Clinging to Hope When Insecurities Taunt Us

Recently I had one of those really bad days—when everything that could go wrong did (or at least seemed to).

It started when I burned the rolls I was making for Easter. After mixing the dough and letting it rise and all that good stuff, I placed the rolls in the oven for 15 minutes, set the timer, and went upstairs to write.

When the timer went off, I rushed down, covered the pan with foil (so that the tops wouldn’t burn), and then put the rolls back in to bake a little longer.

I ran upstairs and started writing again. 45 minutes later, I sat up, sniffed, and caught the whiff of baking rolls.

“Smells delicious,” was my first thought.

Then my second thought (after a long confused moment) was, “Shoot! The rolls are still in the oven!”

I’d forgotten to set the timer for the second 15-minute-round of baking. They'd over-baked by at least 30 minutes.

I flew downstairs to the oven, took one look at the crusty, dark brown lumps, and let out a cry of despair. All I could do was toss them on the counter, stare at them, and fight back tears.

All that hard work for nothing. (Or so I thought. As it turns out, my kids don’t really mind eating crunchy, rock-hard rolls. Whew!)

At the time, I’d just finished reading through the Galleys for Unending Devotion (releasing Sept. 1). The Galleys are the last edits an author can make on a book, taking place after the book has had both a substantive edit (for clarity, transitions, length, etc.) and a copy edit (for grammar, punctuation, timeline, etc.).

I’ve always had a hard time reading the Galleys of my books. By the time this stage comes, I’ve lost all love for the book particularly because I’ve worked on it so much already. And I’ve also given myself plenty of distance from the book so that I can now view it with a critical eye. In fact, my eye has grown overly critical, and as I read the Galleys, I end up saying these kinds of things:

“Everything sounds so stilted.”

“I’m so repetitious. I can’t believe how many times I repeated the word stepped. What was wrong with me?” (Seems I have several pet words that I repeat in every book!)

“This is so slow-moving. It’s boring. And I can’t stand it.”

While combing through my Galleys, my anxiety keeps rising and winding tighter, until I’m sure I’m the worst writer that ever lived.

Unfortunately, the wishy-washy emotions that resulted from the burned rolls and my Galleys joined forces, so that when I returned to my desk to work on my WIP, all the insecurities sat down with me and began to taunt me.

At that particular point, I was having trouble finding a specific research book that I needed. And my online searches had turned up mostly empty as well. I started to feel like a lousy researcher, unable to get the accurate details I needed to add richness to my story.

As I glared at the screen of my laptop at the half-filled page, all I could think was that now my WIP was worthless too. Compared to those other historical writers out there who are such experts in their time periods, I was a lousy failure.

Suddenly I couldn’t see anything good about any of my writing. I laid my head down and wondered why I’d ever thought I could write in the first place.

I share all of my insecurities for a couple of reasons.

One, I want to show that nobody always has it all together all the time. Insecurities happen no matter where we’re at in our publication journeys. We all ride the waves of doubt.

Two, I want to encourage us not to let the waves of insecurities drown us. When we feel like we’re sinking, we need to keep paddling forward anyway. The difference between those who make it and those who don’t is the ability to persevere. Some give up too soon. Those who keep writing and growing are bound to get where they want to go eventually.

I try to cling to hope and remember these things:

Never let the odds keep you from doing what you know in your heart you were meant to do. ~H Jackson Brown Jr.

Never, never, never give up. ~Winston Churchill

Believe you can, and you’re halfway there. ~Theodore Roosevelt

When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on. ~Thomas Jefferson

A good laugh and a long sleep are the two of the best cures for anything. ~Irish Proverb

I’m collecting a board of inspiring pins over on Pinterest that I can look at when those insecurities come. I invite you to head over and read some of the sayings whenever you need encouragement too.

So what about you? Have you had a day (or moment) recently where you felt insecure about your writing and thought about giving up? What helps you keep going when you’re tempted to throw in the towel?


  1. I'm feeling really insecure about getting my Genesis results at the moment. Every time I go to open my email I feel a bit ill - even though I know they won't be there yet!

    It's been four years since I last entered, and I've worked so hard in that time and really feel like I've improved tenfold, but what if the judges don't like my writing any more in 2012 than they did in 2008? Is that God's way of telling me it's time to move on?

  2. This post is why I'm your fan. :) Thank you for being candid and real, as you always are. While I'm sure it's not easy to write about your insecurities, you are definitely encouraging others (me!) to persevere through the rough times by doing so. I can get down and out on my writing easily, but to know YOU—the author of two excellent novels, with a third on the way—have had similar episodes of despair is oddly reassuring. Sort of like when I was down and out on delivering my first baby (in the midst of labor I thought there was no way I could carry on) but then I had to recall that women have been doing something so difficult for thousands of years, and if they could do it, so could I. LOL Well I suppose that's a little different b/c the baby will come out no matter what, but still...

    Love the quotes, especially the first one by H Jackson Brown Jr. I'm off to see your Pinterest page. I could use some inspiration this morning.

  3. I've had those exact thoughts...and they're much more crippling when you haven't yet published! (Fiction, anyway. I always want to give up on fiction altogether and just keep writing my little nonfiction niche, where it's safe.) Thanks for the encouragement.

  4. Goodmorning, everyone! Thank you for sharing and baring your hearts with me! It's always so good to know we're in this together! :-)

    Kara, I wouldn't let contest outcomes determine whether to keep writing or not. Having judged AND been judged in contests, I have learned that the feedback can be very subjective. And yes, while the judges' comments can help us see some of our strengths and weaknesses, we can't base anything on the results. If you want to chat more about it, feel free to email me.

  5. Reading this post makes me feel less neurotic and more human. Thank you for your heart in the struggle. I felt like you had articulated my exact into my thoughts after I finished my first book. By the end, I just wanted to lay in the fetal position and never see a comma again. I loved the writing process, but the editing and detailing of it about did me in. I've had lots of people ask me if I was going to read it. I would laugh and say NO! I've lived it, again and again. :)

  6. First, I love that your kids were such troopers with the rolls! Yeah for your kids!

    Second, yeah for you for once again being transparent and speaking truth.

    Third, yes, my thoughts get pretty crowded up there and I find I often need to toss out a lot of junk thoughts I've accumulated through the years. Love your Pinterest idea. Love all ideas like it that help people to remember truth and motivate them to get back on track. I've found if I'm struggling to shake off some thoughts a good run does wonders for clearing the cobwebs.

    ~ Wendy

  7. Spot-on description of the feelings about reading galleys! It's amazing how much stands out after it's too late to fix. I think of it as learning experience for the next book. But it's still a had moment. I just got copies of my book and I'm afraid to do more than admire the cover because now it's definitely too late!

  8. Jody,
    On the days when I climb up on that virtual ledge and want to jump off, I'm thankful for my "safety net" of writing comrades. These are my friends who will pick up the phone whenever I call & who will climb up on the ledge with me & listen, pray with me, make me laugh ... whatever.
    Another quote I like: Fatigue makes cowards of us all. Being overtired skews my perspective so, so fast!

  9. I once made the silly mistake of placing a ciabatta bread mix in our bread maker. Feeling very proud of myself, I tootled off to my pc upstairs to do some Photoshop work.

    Instead of the gorgeous aroma of baking bread, I smell this awful burning,then the smoke detectors kicked off, wailing and screeching.

    Upon entering the kitchen I stare in horror as this bubbling, smoking mass of goop is trying to escape the bread maker. It was a total disaster.

    So we all, even the best of us, have our off days. So long as no one gets hurts and nothing is damaged, and you can laugh about it afterwards, then all is well.


  10. I've had more than a few days like that recently. It helps to know I'm not the only one.

  11. I'm with you, Jody. The galleys stage is so hard for me. I second guess everything. It's good to know I'm not alone.

  12. Jody, this is soooo what I needed to hear! I've been receiving feedback from some beta readers: some good, some constructive. But I get so easily embarrassed when someone points out something and I'm like, "Duh! Why didn't I think of that? Why did I write it that way in the first place?" It can easily go downhill from there and make me wonder if I even have what it takes. But like you said: perseverance is key!

  13. Yesterday was a crummy writing day for me. I so needed to read this post today. Thank you! :)

  14. Thanks for your transparency, Jody. Everyone has days like that, but you put something in place to help you over it sooner in the future. I love the Pinterest idea. I have an email folder titled "Encouragement" that I read through when days like that hit.

  15. Love this, Jody! I'm sorry you had a rotten day, but I can really relate!

    I plotted out my new book last week and was soooo excited about it! I loved everything about it. Yesterday? I thought the idea was mediocre, boring, and I couldn't see why I'd ever thought it good.

    By late afternoon, I told myself I was just having a rough Monday after a very fun, busy weekend. Today I'm excited about my book again. It's funny how our moods affect us!

  16. Thank God I am not alone! My first draft was so much fun to write, but now as I go through for my first round of re-writing, I wonder what in the heck am I doing? I compare myself to the greats and wonder why I would even want my book to sit on the same shelf as theirs? Then, I have to remember, everyone started out at the exact same place as me. Everyone second-guesses themselves. And every sentence (paragraph or chapter) I have to delete can be chaulked up as experience, a lesson in how NOT to write again. I know I have a lot to learn and I thank God I found an amazing faith filled writing community to learn from. Thank you for your candid post today, it was perfect, even if your dinner rolls weren't.

  17. Thanks again Jody...perfect timing for me as I've been very discouraged about my writing in the past few days;(. Thanks for being real about your down days and for reminding all of us to keep going:) Needed to hear that today!

