Authorial Intrusion: Self-Doubt

Authorial intrusion usually refers to those instances when an author calls attention to the writing in such a way that the reader is pulled out of the flow of the story. Say, an historical fiction writer who wants to avail readers of every last bit of research she’s done on the Crimean War even if it’s not relevant to the story. Or an essayist who reminds readers that cell phones were not a thing when she was growing up.

But today I want to talk about a different kind of authorial intrusion—one where self-doubt creeps into the author’s mind and goes around and around like a roller coaster you can’t get off. I don’t think writers have cornered the market on self-doubt, but we sure do know a lot about it.

“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt. ~William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

Sitting alone at your computer trying to string words together leaves lots of opportunity for nagging feelings of uncertainty and apprehension to creep in. How do we overcome self-doubt? Dani Shapiro doesn’t think it is something that should be a stumbling block.

Still Writing by Dani ShapiroFrom Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life:

I’m not sure self-doubt is an obstacle. It might even be a writer’s best ally. It seems to me that every really good writer I know is plagued by it. Confidence is highly overrated when it comes to creating literature. A writer who is overly confident will not engage in the struggle to get it exactly right on the page — but rather, will assume that she’s getting it right without the struggle. People often confuse confidence with courage. I think it takes tremendous courage to write well — because a writer has to move past the epic fear we all face, and do it anyway.


There. She dropped the F-bomb. Fear. Because that’s what self-doubt is, isn’t it?  Fear that our writing isn’t good enough. Fear that no one will take us seriously. Fear that we won’t fit in.  Fear that (insert your own particular bogeyman here).

Fear is scary. That’s why it’s fear, after all. But I love how Elizabeth Gilbert makes peace with it.

Big MagicFrom Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear:

I don’t try to kill off my fear. I don’t go to war against it. Instead, I make all that space for it. Heaps of space. Every single day. I’m making space for fear right this moment…It seems to me that the less I fight my fear, the less it fights back. If I can relax, fear relaxes, too. In fact, I cordially invite fear to come along with me everywhere I go.


What does it mean to make space for fear? I didn’t know the answer to that until I saw this TED Talk by writer Lidia Luknavitch. I bet you’ll be moved, as I was, by her raw and frank discussion of how to believe in yourself even when you’re afraid.


How do you make space for fear? Have a great weekend, everyone! 










  1. This post rings true—I always have the feat that it isn’t good enough or worthy enough to be read. Probably why I have not written that book that I keep saying I am going to write. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This a very cool post. Sometimes you meet people and they always seem to have it together … They’re working on a project and they’ve got the agent they’re writing things left right and then here I am … Still struggling with doubts creeping in and I’ve got to do things to boost myself and have an Andre Agassi moment. I really enjoyed the Still Writing excerpt, glad to know that in the end it’s courage I got. King has great talks about writing too, pretty inspiring.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing. I will check out ‘Still Writing’ and ‘Big Magic’. As I write this, I’m on the final few pages of ‘The War of Art’ by Steven Pressfield; a motivational book which is well worth a read. Pressfield addresses fear but, interestingly, not just the fear of failure but also the fear of success. It certainly gets you thinking!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read The Art of War a few years ago. You’re right about it being a good wake-up call to the different fears we carry with us.
      I remember his mantra “Do the Work,” which is a great reminder when I find myself procrastinating. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Your posts are always so timely, Jackie! I was just reading Joan Didion’s SLOUCHING TOWARDS BETHLEHEM, because the prose “the best prose written in this century” (NY Times Book Review). In the preface, she says: “there’s always a point in the writing of a piece when I sit in a room literally papered with false starts and cannot put one word after another and imagine that I have suffered a small stroke …” Talk about self-doubt! Lorraine

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes to all of this. I’ve heard Elizabeth Gilbert speak twice and her message is even more powerful in person. Start, wherever you are – despite the doubt. Thanks for the reminders, Jackie.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a powerful post, Jackie. Lydia’s Ted Talk was astoundingly frank and brave. It gives me courage to keep telling my story (my misfit story). Thanks so much for this. You’ve given me and other writers a wonderful gift today.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s is reassuring to know that every writer and artist feels these pangs of self-doubt. You’re not alone! I hope you’ll open that document and start writing again. One word at a time. 🙂


    1. These two books, along with Stephen King’s book and Ann Patchett’s guide, really helped me realize these are common thoughts that all writers have. It was encouraging to know that we can write through them. 🙂


  7. Reblogged this on Beauty of Stories and commented:
    I keep having these fears too… Fear that one day I won’t have any ideas to write about and fear of rejection obviously. But to not try something due to fear will be a defeat before the war had begun. There will always be some fear in mind but it should be used to hone our skills and not to stop us from pursuing our dreams.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I keep having these fears too… Fear that one day I won’t have any ideas to write about and fear of rejection obviously. But to not try something due to fear will be a defeat before the war had begun. There will always be some fear in mind but it should be used to hone our skills and not to stop us from pursuing our dreams. Thanks for the wonderful blog. Reblogging it!

    Liked by 1 person

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