Your Inner Critic: The Voice of a Writer’s Self-Doubts

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Why is learning to manage your self-doubts essential to your progress as a writer?


The inner critic and self-doubt.

The inner critic is certainly not an original concept. I describe it as the “inner voice” that expresses our self-doubts. For example, my self-doubts still surface whenever I consider writing on an unfamiliar topic or later when submitting the finished article to an editor or publisher.

My inner critic tells me why I’ll likely suffer another rejection. It also reminds me why I should continue what’s familiar and appreciate the benefits of feeling safe and comfortable.

The value in listening to self-doubts.

There’s some value in doubting yourself; the benefits are admitting that you need to learn and improve.

Perhaps you can’t stand your present job and want to become a writer, but you have some doubts. These doubts may include your financial requirements, family obligations, a lack of writing skills, or little proven experience.

There are some doubts you must resolve, while others represent conditions you must address continually to start progressing as a writer.

Learn to manage your inner critic.

I’ve seen aspiring writers surrender as soon as their self-doubts arise. The closer they come to finishing their first chapter or submitting an article, the more overwhelming their self-doubts become. Once writers yield to their inner critic, they give it “veto power” over their career progress.

If you want to limit the negative influence of self-doubts, I encourage you to learn how to manage them. Remember, we’re the authors of our self-doubts. If we create them, we can manage them. Here’s one strategy that has proven effective for me.

Acknowledge your self-doubts and respond to them.

I can’t manage a doubt if I refuse to acknowledge it. So, I encourage you to identify your self-doubts objectively to respond to your inner critic effectively.

My self-doubts:

For example, I recognize that I’m not a great writer. Yet, I’ve always wanted to write and learn how to make a living with my writing. Whenever I used to consider writing for a living, my inner critic would prompt the following questions in my mind:

  1. Do you honestly believe you have the talent to become a writer?
  2. Why do you think you have anything to say that people need to hear?
  3. Do you honestly believe anyone will pay for something you’ve written?
  4. Does the world need another “wannabe” writer?
  5. What if people criticize or ridicule you for your lack of writing skills or talent?
  6. Since you’ll fail or give up later anyway, why bother trying?
My responses:

Once I acknowledge my self-doubts, I write them down. Reflecting on them helped me develop the following responses:

  1. I’m a better writer today than when I started working with clients eight years ago.
  2. I believe I have something to say that can potentially help others, but I continue to improve my ability to express it effectively in writing.
  3. I’ll let the market determine whether people will pay for my writing. My inner critic has no role in that determination.
  4. There’s always a place for a good, substantive writer.
  5. Writers practice their craft publicly. Criticism, ridicule, and embarrassment are among the risks we face.
  6. The two assumptions (I’ll either fail or give up) are baseless. So, there’s no reason I shouldn’t try.

I’ve discovered that any doubts I can resolve or actively address are no longer an issue. If my doubts indicate a need for change or improvement, that’s my next project.

Living with your inner critic.

If you learn to respond to your self-doubts, you won’t achieve perfection, but you’ll begin to make progress and improve. It won’t happen overnight. Just remember, nothing changes for the better unless you do something to make it happen.

Don’t abandon your goal of becoming a writer because your inner critic has overwhelmed you with self-doubts. If you believe you can’t pursue your writing until the timing and circumstances are perfect—find another line of work. That “perfection” you’re looking for will probably never happen.

Is it time for you to begin managing your inner critic? I’m convinced that resolving and addressing your self-doubts is essential to your long-term progress as a writer.

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About the Author: David Cox

David Cox is a Co-owner of Cox Editing Services. As an editor, he writes about the lessons he’s learned from successful writers. The habits and practices that can help aspiring writers become better and more productive at their craft.