  18. Thanks for your honesty, Jody. It is an encouragement to me and I know for other writers as well. It always helps to know we're not alone in our struggles, and gives us courage to keep moving forward. Glad your kids ate the rolls anyway. :-)

  19. I appreciate you Jody! I try to remind myself that God doesn't require perfection of me, that He only requires that I use the gift He's given me to the best of my ability. And then I picture what I would be doing if I wasn't writing in my spare time...watching TV, and having a pity party. So I get over myself and keep writing. :-)

  20. I burned my english muffins this morning and set off the fire alarm. *sigh*
    Thank you for the quotes. I go through this same stuff and it's tough.
    Reading the bible helps or pulling out compliments (yep, I save them, lol). It's hard though. My WIP is going slow partly because of my insecurities.
    Did I mention I procrastinate?? ;-)

  21. Hi Jody! Thanks for the encouragement for those really hard days... I needed that! I also felt the same way when I read through my galleys... I called Rachelle and said "I hate this book! It's horrible and stupid and not funny at all" and she reassured me that ALL authors feel that way after reading their galleys. They're just too attached to the project.

  22. Thanks so much for the encouragement. You write the best historical fiction I have read. When I read it, I feel like I'm really living in that time period. I'm glad you get through those moments of insecurities and keep writing! I'm excited to read Unending Devotion. :)
    Quotes like the ones you put above, and the truth that we can cling to our trust in God, help get me through the moments of questioning. I like how you said, "The difference between those who make it and those who don’t is the ability to persevere." SO true! Writing certainly isn't the easy road to take, but I feel blessed to be able to pursue it in hopes of being a "real" writer one day. :)

  23. Have I felt insecure about my writing? Oh, yes! Just this morning I spent more than an hour trying write tomorrow's blog post and had so much trouble finding the words I wanted, I wondered why I would ever think I could become a novelist. The fact that I'm working on my fifth ms doesn't convince me because I'm sure they're not great either. What keeps me going is that I love writing, but also knowing that if I don't like stories I've written, in the end I don't have to let anyone see them. (A little counterproductive if I'd like to be published some day, but that's the way my introverted Inner Critic works.)

    Thanks for sharing this, Jody. Now I'll head over to check out that Pinterest board. Extra motivation is always welcome.

  24. I'm approaching the galley stage of my book and I have the same thoughts. Knowing that it's the final look and other than typos or errors, its pretty much too late to fix anything. It's easy to be hard on ourselves and to get cold feet. I know I'll have to recall the countless hours I spent editing and like you, rest assured that I made it the best book possible.

  25. Enjoyed your candor here! I'm looking forward to someday having a galley stage!

    One thing I've found is that when ALL my thoughts are negative and I can't see ANY good in a situation, it's a total satanic attack. Every. Single. Time. Because there's always good, even in the worst situations. Sometimes we just can't see it.

    I've followed your Pinterest boards and enjoy the sayings! Keep 'em coming!

  26. How do you do that? How do you write posts aimed precisely at me? Well, thank you. I've been in the exact same mood these last couple of weeks editing my book. It is so good to know that I'm not alone.

  27. I'm sorry you had "a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day," as Alexander of children's book fame would say. We all have them, and while they get us down for a time, it's important to remember that the feelings will pass.

    As for Unending Devotion, it happens to be my favorite of your books so far. I can't wait until your eager fans get to enjoy it.

  28. The last two rejection letters I got. There was nothing mean-spirited or anything telling me to give up, they just hit me hard because the list is dwindling for my current sub. More and more, it looks like I'll have to put it aside or try the e-pubs.

  29. To be honest, I had never heard of the term Galleys before! I've learned something new today! Yay!

    Your post really demonstrates the evils of rumination - how one small event can trigger a whole maelstrom of negative thoughts and feelings. This is something I'm trying to work on by practicing awareness and being fully present in the moment.

    Great post!

  30. Thanks for this encouraging post. I particularly like the one about not letting the odds keep you from doing what you know in your heart you were meant to do.

  31. It's amazing how overload can breed insecurity. Sometimes a little distance is a blessing.

  32. I'm totally feeling this now as I'm going through revisions. My critique partners and agent haven't seen it yet, and all I can think of is how much they'll roll their eyes and laugh when they read it (and not the good kind of laughter). But I need to remember that they'll help me make it better, and I need to press on.

  33. Yep! The last couple of weeks have been particularly discouraging for me. Enough to make me question why I bother, and what ever made me think I could write...or that I would have anything worth sharing...

    I even skipped one scheduled blog post, just because I felt too discouraged to write.

    Honestly, I'm still in a bit of a I'm searching for fresh inspiration or a direction adjustment.

    BUT...I'm back to blogging, again...taking it on faith that God knows the plan...and knows who needs to hear the message He has given me...and how to bring about that connection...

    Thanks for the encouragement, Jody!

  34. Glad the post was encouraging, Joe! Hang in there. We all hit those rough spots from time to time.


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