haven’t been around much lately. I’ve handled some behind the scenes technical issues, but mostly, I’ve been silent.

'Witch' photo (c) 2008, Denis Defreyne - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ Silent and frustrated. That witch self doubt showed up for an extended visit. I started hearing “OMG They are all so much better/smarter/wittier/more knowledgeable than me.” “What can I possibly add?” And my all time favorite, “I suck as a writer, I should just quit.” Once I put on my big girl panties and said “suck it up buttercup.” All hell broke lose in my non-writing life, childcare, travel, eldercare and illness. I’m married, a mother of two, and an only child so this noise isn’t likely to subside anytime time soon. I finally decided I just needed to get over it and get on with it.

I would love to say I snapped my fingers, the witch left and the words returned, but, I’d be lying. It has been a series of small steps forward and a few steps backwards. Mostly, it has brute force, sitting my butt down, forcing my mind to focus, and putting my fingers to the keys or pen to paper.

One thing I did was go back and read the fragments of stories that I have started. I was pleased to find, even though they were incomplete and abandoned, I liked them. I was excited by them and I even had a few new ideas for a few of them.

I think one of the causes of my stagnation was a lack of knowledge acquisition. I hadn’t made a concerted effort to learn anything new about writing in a while. I would have loved to attend a conference, but the logistics of my non-writing life put the kibosh on that idea. So instead, I became a member of the Romance Writers of America. They have a New Hampshire Chapter who meets monthly and several chapters offer online classes.

I’m still not churning out thousands of words a day, but I am making slow and steady progress and for now, that’s enough. What about you? Has the Witch Of Self Doubt paid you a visit? What did you do to chase her away?

Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. Her words have appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe.

30 thoughts on “The Witch of Self Doubt

  1. We sing the same song! I’m not an only, but my brother is severely disabled and my mom recently had knee surgery so I spent the better part of two and a half weeks going back and forth every day to the hospital/rehab (more than 30 minutes away!) while trying to maintain a household and work a “day job” twice a week, AND meet deadlines as a staff writer for a home improvement website. Insanity! My creative writing suffered enormously.
    The Witch of Self Doubt was breathing down my back. In the last couple of weeks, the “excitement” has subsided so I’ve been able to regroup a bit and get back in the groove. I noticed the Witch has backed off.
    So then, I have made the assumption that when things get in the way of my creative moments, those are the times I feel most vulnerable as a writer, and at-risk for doubting.
    This past Wednesday I was eating sushi for lunch at work – and opened the two fortune cookies that came with my lunch. They said:
    Many a false step is made by standing still.
    AND
    Determination is what you need now.

    Methinks someone really BIG is trying to send me a message!

    I tacked those suckers on the frame of my computer monitor.
    Bitch doesn’t know who she’s dealing with! 🙂

    Yay for us!

    • Yay for us indeed! Yesterday was just one of those days where my non-writing life took over. I started when I knocked a bottle of beer all over me and the basement floor. Then there was a trip to Boston to transport my elderly mother from a rehab to her home on a very tight schedule, there were of course kinks. The kicker was when the battery in my car died. The bright side is that throughout the day, my brain was pondering, processing and plotting a new story. Today, I’m taking the time to write it down. One step forward!

      • Tony, I never took latin, so I’ll stick with English, don’t let the bastards get you down. Hopefully said editor offered some constructive criticism to go with his or her lukewarm reception. That said, maybe the editor was having a bad day or simply wasn’t the right person to review your manuscript. Finish the manuscript, put it away, come back to it, rip it apart, make it better and keep searching for the right editor. We all have something to say it is a matter of saying it to the right people.

  2. I’m not sure it’s the Witch of Self Doubt or the Witch of You’re Too Busy and What Would You Write About that has affected my writing. I spend my days teaching high school students to write and making comments in purple pen (rather than red so I don’t damage their psyches…) on their papers–and actually find I am envious that they “get” to write (they would say “have” to write)…

    After years of writing nothing more than curriculum and tests and my family’s annual Christmas letter, I finally decided I needed to write something and so chose to write a personal blog. I have managed 37 posts thus far and have managed to get a few fans along the way. It is a start. Just as you gain confidence as you read your old pieces of writing, when I read what I have written and find it still cracks me up or puts tears in my eyes or simply takes me back to that place in time, I feel I can beat the witch and live my dream.

