Can’t Finish Your Novel? Here’s How to Kick Self-Doubt in the Butt

Doubt is an ugly word. There’s nothing especially poetic about it. It even looks kind of awkward and clunky, like that little bt at the end is going to hobble up and kick you in the shin. 

It’s an ugly concept, too. Think about it: Is there ever a really positive spin to put on doubt? Even to doubt something negative — like I doubt I’ll get sick this year — suggests a slight lack of confidence. And to doubt something positive is even worse. I doubt I’ll ever get my dream job. I doubt anyone will ever want to marry me. I doubt I’ll pass this test or have enough money or lose that weight. I doubt I’ll finish my book. Doubt reeks of indifference; it wallows in defeat and keeps you from the motivation you need to accomplish your goals.

I’ve always been reluctant to vocalize what I really want to do. I want to be a writer, but to say I want to be a copywriter is a watered-down version of what I’d really love to accomplish. I don’t want to write dishwasher manuals. I want to write novels.

But some part of me believes that if I say it for real, I’ll jinx it. Some unseen enemy will immediately start working against me, making it impossible for me to actually accomplish anything great.

What’s more, I’ve always, on some level, doubted it could happen. Sometimes my goals seem so far-fetched, so distant from my current place in life that it’s hard to believe they’ll ever happen. Please tell me you’ve felt that way, too.

But if I never tell anyone what I really want my life to be, how will anyone support me or cheer me on from one goal to the next? How can I expect my loved ones to understand me if they don’t even know what I really want to be?

There’s an interesting philosophy called Cartesian doubt. At its simplest, it means doubting the truth of one’s beliefs. I know that’s a really simplified explanation for a complex idea, but it got me thinking: What if I started to doubt my own doubts? I wallow in self-defeat when I deny my own strength and capabilities. I let indifference rule when I drift from one day to the next without thinking or doing anything decisive. But if I have the authority to doubt the good things, I also have the authority to doubt those negative beliefs and believe the good things instead. 

I doubt I’ll ever be a successful writer who encourages others should become I doubt my writing will be meaningless. Better yet, I know my writing will help others. It will achieve everything I intend it to achieve. I want to kick the doubt out completely and replace it with confidence instead.

As usual, it’s easier said than done. So next time you doubt you’ll ever finish and publish your novel, try one of these ideas instead:

  • Say something good out loud, like:
    • I’m a good writer, and I’m making progress every day.
    • I WILL finish this book.
    • Even though today might be rough, tomorrow will be better.
  • Change your scenery:
    • Work from a different location for the day.
    • Make a writing playlist for inspiration and/or motivation.
    • Make a Pinterest-inspired mood board for your wall.
  • Revise your writing habits:
    • If you’ve been working strictly from a detailed outline, try freewriting.
    • If you’ve been freewriting, try planning and outlining the next five chapters.
    • Organize your files so you’re not working from seventeen different documents. (Me? No, of course I don’t do that.)
  • Take a break from writing:
    • Go outside. Plant an herb garden. Get some exercise.
    • Read a book and take notes on what you like about it.
    • Talk to someone using your vocal chords, not the keyboard.
    • Cook a meal, since you’re probably tired of subsisting on ketchup sandwiches and dry cereal.

I don’t know why doubt creeps into our minds so much, or why we let it. But just because it shows up doesn’t mean you have to invite it in for coffee. 

How do you handle doubt when it comes to writing your book? Leave a comment below or join the Ladies in Read on Pinterest to share your best writing advice and inspiration.


Can't Finish Your Novel? Here's How to Kick Self-Doubt in the Butt | | writing and self-doubt, writing tips, encouragement for writers, writing inspiration

About Meghan

Meghan is a novelist, blogger, and copyeditor fueled by coffee and red lipstick. When she's not typing away you can find her reading, organizing, or watching old sitcoms and superhero movies with her husband, cat, and baby-to-be.


  1. Pingback: To the Writer Who’s Worried About Money – The Lady in Read

  2. Pingback: Benefits of Writing What You Want to Read – The Lady in Read

  3. Pingback: Research + Writing: How Much is Too Much? – The Lady in Read

  4. Pingback: Looking for Marriage Advice? I Can’t Help You – The Blissful Poet

  5. Pingback: How to Balance Real Life With Your Writing Goals | The Lady in Read

Leave a Reply