AFRAID YOUR WRITING WON’T BE GOOD ENOUGH? Tips for defeating self-doubt in writers.

AFRAID YOUR WRITING WON’T BE GOOD ENOUGH? 5 tips to help writers defeat self-doubt

INTRODUCTION

Do you want to write but you’re afraid of what the outcome would be? You’re not sure the quality of your writing would be good enough or what people’s responses would be. I want you to know that you’re not alone. Such feelings of self-doubt are in fact quite common among writers and other creative people, even accomplished ones. American writer and Pulitzer winner, Sylvia Plath, who helped build the genre of confessional poetry, once remarked that, “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

5 TIPS TO HELP WRITERS DEFEAT SELF-DOUBT

To combat self-doubt or the fear that your writing won’t be good enough, let’s tackle some of the reasons behind it.

1. Don’t be fazed because your vocabulary is narrow:

A modest word reservoir can be an impediment to good writing. If you try to write poetry, for instance, finding words to build your rhymes and produce the rhythm you want becomes very strenuous.

Should you then wait until you can boast of an extensive vocabulary? The answer is, “No.” You can grow your vocabulary by reading voraciously but except you start using the words you already know in writing, you may forget the meanings and proper usage of some of them after a while.

One sure way of building your vocabulary is by reading novels regularly, say, one or two per week. Steer clear of self-published novels that have not been properly edited. Many of these have been written by untrained, language-challenged writers who will damage, rather than elevate, your language. Find the African Writers’ Series and devour them. Some aspiring writers ignore those novels because they read a few of them for their O’levels. Many of them were written by award-winning authors whose excellent vocabulary and style can be your first writing coach.

AFRAID YOUR WRITING WON’T BE GOOD ENOUGH? Tips for defeating self-doubt in writers.

Even after you develop a wide vocabulary, do not stop reading because:
• There are still many words for you to acquire.
• Language is dynamic. So you need to be abreast of the meanings of new words and the changes in how old words are used.

2. Don’t wait because  your present writing skills are limited:

You may love to write but you have not been trained for it. You don’t know the techniques for storytelling or poetic writing. Rather than let that deter you, begin to write while acquiring those skills by reading excellent books on those subjects. Tackle one genre of writing at a time. If your main love is poetry, begin with that, but do not limit yourself to it in your studies. As American master of creative nonfiction, John McPhee, counsels, “Though a man be more prone and able for one kind of writing than another, yet he must exercise all.”

You will find that different forms of writing are related and limiting yourself to one will constrain your ability to excel in others. For example, elements of poetry like rhythm can occasionally be applied to make prose more readable and fiction writing techniques help in the writing of nonfictional works like feature stories and biographies.

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Get formal training through schools and workshops if you can. Do not feel compelled to seek formal help though. As Nigeria’s award-winning novelist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, once admitted, “Creative writing programmes are not very necessary. They just exist so that people like us can make a living.” She may have said this as a joke but you can actually educate yourself on writing with the right materials.

Workshop poster

Formal training or not, you need a mentor or more to honestly appraise your work regularly and give you specific recommendations for improvement. Such mentoring is available in writer’s groups, some of which are online. The knowledge you will gain, which you will see reflected in your writing, will boost your confidence.

3. Don’t be awed by the competition:

Perhaps you’re comparing yourself with your more successful mates and other writers you imagine yourself to be in competition with. Stop that. Realise that first, your background and opportunities may not be the same as those the people you see as rivals have. Second, you have your own path in life according to God’s purpose for you. That some succeed sooner than you or have brilliant qualities should not terrify you into putting your dreams on hold.

Salent advice on this comes from Nigerian author, Nnedi Okorafor: “Don’t spend all your time obsessing over who wins what award. Write. And then edit. And edit again. Put in the work. Put in the time. Don’t try to get published too early. Don’t focus on making money or receiving praise.” Focus, she adds, on becoming the best writer you can be.

AFRAID YOUR WRITING WON’T BE GOOD ENOUGH? Do not obsess over the success of others.

4. Don’t be scared of negative feedback:

Did you share your writing once and people brutally criticised it? This happens sometimes, especially online. That is why you should be careful of those you interact with online and the groups you join. It might surprise you to know that some of those who trashed your posts know very little about writing. In fact, some people entertain themselves by trolling and raining on other people’s parades, particularly on social media. Even if they were writing experts, do not let their thoughtlessness dampen your zeal.

