It’s happened to all of us. You’re sitting there, plucking away at the keys, when your pace slows and you stare blankly at the screen. You might bite your nails, look around at random spots in the room, or type and delete, type and delete, type and delete. Then words of this variety totally throw off your groove:
This story is crap.
Uh-oh. Your self-doubt has cozied right up to you, your thoughts, and your computer. You try to work through it. Maybe strike the keys more violently. You know, to drown out that whisper in your ear:
You should just stop writing now. This is terrible.
Shake it off, you tell yourself. Just keep writing. You write faster and faster. Maybe if you type quick enough you’ll outwrite that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad, creativity-sucking, nails-on-the-chalkboard voice:
Scrap it. Scrap the whole thing. You’d be doing readers everywhere a favor.
It’s like the bug you can’t squash. The song you can’t get out of your head. The horcrux you can’t destroy. Oh, but you can destroy it, or at least send it back where it came from for a while. Or even better, use it to motivate yourself.
Take a break from your current work and open up something older. Maybe it’s a completely different story from weeks ago. It could be an older draft of the same story from months ago. Better yet, it might be a half-finished manuscript from a year ago.
Now read it. Notice how your writing has improved since you wrote the story in your hands. Notice how your craft today is more _____ than it was on that day. Maybe it’s tighter, meatier, simpler, more detailed, more musical. Maybe you’ve learned when to cut unnecessary words or how to show instead of tell. Maybe your pacing is worlds better now or maybe you’ve mastered dialogue.
Bottom line: Your writing improves with every draft you draft, with every story you revise. Hours spent working and reworking a story are never in vain. Though you might not see it in that moment, you’re making progress with your craft, regardless of what self-doubt tells you.
Turn that self-doubt upside down. Use it to congratulate yourself on the improvements you’ve made and continue to make with every word you write. Go you!