Words on a Page Writings about writing

How to deal with writing you're unsure about

Manuscript paper

In early 2016, I struggled with an essay. The subject: the difference between movies and film. I was passionate about the topic and, to be honest, excited about writing the essay. The problem was for the longest time, I just couldn’t write it.

I wasn’t blocked. I knew what I wanted to say, and I knew the structure that I wanted to follow. I just had doubts about whether my subscribers would be as interested and enthusastic about this essay as I was.

To be honest, it was a tough write. The essay didn’t quite turn out the way I wanted it to. That said, I still think it’s a pretty good piece of writing.

We all have writing like that. It might be a short story, an article, an essay, or a blog post. It’s writing that … well, it’s not bad but you don’t know if anyone will want to read it.

You lack confidence in your idea’s appeal. You lack confidence in your ability to write what you’re trying to write. That uncertainty makes what you’re trying to write more of a chore and a challenge than it needs to be.

If, deep down, you really believe in your idea then you need to overcome that uncertainty. Here’s a bit of advice that I think can help you.

Ignore your doubts

That’s difficult, I know. Doubts linger like a bad cold. But you need to set those doubts aside. If you don’t, a paralysis will grip you.

The best way to do that is to write. Don’t worry about how that quality of what appears on screen. Instead, focus on getting the word on that screen even if they’re in a rough form. You can edit and rewrite later.

With my newsletter essay, I did just that. I wrote about 800 words, which followed the outline that I put together. Pieces were missing — like quotes, details, and a few fully-formed ideas — but I was later able to add those missing pieces.

Once I had the general shape of the essay, I could see where it was going my enthusiasm got a boost. That enabled me to finish the essay though, as I said, it didn’t quite turn out the way I wanted it to. That didn’t matter. I finished the essay and even got some good feedback from my readers.

Let the idea lie

Sometimes, you need to get a bit of distance between yourself and a thorny writing problem. That distance will not only give you some perspective, but can also get your mind off your doubts and uncertainty.

Walk away from the idea for a day or two. Longer, if you can. But don’t let your idea lie too long. If you do that, you might never get back to it.

Once you’ve gotten the distance away from your idea, go back to it and start writing. You should be able to get a first draft done, then work on polishing what you’ve written.

Now what?

What you wrote might have turned out the way you wanted or expected it to. That can happen with any piece of writing. So, what do you do now?

Press the publish button. Post that piece of writing to you blog. Publish it in your newsletter. Submit it to a print or online publication. Turn it into a ebook. Do whatever you have to so that piece of writing leaves your hands.

Don’t worry about the slings and arrows. They’ll come your way, not matter how good or bad your writing is. Use any criticism, and I mean valid criticism, as a learning experience. Use it to become a better writer.

If all else fails …

Kill your story. That sounds like defeatist talk, I know. Sometimes, though, it’s just not worth the time and effort to wrestle with an idea you’re unsure about regardless of how passionate you are about it. Your time is better spent working on other projects, other writing.

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