Coping With Doubt

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.

Steve Jobs

The English department head, Robyn, and her colleague, Rebecca, stopped me at work the other day. Rebecca cast a cheeky smile and wagged a finger. Reported I kept six novels secret. Once I delivered Robyn a reprimanding glare for exposing a confidence, I clarified written but not published.  She shrugged, said it’s not a secret worth keeping. Questioned why paint beautiful pictures then hide them in a closet? An adequate analogy if she viewed those artistic works and didn’t discover imperfections.

When asked my position on the bravery scale, I swallowed a lump of reticence lodged in my throat. Braver by the rewrite, I told them. Rebecca placed a hand upon my shoulder then questioned the hesitation. Thus began my explaining it wasn’t cowardice, or fear of rejection, or the prospect of my work rotting on a slush pile. A big fat lie.  I faulted the perfectionist. The inner critic who shied away from embarrassment, readers discovering issues I missed as their inner critic screamed it’s not ready, requires another revision or two. A huge truth. 

I dared not admit I questioned my works’ merit. The admission stank of fear. It acknowledged a powerful sense of doubt. The hours spent crafting an inferior and/or irrelevant story was central to my ambivalence to submit my work to a hoard of agents. If publishing companies rejected J. R. R. Tolkien, Steinbeck and Hemingway, J. K. Rowling and Steven King, Audrey Niffenegger and Madeleine L’Engle’s then S. C. Roberts’s chances were slim to none.

Discouraging commentaries abound of the likelihood of being published. A recent article by editor Ally Machate, from The Writer’s Ally, readily acknowledges success in the publishing industry was a tough gig to score. Publishers expected near flawless, quality submissions or suffer the fate of the slush pile. No guarantee existed even for a polished work. In her words: Publishers around the globe drown in submission from eager authors, yet very few hopefuls ever make the cut.

Neither an inspiring nor confidence building statement. It added to an already elevated sense of doubt.

As for self-publishing? A stigma exists, in my mind, that a sizeable number of self-published books are either an agent’s rejected works or an anxious writer impatient to share their unpolished book-baby. I’ve purchased and read several when self-publishing went wild. The writing quality distracted, sent my writer’s mind into edit mode. Admittedly, it’s a severely flawed and shallow perspective and a huge deterrent that keeps me on the lower range of the bravery scale.   

Whether flawed or not, those who self-published unpolished work thumbed their noses at doubt and gave it a go. They displayed confidence and courage. Never allowed the noise of others’ opinions drown out their inner voice. Those intrepid souls followed their heart, sneered at the dogma trap, as Steve Jobs suggested. Flawed or not, doubt never impeded progress. Their book-baby was exposed and people have read them. They engaged in a writer’s rite of passage. Publication elevated their status from writer to author. No guts – no glory, right? Food for thought, anyway.

How do you fair on the bravery scale? I’d love to hear your thoughts on what holds you back or what inspired you to jump into the publishing waters.

Thanks for listening. Cheers.

S.C. Roberts

4 thoughts on “Coping With Doubt

  1. Stephanie, you’re brave to bare your soul, your doubts and your fears here. And, as I’m sure you know, courage is not the lack of fear. It’s feeling the fear and doing it anyhow.
    I considered traditional publishing, and I decided against it without ever trying to submit. The statistics are terrible – I read the other day that 96% of submitted manuscripts never get accepted by an agent, and, most of the rest never get published. An author friend of mine submitted his book for two years and got nothing but rejections until he eventually self-published. Life is too short. Plus, between the many remarkable books that get multiple rejections again, and the many unremarkable ones that get published, the track record of traditional publishers is unimpressive.
    But I agree that many books don’t deserve to see the light of day. Hopefully, the readers will convey the message.


  2. Hello Rada – I’ve often told my children there is often a fine line between brave and stupid. And I agree, courage is exactly that – facing the fear and acting in defiance to it. Yes, the stats are abysmal. Publishing companies have had egg on their faces with both the remarkable and unremarkable works set before them. Once the final revision is done on my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th novels, I’m considering venturing into the world of self-publishing, as the expectations have risen over the past few years. One final check for all three. I plan on taking my first novel down a slightly different path so it will be a rewrite. The other two are sulking in a file for revision in 2022. Poor babies. Appreciate your thoughts. Cheers.


  3. Hey S.C. love the quotes. Doubt does either knock you sideways or gets you fighting mad. I’m the later. The anger and frustration pushes me to do better.


    • Thanks Maxigirl – the quotes are my springboard for a post. A painful emotion to cope with at times. The tough ones dig deeper while the fragile shatter despite their moments of brilliance. Take care.


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