When You Feel Like the Worst Writer in the World

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

This past year I've spent a LOT of time editing. It seems that every time I turn around, one of my books needs some kind of edit. Earlier in the year, I spent close to 6 weeks doing macro-edits on my Luther and Katharina book which releases in October. In June I had line edits on another book. And finally just a few weeks ago I worked on macro-edits for my second YA book, A Daring Sacrifice.

Editing is never my favorite thing to do. For me it requires a different kind of energy than I use for first drafts. I have to be more focused and concentrate harder with fewer interruptions (which is hard to come by in my busy household). Editing also requires some brutality. I cut, delete, and rip the book apart. All the nit-picking is part of the process of making a story better.

But that negativity toward my stories eventually begins to wear on me mentally and emotionally, especially when I have so much editing for such long durations and in close succession. In fact I start to get depressed about my writing ability.

A host of doubts jump all over me and taunt me in their devilish sing-song voices: "What if readers don't like this story? What if it's not as interesting as your other books? What if you get bad reviews? What if, what if, what if . . . "

I've come to expect this kind of reaction whenever I'm in editing mode. But other writers may experience those low times during other stages of the writing journey–maybe after querying or reading reviews or attending a conference.

Whenever we go through our "I'm the worst writer in the world" stage, we should remind ourselves of several truths:

1. We can't expect perfection from ourselves. The truth is, we won't be able hit a home run every time we write a book. Yes, we want to do our very best to craft stories readers will like. But, we're not perfect. And there might be times when readers won't sing our praises quite as loudly.

2. The modern author faces an overabundance of pressure. While the growth of online review spots (like Goodreads) can help increase the exposure and shelf life of our books, it also makes readers' impressions of our stories readily available—for both the good and the bad. Readers/blog reviewers are turning into the new "critics." And so now we have many more critics to try to please than ever before, and we can't possibly please everyone. Which leads to the next point . . .

3. What doesn't resonate with some readers, might with others. A reader recently emailed me saying, "Jody, you are my favorite author. I have read all your books and can't wait until the next one comes out. However, the book I just read is not like the rest. It is boring and redundant. I have skipped over some paragraphs just to get through the book. What happened? I will watch for your next new book." Ouch! Even though the email stung just a bit, I realized that many other readers have raved about the book. For whatever reason, this book just didn't resonate with this particular reader. And that's okay.

4. We can always do better the next time. If one of our books doesn't do as well, we can push ourselves to grow, learn from our mistakes, and craft a better story with each book we write. As writers, the possibilities before us are endless. We just have to pick ourselves up and keep carrying on.

So, how about you? Have you ever felt like the worst writer in the world? How do you push through it?


  1. Well, I'm not published....yet, but there are days where I just don't want to write because I think--"What for? There are so many better writers out there?" Yes, there are many times, I feel like the worst writer in the world.

  2. Very encouraging post! Applies to other areas of life as well, whether it's mothering, sistering, daughtering, or whatever we do on a regular basis, it's just too easy to feel like we're failing. Where do these unrealistic expectations come from?

  3. You are not alone, Jody. I rarely like my books after reading them over and over again during multiple rounds of editing. And reviews sure keep us humble...and sometimes scratching our heads, especially when opinions vary so widely on the same book--which proves how true your #3 is. Sounds like you've been very busy, lady! I'm guessing readers will LOVE the fruit of your labors.

  4. There are definitely times when I'm trying to write when my inner editor goes ballistic. I start second-guessing every word I try to jot down and it takes me forever to finish whatever I'm working on. During times like these, I start asking myself whether I really have the talent to be a published author. What helps me push through these times is thinking about the praise that I've gotten for my work in the past, and also considering the fact that just about EVERY writer, no matter how successful, has thought something similarly about their own writing abilities. I also remind myself of a quote I read that went something like this: lack of belief in your abilities will destroy you long before lack of talent does. I've just gotta keep pushing through times like these to get to the reward of creating something I'm proud of.

  5. I host a small village inside me when I create. The loudest voice is my own teacher's voice ('Really? You're going to put that there?), my doubting Thomas (Don't know why you thought this was going to turn out okay), the chorus of dissenters (You suck!), the characters themselves (would you get on already and keep writing). Doesn't matter how many awards, how many publications, how many times on the best seller list, those happy moments never last when faced with the other reality of 'making good art': fear, distraction, uncertainty, unbelief, doubt, a lack of perspective. Thank goodness we get to hear other people just like us say similar stuff to what we're thinking so that we don't give up altogether. Thank you Jody.

  6. Great post. It's kind of comforting in a way to read about other writers experiencing the same anxieties and worries, whilst at the same time finding ways to push past these fears. It's encouraging. :) Thank you.

  7. Jody, I've come to believe that every writer in the world, whether published or not, suffers from some degree of the Imposter Syndrome. Thanks for the reassurance, as well as some of the explanations.

  8. Great points, Jody. Thanks for this post! I'm in this exact same spot and have been there for a while as I work through all the different levels of editing on my soon-to-release book. There have been more times of discouragement than I expected. I know it doesn't mean it's a bad book, but I think that as we constantly look critically at our work - and others do as well - it can leave us tangled up, sometimes even wondering what we're doing in the first place. I have to remind myself that those feelings are really a blessing in disguise. They have us staying on our toes, giving 100%. Even if the finished product doesn't hit that home run with everyone, we can walk away knowing that we did our absolute best. Always easier said than done, of course. ;) So I'm so thankful for this post and to know that you hit those spots yourself, and to read your pointers on how to take it all in stride. Thanks!

  9. I needed this post. I finished my first book a month ago and now editing. This explains why my earlier mountain top excitement has plummeted. Editing is so hard. If one more family member says, "I thought you were finished with that book?"

  10. It's this kind of insecurity that keeps me on my toes. The rest of the time, I have no idea what I'm doing. ;)

  11. I loved this post and it's great to know I'm not alone. I tend to feel like the worst writer in the world when I check my sales and see that I haven't gained any new readers in a while. It makes me feel invisible in this great sea of writers all trying to get their work out there. Sometimes I feel like a failure but your post has made me realize that I'm doing the best I can and I shouldn't be so hard on myself!


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