If entering for contests or seeking publishing deals with the attendant rejections is fuelling your fears, hold your horses. You’re attracting unnecessary pain to yourself by putting the cart before the horse. But no matter how good you are, whenever you submit your work for professional evaluation in competitions and to publishers, be mentally prepared for bad news that might come. Most writers get a ton of rejections before they find a publisher willing to sign them up and many hardly win anything. The great American legal fiction writer, John Grisham, got 28 rejections before signing his first publishing contract.

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5. Constantly pray and read God’s word:

This number applies to Christians. The Bible assures us that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13) and knowing what God says about you all over the Scriptures imbues you with confidence to carry on your tasks.

Also, if God has called you to write, He will definitely release the grace for you to do so, your feelings of inadequacy notwithstanding. So, march on in faith for your success will not ultimately depend on your desire or efforts but on God’s mercy (Romans 9:16).

CONCLUSION

In your journey as a writer, you will grow and improve as you study and mature. But that process requires that as you feed by reading, you exercise your creative muscles by writing. Of course, your work won’t be perfect immediately, and maybe not for a long while. Yet, except you write, you won’t know where you are and what you still need to improve upon. And some of the responses you now dread are what you need to polish your craft.

Start small on your social media accounts. Welcome sincere and informed criticism. However, block trolls and those whose criticisms are not constructive. Keep learning but, most importantly, keep writing too.

Takeaway:

Do not let self-doubt stop you. Start writing now.

💖

What are your impressions about the contents of this post?

Is there any other reason why you or anyone you know might be afraid of writing?
Share in the comments for advice.

You may also like these related posts:

DON’T KNOW WHAT TO WRITE? Key to overcoming writer’s block

Writing is Central to Every Area of Mass Communication

6 SIMPLE WAYS TO BOOST YOUR CONFIDENCE AS A WRITER

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I am a university lecturer. I teach Mass Communication, mostly writing courses like Feature and Interpretative Writing, Magazine Article Writing and News Writing, and let’s just say I’ve been doing this for a long time. As you have probably guessed, I am a born-again Christian.

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78 comments

  • Ezeah Jennifer nnedinso

    Thanks

  • Ejiofor Emmanuel

    I totally subscribe to Nnedi Okorafor’s advice when she said, to focus on becoming the best writer you can be. We should not be intimidated by the works of marvelous writers that we lose the confidence to write. This is an advice to myself and other aspiring writers.

    • I agree. The part of Nnedi’s remarks that you cited was not a direct quote. Happy Easter in advance!

      • Willie Albert Zikiye

        This article is really on point. I like writing, but always battle with “Self-doubt.” Ma, thanks for the encouragement. “We move.”

    • Eze hyacienth

      I find it very difficult to believe I can actually come up with something readable. Self-doubt is one problem I don’t know how to tackle and also being afraid of negative response each time I write. Thank you, ma, for throwing more light.

      • I wish you didn’t sound overwhelmed. If there’s any particular problem causing your self-doubt, do mention it and maybe we can come up with some advice that helps you deal with it. Otherwise, apply what you read here and you’ll be fine with time.

  • Ejiofor Emmanuel

    This post covered most aspects of the reasons why many aspiring writers do not write and how to tackle them. Thank you ma for this very helpful post

  • Enukora Onyedikachi Blessing

    I feel like I’m blessed amongst other people’s first encounter with trolls. The first piece I wrote on was criticised by my class mate, Anulika, she was sweet enough to commend my baby work and point out grammatical errors in it, while encouraging me to keep it up. Self doubt has never been too much of an issue to me, because I don’t write for approval, but so I can tell my story in a way that I can’t verbally.

    • Thanks, Onyedikachi. But your first sentence is unclear and I believe you meant “oral,” not “verbal.” Check the difference between the two. The only way you can tell a story in a non-verbal way is by sign language and I don’t think you mean that.

  • Wonderful piece. Before now, when I write and it is criticized I feel bad and may probably delete it. But after reading this article, I feel better and know that I can do better if I continue writing. Thanks Dr. and happy Easter in advance

  • Nwosu Victoria Onyinye

    I doubt myself a lot when I write because a good write-up should employ the use of elegance to make it look more professional. Now I know how to build up my vocabulary and be elegant in writing as well.
    Thank you am for this piece

  • Azowue Christabel chidimma

    The content is really nice ☺️

  • Azowue Christabel chidimma

    This is really nice and helpful

  • Ewenike Kaosisochukwu Bethel Pedro

    My fears are very much highlighted in this piece. Thanks very much ma. I guess I would start writing more often.

