I know I wrote a whole lesson on this, but now I want to hear what you know, what you do, what you have discovered about dealing with the doubts that crop up.   You know the ones.  That story you wrote and loved suddenly appears to be pure, finger-down-the-throat, embarrassing garbage.  Yes, I’m talking about major doubt, the kind that stops you from writing.

We’ve been writing together for a long time now, and hopefully you feel comfortable enough to be completely honest.  I’m sure you’ve had your moments.  What did you do?  How did everything turn out?  Tell us about it.

27 responses to “Doubt

  1. I haven’t quite had the longevity writing that many of your other frequent commenters possess. Even so, I have found that I have grown, as a writer, in great leaping strides. Many of the things I have written less than a year ago, now seem childish in language and form. In the past two or three weeks I have finally moved to the stage that writing is my ‘job.’ I almost choked on my keyboard. Coming to sites like this and writing things that are friendly, is good. But, I like the cut-the-forest-down-to-find-the-tree approach on occasion. I have a few friends that do that for me. If I keep getting that attaboy, pat on the back, I start to feel that tug of doubt. I know that seems opposite to what many will describe as their experience. But I NEED corrective criticisms. I have to know that what I did wasn’t perfect, yet. As well as where I can continue to grow.

    I have submitted a few flash fiction stories for publication in the last week. I am totally ready for the rejection. Bring it. When it comes, and I know it will I am ready. Who gets their first stories published on the first, second or however many tries? I will still write. Improve. Create. It is natural. It is what WE are meant to do. If I have the talent, drive or just plain curiosity to write, why would I let that doubt stop me?

    I mean it can’t eat me. Right? Please tell me it can’t eat me.

  2. The irony of it, dammit! A couple weeks ago I sent seven 100-word flash stories to a place that specializes in that format. Today I received seven polite thank-yous. Aarrrgghhhh.

    I have been writing creatively for but a year and I, like Walter sees in his work, see the growth and improvement in my writing. I really enjoy the flash fiction format as I view it as intense exercises in telling a story concisely and with impact.

    And, I too, need the critical input. I played at one site (now closed) where I could almost hear the honing of the knives as the others prepared for their edits and suggestions. I got a lot from that place. Other venues are but mutual admiration societies.

    I read “winning” FF and am aware that my style does not match that of most of the “winners.” Many leave me scratching my head asking myself, what was that all about, especially pieces which verge on poetic in feeling and ambiguity in story.

    I was told by a print-published novelist that I have a distinct voice to my writing and my characters, and that I should not veer from that to write like the others. And, I am trying to follow that path. But occasionally the thought crosses my mind; am I writing for the enjoyment of readers or to impress other writers.

    At times I have let non-writers, and even some non-readers read something. I hate it when I get the comment, “That was really good.” Makes me want to shred my face with my keys.

    I have re-read this ramble and feel the need to spend an hour editing, or a flick of the finger to delete it. Ah, well…

    Here is a link to a 100-word story that required the use of 9 specific words. Is it great literature? No. But it was a worthwhile exercise in not using the words in an expected way. Why not give it a try?

    • What does “really good” mean anyway, if you are not referring to a food delicacy?
      I read Orson Scott Card’s “How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy” on page 121, near the end, he mentions getting/molding a ‘Wise’ reader. He created a list of questions that his wife needed to answer when reading his work. Things like: How did it make you feel? Did you get bored anywhere? Do you remember a specific character? Anyway, the book takes about an hour to read. I thought it was time -SO- well spent.

      Check out my blog and send me a message if you want to chat sometime. I would like to have a fellow writer/reader to more closely work with. I think it is helpful to some extent. Although, writing in itself is somewhat of a lone wolf trade, having friends in the trenches make great backup.

    • Jeff, you do have a unique voice and an ability to set a scene and place characters in it that brings the reader right into the story. Your writing
      reminds me very much of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. especially his unusual use of words. I admired it so much I couldn’t write for three months after I read the book. For me, it wasn’t so much the plot of the book, but how he used words, i.e., “A bathrobe answered the door.”

      As for rejections, Stephan King had a nail on the wall of his bedroom on which he pinioned rejection notices, a very full nail.

      • Thanks, Gullie. I will have to get that book. Re the line you quoted, “A bathrobe answered the door,” I see I used a similar line in my beatnick story, “Skinny legs in leotards ask me for my order.” Maybe there’s hope for me yet! LOL

        So when King was asked about his latest submission, he could truthfully say, “I nailed it.”

  3. A Lousy Left Brain Day

    Today I
    couldn’t write for beans
    and the keyboard was dyslexic.

    Today I
    read a cooled-off story.
    It stank like five day old fish.

    Today I
    wondered why I couldn’t think
    of a simple plot, much less a complex one.

