Writing Advice: Chasm of Doubt


All people lack confidence at one time or another. Since writers are people, I know that writers often experience a lack of confidence in themselves, their abilities, and their stories. I also know this because I, myself, have felt precisely this way. Sometimes this happens to me right in the middle of National Novel Writing Month, when I’m halfway into my outline and the plot doesn’t seem as clear as it once did. But more often than not, it happens during the rest of the year. At that time, I don’t have a community of writers to work with and I more easily lose my way, believing that I don’t really have anything to write about. But the important thing is that I’ve learned to overcome that feeling and get back to the process of writing.

In a “pep talk” post for National Novel Writing Month, author N.K. Jemisin talked about this lack of confidence by calling it the “Chasm of Doubt.” She went on to say, “The sick feeling in your stomach, the weariness you feel, the utter conviction that you are the Worst and your novel is the Worst and everything is awful. This is how writers feel sometimes. (This is how everyone feels sometimes.) But writers do not let this feeling overwhelm them.”

For me, that Chasm of Doubt usually manifests itself as the weariness that Jemisin mentions. Sometimes when I open my work-in-progress document, I find that I just don’t have the strength or inspiration to put down more words. At times that comes from other interests that are vying for my attention, but it also comes from a lack of confidence in my work. Halfway through a story, the story rarely looks as shiny as when you began writing it. Once you’ve spent some time with the characters and the plot you set out, you might feel that it’s not as good as you once thought.

Hopefully, you can do as Jemisin says and overcome this weariness or sick feeling. To do so, I suggest reading. A lot. Reading fills your inspiration bank with ideas and a general fervor for the written word. If you’re reading widely, chances are you’ll be more excited or at least energized about writing your own stuff. The same goes for Netflix watching. I know it seems strange, but watching really well-written, engaging shows and movies can help you better understand writing and get excited about your projects.

How do you deal with the Chasm of Doubt? How are you able to overcome it? Feel free to share your struggles and strategies in the comments. And Happy Writing!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan