Everybody Doubts: Tips From Published Authors

self doubt

Self doubt comes just as naturally to writers as the inspiration that drives us, and  even the most seasoned of authors struggle with it.

Here’s what some of the greats have to say about the matter:

Paul Tremblay

(author of Head Full of Ghosts)

Tremblay thinks the process is healthy, ” Every writer is different but doubt, at times, drives me, and makes me want to get better”.

However, in his worst bouts he says the best way to power through it is to get physical; ” I get up and walk away from the computer and go do something else; exercise or chores; something physical. It’s important to give yourself permission to bail on writing and not beat yourself up too much about it”.

Stephen King

(author of great things like the Dark Tower and Shawshank Redemption but also every film that makes you uncomfortable from your childhood, including IT, the Shining, and Carrie)

King claims that longer works can be a lonely process, and that can lead to some pretty serious cases of prose-loathing. He quotes another author saying, “We do not write because we want to. We write because we have to.”

If that’s not uplifting enough for you, King claims you must simply await your muses to persevere through the doubt.

“There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement kind of guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. Do you think it’s fair? I think it’s fair. He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist, but he’s got inspiration. It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the midnight oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life. Believe me, I know.”

Damien Angelica Walters

(author of Paper Tigers)

Even though the writer has been given multiple awards, included the Bram Stoker, she claims that she often feels like an impostor, “I tell myself my successes have been flukes and I should permanently retire my notebook and pen. I start comparing my career to those of other writers and find mine lacking”.

So how does she deal? Stop writing, do anything but. “When I do that, the negative feelings start to melt away and I remember why I write: because I love it. It isn’t about accolades or anthology invitations or even sales; it’s about telling the stories that I have inside me to tell.”

 John Skipp

(author of the Art of Horrible People)

Skipp claims collaboration is the key, “One of the great things about collaborators, when I work with them (which is often), is that they bring their expertise and enthusiasm with them. They know things I do not, know how to do things I do not. We bounce off each other till the sparks start flying”.

Angela Slatter

(author of The Girl With No Hands and Other Tales)

Slatter, although embarrassing as it may be, claims that you should never be afraid to ask for more time, ” I am generally the deadline queen, but this year I am the deadline clown. I have asked for so many extensions it’s embarrassing, but they’re necessary for the sake of my sanity”.

When in doubt, sort it out. She takes a look at what she’s finding difficult and does a virus scan, working out each issue on it’s own. This sounds pretty frustrating itself, and during this process it’s just as important to do the little things that clear your mind.

“If all else fails − and this is embarrassing − then I start humming a tune from a very old animated movie, called Santa Claus is Coming to Town; the dorky song is called ‘Put One Foot in Front of the Other’. It’s annoying and catchy and I know that until I fix the damned story and get over myself, I will keep humming like an idiot.”


I will leave you with a quote from Skipp who says, “writing is like a relationship. Some days will clearly be better than others. But if you’re determined to see it through, for better or worse, you stick at it. You focus on what’s working. When you start going down the wrong path, you turn the fuck around. You work on it. Because you care”.

To see the full list and read more in depth answers from the authors, head over to Litreactor.

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