    Today I
    asked the muse to come out and play
    but she failed to respond.

    Today I
    wallowed in dismay at my limitations
    embarrassed that I ever thought I could write.

    Today I
    stayed out of the kitchen
    because I couldn’t stand the heat.

    Christ, how I hated it.

    (Yes, Ann, you’ve probably seen this before. It was inspired by something Sandra Dee (aka Dee Dee) wrote way back when we first met you.)

    And this is why I’ve never done much with my writing.

  4. Panhandler
    standing in the
    median with


    • There is a funny little phrase: Beans ,Beans the more you eat the more you ****. I guess in your case it’s : Beans, Beans the more your eat the more you write……

  5. I doubt that this is an adequate answer to Ann’s question, but my mother used to say about my brother, “If I expect nothing out of him, I am never disappointed.”

    I have little to no expectations about my writing, so I am rarely disappointed. I signed up for Beginning Writers Workshop two years ago because I was retired and bored. That class sounded easier than taking guitar lessons online. Besides, I have an accordion, not a guitar. I discovered that I enjoyed writing. If it ever gets to the point when the enjoyment is gone, I’ll go back to accordion. Face it, the prospects of making money out of either one are minuscule.

    My father played piano by ear. I was in awe of that gift, but I like to think that I write by ear…it just feels like a natural thing to do. Besides, look at the fine folks that I get to play with. Thanks guys for letting me join in the games !

    • Peanut I for one am glad you took the course. I love to read your stories. your writings are a side of you. We are happy to have friends on this site to help us and to read our work. Keep going.

  6. Well I have taken a few courses on line and write for here and @ It is for nature stories). I tend to write child like themes. I feel I should write more mature things when I see what everyone else writes. But I do love the animals and nature I write about. Some times my inner self tells me to grow up. Driving down the road I can see things . Like today the leaves were falling to the ground, I thought of ballet dancers and other types of dancing for the leaves as they fell. Confidence is what I need or at least a harder skin.

    I am not very good at proof reading. This I can see. But I am getting better from when I started. I read things over and over. In my minds eye I still see and hear them how I thought them. So I run over things and don’t really see them in the true form. Or lack there in.

    I looked for a sight to help me. Like Jeff said I want people to write the truth about what I write. When I show something to my husband he tells me I write about silly things. He seems to see the wrong side with very little praise. We all do need the praise. He asks me why I wrote about that. After 43 years he should know I never grew up and look for the happy side of things.

    The courses I took for Anne and others were a huge help. I was pushed on different path than I usually take. They opened my mind to new and fun way to do the writing. It took me back to school some what. I Really like the comments the other students wrote to show me how to better myself.

    But love of writing has kept me going. I don’t’ always to the prompts on sites but I do enjoy them. I have written a few poems and summited them. I even did a 100 words story about a picture prompt. But I still look for the help to see what I write and how to better myself.

    We seem to be the worst readers of our own written word. We look and look wanting it to be perfect the first time. Then when were summit it to any site. We sit back and then reread it a few days later and yell!!! why did I write it that way. I would have sounded better this way, wishing we could take it back.
    We want perfection and are never happy, because the written word is never right to the writer.

    I hope we all get a good laugh, a lot of help or most important a sense that we are not alone in how we see and feel about our own writings. May we all improve by doing this on sites like this one. With the help and guidance of Ann we just may.

  7. A few years ago, I took a cruise to Alaska. Yes, I live there, but the reason I took the cruise was that there was going to be a writer’s workshop on board. At one point, each of the three instructors read a bit of their own work.
    Jack was reading along and stopped suddenly. There was a long pause mid-sentence before he looked up and said, “I just saw something I wanted to change.” He had written that piece seven years prior. It never stops, does it?

  8. Okay, here I am after… weeks? months? Oh a very long time. And the truth is, I’ve been hiding behind my paint brushes and actually trying not to compose story ideas as I lie awake in the early hours of the morning. I haven’t submitted much this year. The last thing I had published, and I find this quite funny, was in a book called Inspiration for Writers. Hah! I haven’t even been able to inspire myself! I had two essays rejected in the spring and when I re-read them, I knew instantly why. Yes, Gully, you’re right. The editing never stops. They aren’t dismal; they just need tweaking. But I haven’t been able to force myself to sit down and focus long enough to do it.

    We all know editors reject work for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it simply doesn’t suit their current need. The first time I had a rejection hit my email inbox within thirty minutes of submitting an essay was a real jolt. My husband, kind hearted soul that he is, patted me on the shoulder and reminded me that the editor was probably overwhelmed with submissions and had already filled all her slots for that topic. He assured me she hadn’t rejected it because it was bad. She hadn’t even had time to read it.

