Shaking Off The Self Doubt In Writing

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Originally Published On The 21st Century SAHM By Karen Johnson

I walked in the door, after a trip away from my husband a few years ago, and saw a framed copy of my first in-print article. It was published in our local parenting magazine—the first time I saw my name in print in a mass publication. He found it at the grocery store (where the free parenting magazines tend to be) and grabbed 20 copies. This was somewhat problematic as there were likely 30 copies there… so I ended up taking quite a few back.

The point is, he was proud of me. I was excited, but I wouldn’t say proud. I thanked him for framing the article and started heading upstairs with it, at which point he stopped me. “No, we are hanging it down here. In the kitchen, where everyone can see it,” he said.

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“What? That is ridiculous. No way.” I felt embarrassed. It was only a local magazine. It was only a short article. It was only…

And that self-doubt, that talking myself down from any sort of pride or achievement and saying “but it’s only…”, continues to plague me to this day. I have been featured on major sites such as Scary Mommy and The Good Men Project, I am an assistant editor at Sammiches and Psych Meds, and I have achieved my life-long goal of seeing my name in real books, with pages—as a contributor in Lose the Cape: Never Will I Ever (and then I had kids!) and in What Does It Mean to Be White in America? 

Yet, I still struggle to call myself a writer. I still hesitate with self-promotion. Even after a piece is accepted, I often assume it won’t do well on a site because it is probably not nearly as good as others. My piece will never be the one that goes viral, I think.

Promoting the books I have contributed to is incredibly awkward. I have friends ask me to buy a copy, and when I hand it to them, I try to refuse their payment. Because accepting money for my work seems wrong, and I feel like a fraud. Especially since my piece is probably the worst one, I say to myself.

I often post on my blog, but don’t continue to share it on Pinterest or Stumble Upon, because I think it probably isn’t good enough.

Fortunately, these issues of self-doubt, although still prevalent, are waning. I have been influenced and inspired by many other writers who proudly self-promote their work—their good work. And my work is good too, right? Or else it wouldn’t be featured alongside theirs. (I have to keep saying that part to myself.)

One such source of inspiration has been BonBonBreak. I had a piece featured there in December, and their promotion of it is unlike anything I have seen on any other site. My article “A Missed Opportunity to Show Compassion” has been shared on Twitter over and over and over. And they are still sharing it. They are tirelessly promoting my work; why can’t I?

Another example of proud self-promotion is SassyPieHole. She was one of the first “big bloggers” I started following when I joined this world last year, which is around the time It’s Really 10 Months came out. As a contributor, she shared the book’s image and title all over her Facebook page and blog. “I’m in this book!” she proudly declared everywhere, and I loved it. It made me love her, admire her, and want to read the book even more.

Yet, when it came to be my turn recently, to brag about a book I was in, I hesitated. I didn’t broadcast it all over my Facebook profile picture and cover photo. It took me weeks to add it to my blog sidebar. Why? How was I any different? Is it because I only had a few hundred followers and she has 8,000? Is it because I still am not sure I belong in the book, and think maybe it is a fluke?

Then another anthology accepted my work. So now there are two. The self-doubt is getting weaker. The ability to share my successes is becoming easier. If Scary Mommy and Bon Bon Break and Mamalode take my work, it must be worth something right? If the head editor at Sammiches and Psych Meds thinks my editing skills are good enough to put me behind the wheel at her very successful site, I must not be too bad—I am realizing. Slowly.

When my husband hung that article up in our kitchen, despite my protest, he said, “I believe in you. I know you don’t believe in yourself yet. But you better start. Because you can’t expect anyone else to if you don’t.”

So this year is the year I am going to shake off some self-doubt. This is the year I am going to start calling myself a writer when people ask what I do. 2016 is the year I am going to say, with pride, “I’m in this book!”

[bctt tweet=”‘This is the year I am going to start calling myself a writer when people ask what I do’ @21stcenturysahm “]

542085_3490990886384_303285231_nKaren Johnson is a free-lance writer and editor with work featured on Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, and Good Housekeeping, among others. She is also a contributing writer in Lose the Cape: Never Will I Ever (and then I had kids!) Her blog The 21st Century SAHM is a cathartic mix of sarcasm, angry Mama Bear rants, and heartfelt confessions of how she is screwing up her kids. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and


Shaking Off The Self Doubt In Writing - Beyond Your Blog Guest Post By Karen Johnson

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5 Comments on “Shaking Off The Self Doubt In Writing”

  1. With writing like this, it’s no wonder your self-doubt is waning, Karen. We all know that gremlin too personally. She goes into hiding when we experience some success, then pops back up with an “I told you so” when we’re struggling with a piece or get whacked by a negative response. She’s really quite small and afraid, but oh, those claws!

  2. Don’t know if and when self-doubt will ever go away. I’ve been blogging for almost a year and my email list is practically non-existent. I’m already re-thinking my blog. And there is the “want to quit my job to go freelance full-time” desire. I appreciate your post as I can relate. I hate promoting myself. We’re raised to be humble. This is not a humble business.

  3. This is so interesting. Just when I’m thinking how in the world am I going to learn all this stuff there is to writing and I will ‘stumble’ on an article, in this case, yours, and my faith in myself is renewed. I told my husband and myself that I was going to trust my fellow bloggers I follow learning from them. Sometimes I go into scatter-brain mode taking a nice brain break.

  4. Oh how I can relate to this! I feel like a fraud 90% of the time! Like I am just “pretending” to be a writer. And as I typed that I thought, “Well, that is because you ARE pretending to be a writer.” lol So clearly I have a ways to go with my mindset. I am not ready to officially call myself a writer yet but maybe someday. 🙂 I definitely consider myself a blogger though so I guess that is a start. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

  5. Pingback: How To Create An Epic, Inexpensive Writing Retreat | Beyond Your Blog

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