  • Awforkansi Kamsi

    I have also realized that the fear of failure has stopped people (read: me) from writing. It’s always a series of questions birthed from self doubt. Where do I go with this writing thing? What do I even know that I am writing about? What if I do not get my research 100% right? Do I even know what I am doing?
    Then, the issue of criticism. What if people don’t like my writing? Is someone out there laughing at me? What if I get harshly worded feedback?
    The more I grow, the more I ask myself, “what actually is the worst that can happen?” It’s all probably in your head. I actually hope I am able to write about the things I am passionate about soon. For everyone, the first step is to just START.

  • Kooyon Abigail Aershimana

    Oh my!
    My basic fears are number 1 and 3.
    I’m scared about my vocabulary and competitors out there.
    Any time an ideal thought registers in my head, boom! I thereof begin to battle with two voices.
    First voice; “There’s nothing you can do about it”.
    Second voice; “if you don’t grab this opportunity now, I don’t know when you will”.
    Those are the two voices. Now the strange thing is rather than cling to the first voice, the second one always dominates.
    The number of themes or titles or topics I have been writing in my diary since my SSS are outrageous and funny as it may sound, I don’t even know the day I’ll pick my pen and develop any because of the fear of who will read my write-up and their reactions.
    My vocabulary is poor and gush, read people’s work then you’ll know mine will be a total disgrace….

    Imagine if I’d started writing long ago, maybe by now I’d have been better. But for where?
    Okay more practically, we now have the opportunity as undergraduates to write on therecordunn.com but I’m not so sure when I’ll start, for I become paralyzed at heart each time I login and see beautiful things people write. I’m challenged and I just conclude that maybe writing is not for me.
    Perhaps talking is the best thing for me.
    I pray I change this negative attitude soon.

  • Melekwe Anthony

    I really appreciate this piece Ma. It caught my attention because I am scared of my writing sometimes. Most times I’m scared of endings. How do you know when it’s time to end and whether that ending sounds good enough?

    • Once you’ve accomplished the purpose of the piece, writing more may ruin it. Readers often complain that they wish some of my stories were longer but each story meets its purpose. People can imagine what happened to the characters but the curtain must be drawn once they’ve served their purpose.

  • Great. I Love this post and I must confess, I learnt a lot.
    Thank you Ma

  • This post really changed my mindset from negativity to positivity.
    Thank you Ma.

  • Ossai Chidimma Linda

    This piece is one that that speaks to me, though I have moved past fear and being restricted to one writing but I battle with books to help me grow my writing skills.

  • okibe mercy

    Thank you ma, this is so timely for people like me, one thing I learnt is that I can’t know where to improve if I don’t start writing.

  • Two of my major fears when it comes to writing are the fear of criticism and rejection and that’s why I don’t even bother to try but with these points I’m willing to give it a try. Thank you, Ma, for these tips. They’re really helpful.☺️

  • oforgu ifeanyi Augustine

    Wonderful 5 folds to access success in writing is assured if one embrace these guides … “Start from somewhere!” I got this as a motivation to ink my feather..

  • Paschal Odigonma Victoria

    This is very helpful. Sharing this immediately. There’s this popular saying that says “Face your fears”. Anyone who truly wants to improve their writing skill must learn to do so.

    Still struggling with mine. But I’m sure I’d definitely get better.

  • Oihoma Jesse Onyemocho

    Thank you very much ma for this post. Seeing and identifying my fears, am ready to work on them and start the writing process with God’s help 🙏.

  • Ugwuama Daniel chinemerem

    Thank you so much MA for these 5 points you highlighted.
    I have always been afraid of writing ’cause I usually run out of words, but I believe with this I can overcome it.

