Let’s Hear it for The Doubt Monster

Happy Friday everyone! Casey Wyatt here.

Today’s topic: My nemesis the Doubt Monster. He originally debuted on my blog (see original post here) back in June and he’s made his sneaky way over here to the Scribes’ site.He’s so prevalent that our guest bloggers Lynn Kurland and Kristan Higgins have both addressed him. I’ll get to their comments in a moment.

To recap my original post, here is how the Doubt Monster torments me.

  • This story is dumb. Who will want to read it?
  • There are so many other things I should have/could have done.
  • I must be missing something like (fill in the blank).
  • This story is so weird no one will buy it.

On and on it goes. The greedy Doubt Monster messing with my head and my confidence.

Any of this sound familiar? Let’s hear what the pros have to say:

Lynn Kurland’s take on the DM – “It also helps to point sternly toward the scary under-the-bed spot used by all creepy things and tell Doubty to get back there. Then write your book the way you like. If he doesn’t make too many noises you can let him back out to help you with the editing.”Fellow Scribe Katy Lee – “The Doubt Monster taunts me every time I sit in the chair to write. “Who said you could write? Huh?” Perhaps I’ll keep a club beside my chair to play whack-a-Mole with him when he pokes his head out from now on.”

To which J Monkeys enthusiastically proposed – “I think we need to find someone to create the Whack-a-Doubty app….”

But wait! There’s a voice of dissent here.

Kristan Higgins says of old Doubty – “I love and embrace the Doubt Monster. It took us a while to fall for each other, but because I am old and wise now, I’ve come to learn that the DM and I are actually meant to be together. He lets me know when I need to rethink a plot point or adjust a character, back off or tone down or beef up. That being said, I try to ignore the DM during the first draft. Experience has shown that while first draft may indeed suck, it doesn’t mean the final product will. So I try to barrel through that part of writing, then fling open the doors and let the Doubt Monster have at it.”

Hmm. I’m hearing some love, even admiration. Maybe I should re-consider. Maybe he’s like Darth Vader. A misunderstood villain who really has a soft, gooey middle.


The jury is still out with me. All I can say, is this – “Doubt Monster, I’ve got my eyes on you. Watch it buddy!”

What do you think? Have I been unfair to the Doubt Monster? Should I learn to live with him instead of playing whack-a-mole on his head?

How do you deal with the Doubt Monster?

40 thoughts on “Let’s Hear it for The Doubt Monster”

  1. Great post, Casey (yeah, I’m stalking you today, because your friend the Doubt Monster has taken up residence in my office).

    The Doubt Monster doesn’t usually bug me until after the second draft… And then he says things like, “This isn’t as good as you think it is. Just put it away and start something else. Or clean the kitchen.”

    I personally think the Doubt Monster just needs a good smack down!

    1. Hi Meggan, thanks for visiting the Scribes! I’ve taken a similar approach. Doubty is not allowed to be in my presence during the first draft. But, yes, he is sneaky! Anytime you need support, come visit us! We will help you beat him down if needed.

  2. I’ve changed my mind…about the name for the whack-a-doubty app…I think we should call it Smack Doubty and have levels for all kinds of different Lone Ranger type jobs…Writers, Inventors, Scientists, Discoverers, Archeologists, and any others we can think of.

    I think these NY Times Bestselling authors might be on to something here. Beat Doubty back with a stick until the first draft is done…then maybe, if he can play nicely, let him out for a short trial period to help hone the story…If he gets too overbearing…back he goes!

  3. Casey, were we twins seperated at birth? I’m having such a time lately with that nasty DM. I have no problem kicking him to the curb during the first draft. He just meanders around waiting for me to get to my revisions. Like Kristan said, I’ve learned to embrace him when my gut tells me he knows what he’s talking about and that I should let him have at my manuscript until it shines. But he and I have been at war with this book since day one.

    I just handed my mss. for On Thin Ice, over to Matt Rush, The Edit Dude, for final line edits and I can’t wait to get back his comments. But before I sent them out last night, I went through my OTI file to see if I had missed anything since the DM has taken up residence in my head again for the last few weeks regarding this book. When I found e-mails sent by you and Suze way back when I was having my crisis over revisions, old Doubty popped up and started screaming.

    “You should have listened to them and taken that subplot out!”
    “You know this book doesn’t fit the mold for reader expectation!”
    “No matter how well written, backstory is still backstory!”
    And my favorite, “This isn’t going to be nearly as good as your first book and no one will ever want to buy anything else you’ve written after this horrible disaster!”
    “And by the way, your hero is sooo lame.”

    Yikes! The DM is ruthless! My greatest challenge with Doubty is knowing when he’s on my side and when he’s just blowing smoke. Hopefully, when I’ve written a dozen or so novels, we’ll have the kinks worked out in our relationship.

