Doubt is part of the territory, but it doesn't have to be a negative.
Just a few positive thoughts about doubt:
1. Doubt prods you to seek out your peers. Whether you participate in critiques via email, join a national organization such as Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), cruise online writing blog sites, or go to writing conferences, surrounding yourself with other writers can be comforting. Writers are incredibly supportive of other writers. Don't write in a bubble.
2. Doubt makes you humble. Nobody likes a know-it-all, boastful writer. Although agents and editors want a writer with confidence, they will likely be turned off by someone who touts in a query letter how much better his or her writing is than anything currently out there earning publishing dollars on bookstore shelves. Stay humble, my friend.
3. Doubt allows your writing to grow. Don't think that first chapter is perfect yet? Find a critique partner or monthly critique group to help you see the flaws in your work. Have someone with top notch grammar skills, such as a professional editor, take a crack at final proofing. Doubt can produce growth, and growth can produce writing dollars.
4. Doubt forces you to be flexible. Although agents and editors expect a manuscript to be in the best possible shape when they receive it, writers should expect changes. A writer who thinks his or her work is "perfect," as is, may have a hard time forming a good working relationship and may hinder repeat publishing opportunities. Inflexibility may also prevent your manuscript from being the best it can be.
5. Doubt allows you to fail, making success all the sweeter. This may seem a very convoluted comment, but each failed attempt to publish your work, and all the doubt that comes with it, should teach you a thing or two and push you to work harder (and better). It is through learning from our mistakes that we come closer to perfecting our work and seeing success in whatever form we wish, whether that first request from an agent to see the full manuscript, your book available for $1.99 on Kindle, or the ultimate six figure deal with a major publishing house.
I get it. I understand doubt. I recently gave up my position as a newspaper reporter with a Pittsburgh newspaper. I moved several hours away, after being in the same community for over 20 years. No one here knows me as the humor columnist of "A Little Bit of Life" essays about my quirky mom existence. No one knows me as the reporter who scooped the robbery at the bank just down the street ... twice. No one knows me as the advocate for the arts at all the high schools and community theaters. Unlike my previous reporter position, which guaranteed reporting about regular people on a regular basis with regular deadlines, I'm now writing in a freelance capacity. Jobs rarely fall from the sky. Though I have over 20 years of writing experience, including helping many small businesses and non-profits look good in the public eye, I am essentially starting over. Making new contacts. Finding my way.
And seriously doubting myself.
That's why I decided to blog about the benefits of doubt.
Because, no doubt, there are a lot of writers that need a little more confidence in their writing. And that's okay ... as long as you (and I) use that doubt to confidently get to success, whatever that may be.
I'm rooting for you (and me).