  • Sambo Deborah Friday

    Whenever I pick up a pen to write, I would be weakened because of the thoughts that maybe what I’m planning to write will not make sense. But I have come to learn to face my fears no matter what.
    Thank you very much ma for all your efforts. God bless you

  • I have always been addicted to reading novels, so I tried writing my own novel as it has been one of my dreams. But my half finished novel was criticized by my friends, so I lost the courage to post my novel on Watt pad and on other writings. Thank you so much for this lesson, how I wish I’d read this in my high school years

  • These five tips really helped me alot. My greatest problem in writing is self doubt. I always doubt my ability. I always feel what if I did not get it the way I should or what if I fail. Again I always feel my vocabulary is not good enough.
    This post changed my mindset from negativity to positivity, I can boldly say that I must face my fears. Thank you ma
    Question
    Ma, you mentioned reading novels as a way one can improve his or her vocabulary, won’t it be a sort of distraction to the student?

    • No, it is required. In the past, one way of knowing students is that they always carry and talk about big novels. Now with so much digital entertainment, the reading culture among students is poor and it’s reflecting in their ignorance of the meanings and usage of many words and thus poor writing.

      It’s not only words that you learn when you read novels. You gain knowledge about different aspects of life, depending on what the various stories were about- the jobs of lawyers, doctors, construction workers, etc. You also learn how to write.

      God bless you!

  • Aroh Anthonia Ifeoma

    Tips 1and 2 really got me. I’m still in the process of overcoming though and reading Buchi Emecheta’s “Second Class Citizens” and how her heroine started writing has given me a bit of confidence.

  • Stephanie Ada Wakwe

    I always felt I wasn’t all that great in writing, I never tried to put an effort into writing but this article made me realise that we all have to try ourselves in life for us to see what we have to offer.

  • Obiogwu Onyinye

    Wow, honestly, I really needed this. I’m grateful, its very helpful. Thanks for the inspiration and encouragement… I’m sure picking up my writing pen again, thank you ma’am

  • Sochi

    Thank you very much for this Ma,I really appreciate.Most times I have alot that I want to write about but I end up over emphasising and missing important points. At a point I felt things I write aren’t good enough as those my mates normally write. I decided to stop but after reading this I think I should start again.

    Please ma how do I know and identify someone who can constructively criticize my write-ups?

  • I’ve always wanted to write something, a short story or a novel, but whatever I’ve written, I’m my only audience, i feel that my write ups are not good enough to share for criticism and appreciation.
    I fall in your No 4 category, i hope to overcome my self doubt and improve on my writing too.
    Wonderful advice ma

  • Ugochi

    I used to be a writer. I stopped writing because I felt discouraged, I felt I wasn’t good enough to be a good writer. Thanks ma. I sure will go back again and find a good community of writers.

    • Fortune

      This has really encouraged me to write! Unnecessary criticism is just an issue; and also getting a good coach. I trust it’s well with God though.

  • Ezema Johnmartins Kelechi

    I’m really blessed by this piece ma. Please, can one access books on this African writers series via online?

  • Offor Priscilla tobechi

    This is what I need to conquer my fears. I do have similar issues to the ones in this message, the thing is that I do write but I don’t let people see it or read it because of criticism. But through your message ma I think I can work my way through this problem thank you ma and God bless you and may he keep on giving you strength to find powerful keys and knowledge to be changing the lives of your students and people in Jesus name amen

  • This post has opened my eyes to a lot of things I am going through in terms of writing, of which self doubt is first. Sometimes self doubt stops you from writing when you haven’t tried it out yet. It comes with a feeling of inferiority complex that makes you look down on what you can offer as a writer. This has really armed me to fight this friendly enemy called self doubt and to move on no matter what. Thank you ma🙌

  • Chukwu Joy Chioma

    This post is really helpful to me, particularly.
    Writing block has been a major limitation to me as a beginner in writing and this piece has helped to a large extent.
    I have a question. Will finding writing peers improve me or stir up more fear as a result of competition?

    • Hi! This post is not about writer’s block.
      With regards to your question, only you can answer it. If your attitude is to learn from your peers and improve one another, you won’t be daunted by what they do better than you. But if you allow your insecurity and ego to overwhelm you, you might react negatively to your better peers.

  • Okochi Chinonso precious

    Really inspiring Ma. I used to write when I was in secondary school. I had good reviews from people that read them but I stopped, not that I lost interest but I felt the storylines were what anybody could think of. I thought I wasn’t thinking broad enough,I compared my stories with that of my other friends who wrote big novels but with this I’m really moved to read books from good writers like you mentioned and try again. Thanks ma’am

  • Eze Chinalurumogu Success

    Even when I can boast of an “okay” vocabulary, seeing the works of others really makes me ask myself “did you think you were a good writer?”. On the other hand, those absurd questions and negative thoughts sort of spur me to write better but when you present your work for criticism, damn….that’s where it becomes a problem. Some intend to be constructive in their criticism but end up being destructive and that undermines the writer.
    How can one handle criticism?