    1. I totally agree with Suze! And yes, I’d like to learn when to listen to him and when to squash him down. I think I’m getting better at it. But, I guess we can’t learn until we try and fail a few times. Right?

      1. Thanks guys. There truly is power in numbers. With a team like you all, the DM doesn’t stand a chance!

  4. I’ve come to a conclusion. The doubt monster will never leave so either learn to live with him even set him straight sometimes, or you may end up never finishing your novel.

  5. I think everyone is prey for the Doubt Monster. He doesn’t only attack writers. For me, he starts out small, but he feeds off attention and doubt and the more you listen to him, the larger he gets. He is only sated when he causes you so much doubt, you stop writing. I find the best defense is to starve him. How? Keep writing. When he shows up, I check my work, as Kristan mentioned, but I keep writing. If you ignore him, he will crawl back under the rock and leave you alone.
    BTW – your pic of him is far too cute … he’s a nasty little bugger!

  6. I think of Doubty as being like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters. Remember? Choose the form of the Destructor? Whatever’s in your mind is the form he will take for you. So if you’re thinking negative thoughts about your work, he will grow and grow, consuming more and more of your self-confidence until he explodes all over your keyboard in a hot gooey mess. If you’re thinking positive thoughts about your work, he’s just the friendly guy who reminds you of childhood campouts and who can never, ever hurt you. In fact, as Kristan pointed out, he can be quite loving and gentle and a force for positive change in our manuscripts. And yes, Kathye, he is definitely a Playah!

    1. Oh I love that! That is a great analogy. I’ve found recently, since I started talking about doubt, that he doesn’t seem as strong as he used too. Maybe I’m mellowing out or he’s being nicer. Not sure which!

  7. Casey, you gotta love all this chatter about the DM. It is good for me to know that everyone suffers at his/her hand. I can’t stop doing revisions. I probably need to have my hand slapped so I can get this manuscript written. What determines a first draft? I have revised my papers so many times I lost count. I still do not have a finished manuscript. What to do? Bury the DM and move on? The writing is never good enough. It is haunting.

    1. Gail, whatever you do, keep writing. Try something new and come back to that manuscript later. We all have books that don’t quite measure up. Let that one go and move on. And if you are in a perpetual re-vision loop, you could be engaging in “writer avoidance behavior” which is another way DM keeps you from growing as a writer.

  8. I think if the doubt monster doesn’t bug you, then you aren’t as good of a writer as you think you are. We all write crap sometimes, even bestselling authors. But a good writer has the ability to recognize crap, fix it and move on.

  9. Those doubt demons seem to pop up no matter how many books you’ve written. You just have to ignore them or they could paralyze you. Fortunately, whereas the DM sits on one shoulder, on the other one sits your Muse who encourages you to keep going and provides reassurances. These two tend to balance each other out.

  10. Thanks for the cute blog. The DM has visited me many times esp. concerning the way a scene is going. I’ve always called it my “gut feeling,” though. I learned to trust my gut. When DM shows up it’s usually for a reason.

    1. Hi Sharla Rae – thanks for visiting the Scribes today! I think, based on all the comments today, learning to trust yourself is the key to handling doubts. Your wisdom is much appreciated.

  11. This is a great post! I usually deal with the DM if he/it strikes during my first draft or before I’ve let the first draft age enough to go back by writing down my thoughts in a notebook or putting them into my phone’s calendar. (I do this with plot bunnies at three in the morning, too–sometimes leads to interesting WTF moments when they pop up again.) That way I’m still addressing the concern, but I’m not demolishing my first draft if what I thought was a problem was really just a dose of cray-cray.

    1. Hi Mari, do tell – what are plot bunnies? I usually make a list too. That way I don’t lose track of any nagging concerns. And it’s funny how all the solutions to my porblems usually pop into my brain as I’m following asleep. So I alway have paper and pencil nearby. I can’t always read what I wrote but it’s better than losing the idea completely.

      1. Mari, feel free to chime in here. Casey, a plot bunny is an idea for a story that keeps hopping around in your head and gnawing at you until you either write the story or give it away for adoption to somebody else 🙂

      2. Hi, Casey:

        Yep, Susannah got it in one: a plot bunny is a particularly aggressive story idea that just won’t leave you alone until you do something with it. Cute name, but sometimes they have teeth. 🙂

  12. So much to be grateful especially are freedom. I am a Widow who has raised two girls under 3 by myself and now in collage. Its wonderfull that can learn what ever they want. Be what they want Have freedom to make those choices. Thank you for our Freedom. rlrlaney@yahoo.com

  13. We wouldn’t be writers if we didn’t have doubts. I’m with Higgins. Step on the guy when your creative juices are running, then let him help you with the rewrites. Just don’t believe everything he (or is it a she?) tells you.

  14. My brother suggested I might like this blog. He was totally
    right. This post truly made my day. You can not imagine just how much time I had spent for this info!

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