    To anyone who hasn’t yet been published but wants to be, please, please don’t stop trying. I had a story rejected by one publisher only to have it purchased several months later by another. So if you believe in
    something you’ve written and you’ve honed it to its very best, don’t destroy it. Don’t give up on it. Search out that place, that niche where it belongs, because there will be a place for your story.

    As for the friend who reads your stuff and tells you it’s ‘really good’, please understand that most people don’t feel safe enough to give negative feedback. And they often don’t even know how to critique writing. If you like, lead them a little by asking questions. Was the ending too abrupt? Would this descriptive passage work better if it were shorter? Over time you might cultivate a trusted reader if they come to believe they won’t lose your friendship over a negative critique.

    And this is more writing than I’ve done in six months!

    • the advice is very good for all of us. I have never even tried to get published. I have been getting the nerve to try. Your instructions are very good. Thanks

      • Marion, I hope you’ll get up the courage to submit something. I can’t tell you what a rush it is to walk into a book store, take one from the shelf and see your name and your words in print. It almost seems magical. I want that feeling for you. I want it for everyone here.

        I used to ask myself, what’s the worst that can happen? They don’t know me. They aren’t going to see me in the grocery store tomorrow and point and laugh. Yes, they may say ‘no thank you’. But they might say ‘yes’! And if you’re worried about receiving one of those scathingly mean rejection letters we’ve all heard about, let that thought go right now. I’ve never had that happen. I’ve received mostly form letters. But a couple of editors took the trouble to send notes with bits of advice. One editor went to the trouble to apologize that the column I’d submitted for was no longer going to be printed, but he liked my writing. He suggested I should submit it to another magazine. Another editor filed my piece and called me six months later to ask if I’d do a radio interview on the topic instead. Then she published my photos in her magazine.

        When I first started writing after Ann’s class, I read something that said about one in twenty pieces will be published. I decided to play the odds. I thought if I could send out 100 pieces over the summer, I might get one thing published. It worked! And I didn’t have to get to 100 to do it, either. So please try.

  9. Cranberrylodge, nice to hear from you. Don’t be such a stranger.

  10. After my post re seven rejections (actually it was 8, I miscounted, I received another rejection the next day. However, this was followed the next day with an acceptance email of a 700+ word story at a different FF site. So, what can I say except keep plugging away, keep writing, keep editing, keep sharing. Jeff

  11. Ann, when I’m ON Facebook and click on a video posted by Kim Komando, I get an ed2go ad featuriing BWW. I know these ads are tailored to my browsing, but how ironic and perfectly appropriate.

  12. Gullie,
    I’m getting those ads too–for all three of my online courses, showing up in different places. I don’t know if ed2go is finally getting itself in gear or what. I certainly didn’t do it. I’m too computer-lazy to do more than try and cope with this blog and the online courses. Who’s Kim Komando? Am I missing something good?

  13. Kim is a tech savvy woman I occasionally listen to Saturdays noon to 3, if I happen to be driving and listening to the radio. She takes calls and answers questions. I learn a lot about products, etc, and how to do certain things. Google her and get a better idea. She has lots of tips and instructive articles there. Plus, she’s fun to listen to. Calls herself America’s Digital Goddess.

  14. One of my favorite lessons during your writing class caused me to examine my doubts and come to terms with how much they can control my life as a writer. I knew I lived with doubts; I was raised to believe I was less than acceptable and certainly not gifted. I believed I had come to terms with defining myself by individuals in my life who have no agenda; therefore, they have no need to be anything less than truthful. Accepting their perspective and then choosing how to incorporate who I am into who I am has been quite a journey. However, when your lesson on doubt occurred in the writing class, I felt that old familiar smack in the face. I sat and looked at that yellowish submit button until my computer shut down. I told myself when I rebooted, I would push that button and submit my 500 word final essay. Push that button I did. That encouraged me to try to publish an essay in a writing magazine contest. Yes, Evelyn is still hammering away at me, but I removed the head of the hammer and left just the worthless handle. She leaves a few splinters, but no blunt force trauma. I have no designs at this stage of my writing that I would win this contest. For me, it is a milestone victory to place the stamp on the envelope, drop it in the mailbox, and breathe. Breathing will feel so incredibly rewarding as I once again choose to let Evelyn ramble on without paying one iota of attention to her ranting. Each time I tune out, I write more, find great pleasure in writing, and continue to find relief in that feeling that if I don’t write something, I am just going to explode. No doubt the ride will include some not so subtle roller coaster moments, but for right now I am dealing. Evelyn has a place, but the place is certainly not to incapacitate me again.

    • Roller coaster! Good image. I always use a boat image. I’m captain of a big ocean liner who periodically has to weather some major storms. But my ship is seaworthy, so I ride out the battering winds. I am not in a small row boat, vulnerable to being swamped by those waves of doubt. We shall both plow forward no matter the dips!

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