[Body, Mind & Spirit] Exorcise Your Doubt Demons Now!

Not long ago, a student relatively new to my writing class sent me an email before class asking for advice about how to create more vivid characters and voices.

This woman, a former TV executive, is bright, articulate, and talented; and she’s been writing for twenty years. There was no lack of “vivid” in her characters or voice. But, like many writers, she couldn’t see her own gifts. She saw only flaws, most of which no one else detected.


I told her to resist the temptation to judge her work and reminded her that when class started three weeks earlier, she’d promised to show up for this session and engage in the writing process without thinking about product. “When you’re working your process from a place of authenticity and trust,” I told her, “product takes care of itself.” I suggested she take a break from needing to be good. “Your job is just to show up and write badly,” I told her. “I can do that,” she said, smiling.


That night in class she asked me: “Does anyone ever write anything bad in your classes?”


“There’s no such thing as ‘bad,’” I responded. “Everyone is where they are. My job is to meet you wherever you are and help you grow to the next level.”


Writers, do yourself a favor, and stop wondering if what you’re writing is “good” or “bad.” These terms are subjective and they mess with your process. Assume you have something to offer. You wouldn't want to write if it wasn’t something you needed to do. Think of it as your soul’s calling. Are you going to ignore your soul? If you think you’re not good enough, smart enough, or talented enough, think again! These thoughts are unconscious stories people tell themselves, which prevent them from moving forward with writing projects and other dreams. Don’t believe these stories. You’re a writer; write new ones for yourself! Our thoughts create our emotions and thoughts that make you feel crappy are mental junk food. Replace them with thoughts that inspire you and make you want to write.


You can do this. It may be hard at first, but like with most things, you’ll improve with practice. The main thing is to be aware that you have a choice. Consider this story, which I first heard as a spiritual psychology student at The University of Santa Monica:


A chief is talking to his tribe about two dogs inside his mind: one is courageous and good, the other is vengeful and angry. Both dogs are fighting to the death. A young brave, unable to wait for the end of the story, interrupts the chief, and asks, “Which one will win?” The chief responds, “The one I feed.”


Ask yourself which stories you feed. Cultivate awareness. Rewrite your own life stories. Put your creative imagination into service to set yourself free so you can have, be, and do what you want. Release whatever stories, thoughts, or ideas hold you back. Make a conscious choice to create stories that empower you. If you don’t believe this will work, try it anyway. Think of it as an experiment. You have nothing to lose except your doubt and angst. You do not have to suffer. Never before have there been so many opportunities available to writers.


You don’t have to publish with a particular press or appear on the New York Times bestseller list to enjoy success as a writer. The trick is to acknowledge, appreciate, and celebrate all successes, large and small. Success for a writer includes simply showing up at your desk and writing. Success is sending your work out. Success is building your platform, one fan or follower at a time. Success is maintaining faith and believing in yourself, and in your work.


Outcomes, which are not within your control, are not your job. Why fret over them or twist yourself into knots worrying who “out there” will validate your work? Validate yourself. Again, this is a choice. You can choose to think you’re not good enough or you can choose to accept yourself where you are, resolve to show up and do your work, and know your writing will improve. Doubt saps precious energy and time. Nike got it right: just do it! Allowing yourself to be where you are and who you are, accepting yourself completely, is a powerful declaration to the universe. You will be heard. Speak!

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  • Karen A Szklany Writing

    Thank you for such an encouraging blog, Bella! It's amazing what we can create when we write for the sheer joy of it. l know that I'll be able to sell all 22 copies of my gardening book left in my stash if I glow with faith that it will offer to gardeners what they need to know...and then be able to move on to some of the other works-in-progress I have put aside in order to practice building a platform for this one.

  • Bella Mahaya Carter

    Thanks for reading and writing this response, Yehudit. We engage in that same practice in my WRITE WHERE YOU ARE classes, and your experience is a common one. We simply cannot judge our own work. More often than not we have no sense of the value of what we've written. This is one (of many) reasons writing communities are so valuable. 

  • Yehudit Reishtein

    In my writing group I learned that I am no judge of my own work. For a half hour, we write in response to a cue we are given, going where our pen takes us, and then read what we have written to the group. Several times the cure seems dead to me, but when I read what I had written out loud, I looked up to see one or more group members brushing away a tear. Apparently, what seemed like flat writing to me was much more powerful than I had realized. So now I write and go where my pen takes me--the reward for all my writing is the writing itself. Doing something with it can come later.

  • Bella Mahaya Carter

    Shary, I am THRILLED to hear this! You were my first "official" client. I'd worked with a couple people I knew personally and felt like that didn't really count. Did you know I was intimidated by the prospect of working with you at first because you were such an accomplished person, who was also a coach? But thankfully Spirit urged me to move forward and I'm so glad I did! It was such a pleasure working with you, and I am very much looking forward to reading your book! Good luck with it! And big kudos and CONGRATULATIONS for honoring your Soul's calling! You are an inspiration!

  • Shary

    I WAS that student, Bella...as you recall. Right from the start, you gently steered me away from my original drive to write THE BOOK. You immediately recognized my misdirected need to have tangible proof of my writing worthiness. Instead, you told me to just allow my spirit to express what it longed to say. Without any expectations, goals, outcomes. And, I did. What emerged several years later is a just-completed memoir. Naturally, this book bears no resemblance to what I thought I was "supposed" to write years earlier. Thank you for being a nurturing Sherpa.        

  • Bella Mahaya Carter

    Thanks for reading and commenting, Jessica. Glad you found the piece helpful!

  • Jessica Ferguson

    Great piece. I'm Queen of the Doubters so this really speaks to me. Thanks!