What's stopping you from putting pen to paper?

Self-doubt: a creativity killer

There are some 200 million Americans that harbour a desire to write a book - a figure that equates to around two thirds of their population. Multiply that across the rest of the world and that means there are a lot of frustrated wannabe authors who haven't yet achieved their goal.

When I came across this figure it got me wondering, why? What is it that prevents people from actually being able to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard)?

In a blog for Writers Digest, Janna Malamud Smith believes that there are “three quiet reasons” why people don’t write: fear of being seen; fear of being humiliated; fear of aloneness.

The author of My Father is a Book: A Memoir of Bernard Malamud says she believes that people stop trying to achieve their goals “because they trip over unconscious fears that lie like rakes across their paths, and they go splat, and it feels awful, and they figure the game’s up, and that they have no talent or they’re not ‘creative’ enough. 

Malamud Smith writes: “I am quite certain that IF you can stay in the game, your creativity will often prove adequate to your task. But the difficulty comes from learning how to recognize and tolerate your fears, so they don’t lead you to prematurely throw in the towel.”

I can empathise with this. Despite the fact that I’ve been getting paid to write in various forms for more than 20 years, I have been experiencing ‘the fear’ with regards my novel. I’m worried I’ve picked a subject matter that is too complicated, that I won’t do the story justice, that I’m not good enough. Self-doubt is a creativity killer, for sure.

What do you think? Would you agree with Janna’s three quiet reasons? What fears do you have that are preventing you from telling your story?

Let us know in the comments below.


Becky Slack is one of the hosts of L’atelier des ecrivains – The Writers’ Workshop, France: designed to build confidence in writers, helping them enhance their skills and overcome doubt so they can create brilliant work. It runs from 20-24 September 2018 in southwest France.