Why Are So Many Writers Plagued With Insecurities?

I have a secret to share: I’m plagued with self-doubts.

Yes, even though I’m very close to having my second book  (The Doctor's Lady) out on shelves, I still battle self-doubts on a daily basis. And even though The Preacher’s Bride has won first place in two writer’s contests (Award of Excellence and Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award) and finaled in the prestigious Carol Awards, I still have a difficult time believing in my ability as a writer.

In a recent post,
The Barking-Dog Days of the Writer’s Life, I asked commentors to share some of the things that annoyed them most about the writing life. A number of writers expressed battles with self-doubt too, similar to my feelings.

Michelle DeRusha said, "I have lots of barking-dog moments: self-doubt, insecurity about my writing, frustration with how slowly the whole process moves, fear that I won't have any more ideas. I could go on!"

V.V. Denman said, "What annoys me most about the writing life is my inconsistent self confidence/doubt. One day I believe myself to be a great writer, the next I'm terrible. Neither of those produces memorable writing. I much prefer the days when I'm somewhere in between."

The various comments got me thinking about how self-doubts plague us at every stage of the journey, whether new writer, seasoned, agented, contracted, or multi-published. I always naively imagined that when I was published, made the bestseller list, and won some awards, I’d finally feel more confident, that my own writerly insecurities would fade away. You’d think with a couple of trophies on my desk, I’d be flying high.

But the doubts steadfastly remain.


Why are so many of us plagued with insecurities about our writing? Why do we believe our story to be a bestseller one day and the next day think it’s unworthy to line the cat litter box?

I’m not really sure that we as writers will ever be able to shake off the insecurity and doubts. They seem to be inherently woven into the job description of being a writer.

I think there are several reasons why writers are plagued with insecurities:

  • The industry is volatile. With Borders recently closing all its stores and fading into oblivion, with ebooks outselling paperbacks on Amazon, and with the rise and fall of authors imitating sunrise and sunset, most of us are on edge. We know new changes are around the corner, but we don’t know whether they’ll effect our careers for the good or bad.
  • Sales drive a career. The days of artists  having patrons who support them is long gone. As much as we’d like to ignore the business reality of the writing industry, we can’t. If we want to make it for the long haul, then we’ll need to have steady or increasing sales. And in a modern economy that fluctuates like a flushing toilet, steady is difficult to maintain.

  • Art is subjective. When certain books rise to the top of the charts we can only scratch our heads wondering what things about the book made it a commercial success? Perhaps the book breaks fiction-writing rules. Perhaps it lacks an engaging story. We can’t always understand why "less than stellar" books make it, when we’ve worked so hard on ours and it isn’t going anywhere.

  • Our own view of our work is clouded. Eileen Astels Watson described the phenomena well: "What's in our head at the time of writing often provides a cloud over what is actually written on the page. We just don't SEE the issues in print, because the story is so romantized in our heads at the time." The fact is, we won’t be able to see our work the way others do, and therefore we can’t help but wonder how we’re really doing, if we’re on track, and it’s all coming together the way we want.

Altogether, the insecurities surround us and bombard us on a daily basis from within and outside ourselves—no matter where we’re at in the journey. It’s precisely because of the insecurities that we need to be writing for a reason that transcends publication, fortune, and fame.

When we’re writing for a bigger purpose, deeper motives, and out of love of the creative process, then we’re able to toss those insecurities aside and say, "Who cares. I’m gonna keep on doing what I love no matter what happens around me."

What about you? What are some other things about the writing industry that cause you to have insecurities?

*Photo Credit: Flickr

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