    Right now, my steps are small. I am still too busy and still wonder what I could possibly put in a whole book, but I am writing my little somethings on a personal blog and at least fighting the witches that threaten! Thanks for sharing. I hope you beat the witch, too! 🙂

    • So Sarah, post a link to your blog. I’d love to check it out. My Dad used to teach creative writing classes and he used to start the class by asking his students by asking his students what is the #1 thing writers do? The answers would come fast and furious, plot, research, read etc., etc. Those answers weren’t wrong per se, but they weren’t the number one thing. The number one thing writers do is write!

  3. My Wicked Witch was an editor who read 50 pages of my transcript this summer and gave it a lukewarm reception, at best. Ug. I’ve been plugging away at my blog, which is a medium I love because it’s quick and visual and I’ve found I really like photography. Thanks for sharing what we all feel at times, and good luck as you slog through…throw some water on that witch!

    • For some reason this replied above instead of here. I wanted to be sure you saw it, because I empathized. 🙂

      Tony, I never took latin, so I’ll stick with English, don’t let the bastards get you down. Hopefully said editor offered some constructive criticism to go with his or her lukewarm reception. That said, maybe the editor was having a bad day or simply wasn’t the right person to review your manuscript. Finish the manuscript, put it away, come back to it, rip it apart, make it better and keep searching for the right editor. We all have something to say it is a matter of saying it to the right people.

  4. Lee, thanks for sharing your struggle.

    Suspending judgment, forgiveness, are ideas that we can more easily apply to others than to ourself. While we are working to avoid judging others, we must do the same for ourselves. You have things to say. Write them. Try not to get tanged up in judging the quality or the worthiness of the work. The work is enough.

    In any event, that’s what I struggle to do- moment to moment.

    • Thomas, oh so true! It is much easier to cheer on the people who commented here than to cheer myself on :). Thanks for the comment.

  5. I know the feeling! I have been feeling something very similar lately. And then one day I happened to find old notebooks with my writing and my poems and I thought “Hey, I’m enjoying reading this!”…and this was one of the things that got me back into motion! It’s great that you’re writing again.

  6. I’m pretty sure that witch lives in our bedroom-turned-office upstairs. She slips in when no one is looking and hangs out behind the couch. I never truly get rid of her. The thing that keeps me going is the inability to NOT write. Sometimes my blog will go months with deafening silence. But eventually, my desire to “say SOMETHING” wins out and I get something down. Thanks for helping me feel normal (so to speak). stephlaundrie.wordpress.com

  7. Lee — kudos to you for posting this — it takes courage to admit that you’re not as productive, successful, etc. etc. as you imagine you should be. Have been there many, many times. It’s never easy but you’re doing the only think you can to fight it. Just put your head down and push forward, but give yourself time. With all the other stresses in your life there’s no point in making writing a stress. Good luck. |i enjoy your blog immensely.

  8. “I am making slow and steady progress and for now, that’s enough.” I very much like this. Don’t fear, you are not alone; but in your reaching out to others you’ve touched me at least, and I’m sure a lot more. So, thank you!

  9. Hoo boy, does she! She and General Despair tend to come over and hang out for a while in my mind’s living room. (They won’t leave; they keep playing video games!!! D:> )

    I haven’t figured out a fool-proof way to fight them off yet. Various things seem to help at various times. Sometimes all I need is a hot bath. Sometimes a nap. And then sometimes, just not thinking about writing at all. lol

  10. Oh, Lee. I’ve never met you, but boy, do I know you. Welcome to the club of Self-Doubters Who Don’t Give Up. You can be president, if you want, or at least keynote speaker at our first dinner. You didn’t give up. You gave in for a awhile, but you didn’t give up, and that’s what counts.
    Remember that even in THE WIZARD OF OZ, Dorothy learns that there are all kinds of doubts…and there are two kinds of witches. Witches aren’t all bad, as long as you remember you can kick the bad witch to the curb when you want to, and dress in pink while you work on your writing.
    Thanks for a great blog!

    • HA! Thanks, but I’m already president of the Bad Mom’s club ;0 although that one seems to rotate among my friends and I 🙂

  11. This lady drives me crazy but she’s right, so I thought I’d pass along her info so you can get her annoying messages also: Arielle Ford if ever the witch of self-doubt visits me I love the fact that everything Arielle and Live-to-Write posts on my page everyday. It’s annoying when they keep telling you what you already know, but when you start doubting what you know, that’s when it’s nice to see somebody else saying that what you thought was right really is right. There are Trillions of writers out there. On a planet of only 9 Billion people don’t ask me how that’s possible. But your writing still gets out there somehow if you just keep writing. Look at it this way: even if the only people who see your writing are the people you care about the most, how is that a bad thing? Love people.. love writing :0)

  12. Live-to-write you asked me for it so here it is, this is how I get past the witch of self-doubt: a particular lady “Arielle Ford” drives me crazy but she’s right, that’s why she drives me crazy! Here’s her name and info if you want her annoying messages also: everythingyoushouldknow at gmail. If ever the witch of self-doubt visits me I love the fact that everything “Arielle” and also of course: “Live-to-Write” posts on my page everyday. It’s annoying when these two writers keep telling me what I already know, but when I start doubting what I know, that’s when it’s nice to see somebody else saying that what I thought was right really is right. There are Trillions of writers out there. On a planet of only 9 Billion people don’t ask me how that’s possible. But your writing still gets out there somehow if you just keep writing. Look at it this way: even if the only people who see your writing are the people you care about the most, how is that a bad thing? Love people.. love writing :0)

  13. Hello Lee, I was interested to read your blog. As with all the contributions to this series I found it inspiring. You mentioned reaching for some old unfinished stories after a long spell of ‘life’ issues absorbing your time. I began writing a novel ten years ago and shelved it for the same reason. However, having been through the divorce, beaten cancer and raised my three kids, I moved from England to Bahrain to teach. Finding I had the mindset to write again, I retrieved the skeleton of my novel from an email I had attached it to four years ago. I’ve joined a writers’ circle and am beavering away at it even writing a column about writing my novel !
    The ‘witch of self doubt’ possessed me for many years, but life’s too short for her visitations. I’m enjoying my writing and am encouraged by the fact that others are.
    Thank you for this series, it’s helping me keep going. So, Lee, forge ahead! I look forward to reading your Romantic Novel one day.

    Best wishes Kathleen

  14. The witch of self-doubt visited me yesterday. I was rolling right along revising my novel when she hit me. I was asking myself, “what the h*ll are you doing?” and “who the h*ll do you think you are?”

    I tried to shake it off but I just couldn’t so I crawled across my bed and took a short nap.

    Last night, I felt myself switching from quiet mood to bad, bad mood so I went back to my desk and found my writing again.

  15. I was in a very unhappy place a few months ago..I thought nothing good could come out of it. I was so frustrated with everything that I could barely hold a pen still on paper. the minute I set my pen to paper, my words would fly out of the window. I would scribble out all my anger on paper. Then one day, I made a blog. And I posted something on it. Surprisingly, on the second day itself, I got 150 views! I was thrilled and continue to write ever since.
    PS. The witch of self doubt does make a visit occasionally, but I have learnt to avoid her 😉

  16. Lee, congratulations on shutting that witch of self-doubt up in the basement (or attic?) I myself came out of 20+ years of self-effacement about my writing last September just at the vernal equinox due to prodding from my adult children! Hooray for kids who have your best interests at heart! Anyway, “The wicked witch is dead” is now a daily song of celebration in my life these days! So sorry about all your family upheavals==beating a prayer drum for easement of those difficulties very soon.

  17. Congrats! That’s always so tough because writing is almost entirely self-motivated. In my opinion, all the feedback I get from blogging is great to keep you going.

  18. Pingback: Writing Through the Rolls « Live to Write – Write to Live

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