Question from Reader: When you were first starting out, did you ever have any self-doubts in your writing ability?

Writers block

I’m not sure if the self-doubts that have lurked around the edges of my consciousness since the very beginning of my career will ever fully disappear. Despite how many books I write, I still approach every project with a trembling hand.

Will it be any good?

Will people like it?

Will I ever actually finish it?

Will it be better than the last one?

Over the years I’ve written more than three dozen books and hundreds of articles, but still I don’t have the confidence in my ability that you’d think would come naturally at this point.

Maybe that’s encouraging to aspiring writers, and maybe it’s disheartening. Depends on how you look at it—on the one hand, the apprehension might never go away, but on the other hand, you won’t be alone in feeling that way.

However, there’s a paradox to all of this. Intermingled in with all that hesitancy there has to be a certain sense of confidence in the process, or we wouldn’t know where to begin each day. And also, there has to be a certain degree of ego.

After all, every writing project is in a certain sense an exercise in egotism. When I write a novel that will take someone ten hours to read, and I encourage that person to buy it, I’m basically telling her that there’s no better way for her to spend ten hours of her all-too-short time on this planet than reading my story. If there was something better, I wouldn’t feel right trying to get her to read my story than to do that other thing.

If that’s not egotism, I’m not sure what is.

The truth is, if you like long hours in solitude, emotional turmoil, constant self-criticism and bouts of heart-wrenching disappointment, you’ll make a good writer. And if you can actually tell an engaging story, you might just make a great one

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