  • Agbowo Emmanuel chiagozie

    This piece got me in terms of publication rejections and related problems. Thanks, ma, for the motivation on “steadfastness”.

  • I’ve never felt like writing was for me although I love to read and I’ve attempted writing some poems.

    The mentality of “writing not being for me” could it have affected my progress in writing?

  • Self-doubt is one of the major problems many of us are facing..I understood that reading inspiring novels can help to increase our vocabulary.I use to have that fear of what people will say about my writing and also comparing myself to others.But this writing made me to understand that everyone has his/her own path in life and we should be prepared to receive both good news and bad ones.

  • Abiayi Ifeonuchukwu

    Wonderful piece….This post has really touched most of the reasons I stopped writing especially the aspect of criticisms and use of vocabulary. I so much fear people looking down on my writing and most times don’t know how well to use my vocabulary . I’m glad I read this post. Now I know that all these should only make me want to be a better writer and not doubt my ability to write well. Thank you ma and God bless

  • Adebanjo Adenike Rebecca

    My greatest fear so far about writing is well captured here and am so well learnt that “your self thinking of inadequacy shouldn’t hinder one from putting ones pen to practice”

    • Sweetie, I didn’t use those words you put in inverted commas. When you paraphrase what someone says, don’t enclose the words in quotation marks. Have a great week!

  • Odumuko Oluchukwu

    The need to write perfectly is one thing that puts a lot of pressure on newbies but these tips are definitely helpful. Thank you for sharing

  • Odumuko Oluchukwu Victoria

    These tips correctly tackle most of the fears newbies face when writing. Thank you ma

  • Aṅulika Iwoba

    I’m keeping myself from shouting gleefully now, hehe…
    This is so good!
    A product of keen observation and experience.
    Each time I pick my pen, I sigh and drop it because I’m underwhelmed by my vocabulary, particularly with poetry where I need a perfect rhyme scheme.
    And then of course, there is the fear of negative feedback and the unintended intimidation from seasoned writers whose works humble you.
    I find Chimamanda Adichie’s comment on Creative Writing Classes very candid.
    Many a time, I feel unequipped because I haven’t attended many classes on creative writing or even had a formal training on it. And this is a very discouraging feeling.
    But coming from her, I now know I do not have to wait until I’ve ticked all the boxes before being confident enough to write. Not to imply of course that courses on creative writing are pointless.
    Thank you, ma.

  • Amazing ma.
    Before now I do find it difficult to write,but after going through this,I think I can come up with something nice. Appreciate

  • Anekwe Paschaline

    Thank you Ma for this wonderful write up. For me, it has always been the case of lack of confidence. No matter how I write, I end up thinking it’s not good enough. I guess it’s to work on that😁

  • Reading extensively or voraciously can grow our vocabulary and put in writing will definitely make us best…. Since practice makes better.
    Thanks for your wonderful teachings ma.

  • Its the part where writers should take time to polish their work by editing,proof reading and adjusting a few things for me. I feel the best works are not rushed and should be given ample time in creation process.But Ma, I do have a question. What happens when you are on contract work or youre expected to meet a deadline?

    • As you mature in your writing, you’ll notice that you can still deliver excellent work under pressure. You will just have to neglect some other things to meet the deadline.

  • Chukwuemeka uchechukwu pepertua

    “Such feelings of self doubt are in fact quite common among writers and other creative people, even accomplished ones” now I know that am not the only one suffering from self doubt. I think that with this particular encouragement from you I will be able “to grow my wings “thank you ma’am and God bless you!

  • Thanks so much ma.self confidence is indeed a big key to overcome fear

  • Williams Blessing Ngozi

    I feel very enlightened now.
    Self doubt has been one of my greatest challenges but I know now that I will be able to overcome it and do better

  • Glory Oluchi

    I am encouraged with this. God bless ma

  • Okezi

    It is indeed helpful
    I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me; writing not excluded. I just need to know that if I have to be the best I have to learn and continue writing
    Thank you Ma! I will keep writing

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