Writers and the Self-doubt Struggle


photo by Tamma66 on Pixabay  – Self-doubt

You’re at a family gathering, and you’re catching up with your cousin Louie who you haven’t seen in a hundred years. If truth be told, you thought he had passed away or moved to Canada.

But here he is back in the deep south. You exchange a few pleasantries and then he asks that question. The one every writer and stay at home mom hates.  “What do you do?”

Heaven help you, if like me, you’re both.

You stare at him for a few seconds, unsure of how to answer.

Should you say you’re a writer? After all, what have you published lately?

You could mention the marketing or the critiquing for others or your weekly blog, but none of it sounds like what normal people do.

Then the winds of self-doubt begin to stir, and the old familiar questions whisper to your heart.

How can you call yourself a writer? Aren’t you a fraud? What value does your writing bring to the world anyway?

You do write, but often you feel it is more of a hobby then a career. Sure, you’ve spent money going to conferences, buying books on the craft, and paying for edits to polish your manuscripts, but what does all that really mean?

By the end of the evening, those inner voices of self-doubt and Louie’s weird comments send you home to toss your laptop out the window, into the trash bin.

We all face these inner questions as writers.

The struggle exists. One minute we are all in. No doubts, sure of our calling. The next we wonder why on earth we pushed the send button on that email to the editor or posted that piece online.

We want to share our words, to give hope, to encourage, to point to Christ.

Yet …

Here, in the hesitation, we find the truth.

Self-doubt is fear, all gussied up.

Fear of failure.

Funny enough, sometimes fear of success.

Fear of criticism and judgement.

Fear of public exposure when we share parts of our journey.

Fear of what others will think. Of us.

So, what is a writer to do? Well, we are word nerds, so let’s take apart the word.

First, let’s look at the word self.

We must remember it’s not about us. “The Lord is my helper.” Our confidence pours from Him, the living water.  We aren’t supposed to try and do our writing in our own strength. Our life and our calling are in the Lord’s hands, and He is the cornerstone of both.

And second, let’s look at the word doubt.

With the Lord as our helper, we need not fear, because no man can stand against the plans of the Lord, or as Romans 8:13 says “If God is for us, who can be against us?” What can mere mortals do? We can not determine the course of our calling based on the consensus of man. It won’t work that way. Fear of man is a trap, and our love for God is the only way out.

Our doubts must be bathed in prayer and held to the light of God’s Word. Then the Lord will calm our fears and help us do what He has called us to do—write.

Self-doubt for the writer comes as part of the journey. All of us battle it, but once it has been exposed as fear, we have a better chance to quiet those whispers and settle those winds.

Because as Courageous Writers, we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.” Hebrews 13:6 (NIV).


Bonita Y. McCoy





Tag Your It – Tag Lines and Action Beats

by Bonita Y. McCoy


Dialogue is fun to write. You get to be witty or sassy; snarky or angry; wise or entertaining. But along with dialogue come tag lines and action beats. These two companions play a large role in forming solid dialogue in your story.

Tag Lines:

Tag lines are the he said, she said of the dialogue world. They are used to identify the speaker.

If done right, they practically disappear to the reader. For that reason, you don’t want to use anything odd or exotic in your tag lines. You don’t want your character to wail, snarl, or whine in the tag line. Save those actions for where they belong in the action beats.

Too many times writers will get their tag lines and action beats mixed up. An example of this would be: “You startled me,” Carol groaned.

Carol can groan, but she cannot groan and speak at the same time. Instead write: “You startled me.” Carol groaned. Changing the comma at the end of the statement to a period makes Carol groaned into an action beat instead of a tag line.

The same holds true for actions like laughed, hissed, giggled, and sighed. These need to be action beats instead of tag lines.

The best advice with tag lines is to stick to the plain Janes of he said, she said, he asked, or she asked.


Action Beats:

Now action beats are a horse of another color. You want them to be filled with strong, vibrant verbs and nouns. You want them to paint a picture of your character and how they behave in your reader’s mind.

Good action beats should complement your dialogue. The danger is sometimes we use them to explain the dialogue instead of showing the action. An example would be: “You are so funny.” She said laughingly.

The action beat is explaining the dialogue. Instead the better use of the action beat would be to describe the character doing something someone does when they laugh.

“You are so funny.” She held her side as she tried to stand straight.

In using the action beat to portray what the character is doing instead of explaining the dialogue, you are drawing your reader into the story and moving the action of the scene along. Your action beats should help to paint the scene and your character for the reader.

The best advice with action beats is to make them count. Use them to add to the scene and give your character life.

Tag lines and action beats are staples in the dialogue world. As a wordsmith, it will be to your advantage to learn to use them well.


Happy Writing,

Bonita Y. McCoy

connect with me at my website Bonita Y. McCoy