Self-doubt vs. Self-awareness

Surviving the Perils of Being a Writer

Writers are some of the most courageous people I know. It takes bravery, self-confidence, and sometimes a cocktail or two, to not only write and finish a book, but to put it out to the world to critique. 

The publishing world can be brutal. But I’ve learned a few things that have helped immensely to keep writing and to enjoy the whole thing as much as humanly possible. It all comes down to differentiating between self-doubt and self-awareness. One always and only tears down. It exists to defeat and destroy. The other? It builds up and gives the capacity to be a lifetime learner.


Every writer can be plagued by it from those writing their first words to seasoned, “platinum” authors. 

“Stephen King has sold 350 million books but he still fears failure, he tells Rolling Stone: ‘I’m afraid of failing at whatever story I’m writing – that it won’t come up for me, or that I won’t be able to finish it.’”

Everyonedoubts and has some anxiety, we are human after all. There is a lot of noise out there and when you get overloaded on social media, you see hundreds of authors who are winning awards, doing cool events, getting fabulous blurbs… And when you’re struggling with self-doubt, it can turn into, “I’m not good enough. I’m not enough.” This is self-doubt. When you finally see the red flag of something tearing you down: change course. Get rid of it. It’s toxic and completely fruitless. Go for a walk. Take some deep breaths and look at something beautiful. Do some push-ups. Whatever. Change course and throw it in the trash.


Ah, but we still need to learn and grow. We want to be better writers when we are 99 than when we were 98 and so on. Self-awareness can look at mistakes and what others are doing, and make suggestions for growth. Out of all that noise, was there one thing that’s been niggling at you that you need to improve upon? Is there a new idea for an event you’d like to try? Great! Those thoughts are constructive and they build you up (even if there are moments that sting).

The discipline of remembering WHY

I start my workshops on creativity and writing with the audience creating two lists based on two questions: 

  • What do you love about writing? All aspects of it, from the writing to the career.
  • What do you find extremely difficult about writing (and all its aspects)? 

When you struggle with self-doubt, an extremely powerful weapon is remembering why you write and what you love about it. Essentially, it’s a list about gratefulness. Creating a discipline of gratefulness is one of the most potent strategies for being a happy and content person. Go back to that list every day. Write notes for yourself. Let that be what drives you.

Not doing it alone at Malice Domestic

Writing Community

You don’t have to do this alone. I wish I’d known this earlier! The mystery writing and reading community is so supportive. Not many entertainment industries are, but I’ve felt that the authors truly root for each other. Take advantage of that. Get involved in Mystery Writers of America or Romance Writers of America. Sisters in Crime. A local writing group. Go to a book conference. Don’t wait until you have something published (like I thought you had to do). That is where you make connections with authors, readers, agents, and editors, and it’s where you learn valuable writing lessons.

Keep Going

You’re not alone in all this. In fact, I’d love to hear why you love writing and what you find particularly difficult. Send us some comments! We’d love to chat and root you on. Keep going. You got this. 


  1. Yes! There is a big difference between the two. I’m at that point where I’m transitioning from excitement at having finished my book to doubt since I’ll be shopping it around soon. Thanks for the good article.

    1. Right?! Shopping it around can bring up so many doubts. I have reviews starting to come in for my next book and MAN am I sweating bullets!! LOL Every time. Never fails. And that’s why we need each other;-).

  2. Whenever doubts creep in, I remind myself to trust–trust the process, trust my strengths as a writer, trust the “magic” that brings every book together in the end.

    1. I love that, Alyssa! It’s true. There is a process to trust and there really is a magic. I like that reminder:-). I always try to remember how much I love reading, too. The best writers are the best readers and we really do know what we like. I still like rereading my work in the editing process. The editing gets tedious, but I love my characters and the stories. I even still laugh out loud at some of their antics.

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