As a writer, I've had ups and downs, highs and lows. And sometimes those lows...they make you feel like you never want to write again, that you're writing is so worthless you'd rather crumple it up and burn it with fire rather than try to fix it.
But I'm here today to tell you to keep going. Doubts happen to all of us, but we can defeat them. Here are some that I've struggled with, with a possible solution.
1. This story is so terrible. Nobody will want to read it. Why should I even bother?
It's easy to look out at all of the creative pieces of work in the world—movies, books, music, art, any type of medium you could think of—and stare back at your own work and feel very, very small.
But just because you're small doesn't mean you can't create great things! Everyone has a story (or ten), and it takes a very special type of person to actually have the drive and desire to get that story out into the world. So many people don't even go that far, so you're already off to a great start.
It can be extremely difficult to keep yourself from comparing yourself to others. There can be times when you feel your story is so horrible, so unsalvageable that it might as well be burned. But don't stop, keep going, and rest assured that there is someone who loves your story and wants to see you succeed, no matter what.
2. This story is a mess. I'll never be able to fix it.
Staring at a computer screen or notebook, trying to puzzle through a messy draft is not high on the fun scale. But it doesn't have to be all dark and grim.
When slogging through a messy story, remember: for now, you're telling this story to yourself. If it doesn't make sense, that's okay! First drafts aren't perfect, and neither are second, third, fourth, and so on and so forth. Revision is one of the most magical parts of writing. It's when you get to look at the puzzle you've laid out for yourself and beginning connecting the pieces. It's a game of skill and strategy.
And when it's all complete and you'd straightened out the wrinkles and worked out the kinks, the feeling of accomplishment is second to none.
3. I'm not a real writer.
This hardly bares another thought. If you write anything, you are a writer. It's as simple as that. Novels, short stories, poetry, journaling, to-do lists—if you write absolutely anything, you're a real, genuine writer.
4. I'm so horrible at writing (insert story element). I'll never get good at it.
To risk sounding like a cliche, the best thing you can do to get better at something is to do a lot of it. You'll never become better with the attitude that you can't become better. Experiment with writing exercises related to the thing you struggle with. Don't be afraid to write, write, write.
The more you practice, bit by bit, you'll find that maybe that dialogue between your main character and the villain wasn't so horrible, that paragraph describing the creepy castle wasn't awful, or that scene where the love interests are finally confessing to each other didn't seem so cringey.
Even if it feels like you're not making progress, you inevitably are. And it's important to remember: not all writers have the same strengths, and that's okay.
5. The internet is too distracting, so I end up never writing.
Above all, remember why you're writing. Having a goal associated with your writing time will go a long way in helping you stay on track. If you think it would be beneficial, create a reward system. If you write X amount of words, you can allow yourself X amount of time on the web.
Even better, when you are on the web, stay topical. If you're on Pinterest, work on a moodboard for your story. If you're on YouTube, find a helpful writing video or something that inspires you. If you're on TikTok...well, you may want to leave. It is very helpful to keep your brain in the writing mode even when you're taking a break. It keeps you alert and still thinking about what you're doing.
6. I'll never be able to write like (insert favorite author).
In this, you would be correct. You will never be able to write like your favorite author. Do you know why? Because nobody can write like you. If we all wrote like the people we admire, eventually everything would become the same bland flavor. Only you can write your story. So don't worry about sound like anyone else. Write like you.
7. I don't write everyday, so I'm failing as a writer.
Unless you are a full-time author who has the time to devote a full work week to writing, it is unrealistic to have the mindset that you must write every day. Good habits are always a handy thing to have as a writer, and I would encourage you to write as much as you can, but also consider how important it is to live your life as well.
It's helpful to think about in another light. Consider: every time you're thinking about your story, imagining a conversation between characters, even reading a book—you're writing. It might not seem like it, but just because you aren't putting pen to paper or fingers to keys doesn't mean you're not working on your story, letting it percolate in the back of your head, thinking things through. In fact, the time spent thinking about your story can greatly improve your productivity when it does come time to actually sit down at write.
8. Nobody will ever be as invested in my story as I am.
Authors pour their hearts and souls into their stories, often (but not always) with very little return compared to what was put in. But when you find your people, the ones who have been waiting for a story like yours, there can be no stopping their excitement. We live in a time and culture where fandom and "stans" are commonplace. There will always be someone out there who would love to psychoanalyze your story. It's just a matter of finding them.
9. I'm never going to finish this novel...
Perhaps one of the hardest doubts that writers experience—will I ever finish this story? The answer: yes and no. Yes, if you really, truly love your story, it will be impossible to leave it unfinished. It won't be a choice. No, if you don't feel it's worth the time and effort. If you don't love your story at least 110%, it won't matter how much time you invest in it, it won't ever be finished. Great things take time.
But it's also important to know that it's okay to move on. If you're ready for something new, shelve that project for now and pursue the idea that does interest you. There are no rules that say that you have to finish something you started. Maybe down the line you'll return to the story, but for the moment, it's okay to move on.
Madeline is a YA fiction author. She is a freelance graphic designer and owns a used bookshop, The Paper Route. She has a passion for telling stories that inspire and take people back to a simpler time of playing make believe and being imaginative. As well as writing, she enjoys reading speculative fiction, playing and listening to music, and cooking and baking delicious food.