Posted by: jeannineatkins | January 3, 2011

Confidence, Meet Doubt. Doubt, Shake Hands with Confidence

The past few days I’ve heard or read several writers refer to their doubt. They ask: Should I stop writing? Or how can I begin again, wrestling down or past doubt? Will my words ever be good enough to match those of writers I love or the vision in my head? Do I deserve to spend even ten minutes of my day on something I remember loving?

My heart aches when I hear this from writers whose work I’ve loved. I want to jump in and punch Doubt until she weeps. But I know I can’t. Doubt is big and strong and has complicated histories with each of us.

I can only offer my own tricks with Doubt and her nasty language, her snippy habits. As my blog title suggests, I find it helps to let Doubt into the room and personify her, even at the risk of sounding too much like the crazy poet. This gets Doubt out from crawling under my skin, which is not only itchy but cumbersome. I don’t offer her tea and cookies, but she’s around, tending to take the shape of a few almost-lost-to-history-but-not-quite family members and teachers. I like to dress her in really ugly clothes before sending her to the corner to rant and mutter. Which she will. But I start to wonder why I’m listening to someone who’s so sniffly and bad-mannered?

And so there comes the matter of sticking it out. When Doubt slips in, it’s  tempting to leave the room and do something that doesn’t call her up. My Doubt does have some good points after all, things I can’t deny. But if I let her be, her mean spirit and good arguments start to fade. I start to find a few good words on my paper, and I let those give me hope more will come. That hope gets to wear the soft sweater, the sparkly earrings, and maybe curl on a branch of the tree outside my window. Does she wear the pointy glasses I had in fourth grade, or fill notebooks as fast as I did then? No. She knows a bigger world. But I like the way she shakes her head softly at our companion Doubt, drooling in the corner. I can almost feel sorry for her. Almost.



  1. OH, I love this. Thank you for your wise words!

  2. I hate when Doubt comes through the door. She’s boorish and boring, and she stinks up the room with her SBDs.
    Hope, on the other hand…. *happy sighs*

  3. Love this!

  4. LOVE this! Why should WE have to leave the room when Doubt enters? And if she doesn’t go, yes, she can just stand there in the corner. And I love your dressing her up. Wonderful. 🙂

  5. I love this, Jeannine!! Thank you for posting it!!

  6. LOVE LOVE LOVE this post!!
    thank you.

  7. xoxo back to you, Jo.

  8. Oh your Doubt sounds like my Doubt. I wish we could lock the door. But I think we best pull up a chair, though no need to offer refreshments. She gets the hint after a while.. on our lucky days…

  9. Thanks, Laura. I have so much hope for your coming year.

  10. I’m not known for myself for my fashionable dressing, but Doubt can get the stuff you wouldn’t dream of imposing on Salvation Army. And don’t bother to wash.
    May your year be with few of these visits from Doubt!

  11. And thank you for liking!

  12. Thanks, Jen. I keep holding the vision of you with Confidence at your back.

  13. See, it’s harder for me because I didn’t see it, so when Con disappears, it’s tough to summon her back (whereas Doubt seems to feel she has a full-access pass all the time!).
    But now that I have your idea of just letting Doubt mull around and poke over my shoulder now and then — maybe I can set her up with a little knitting project in the corner and keep her hands busy 🙂

  14. Doubt
    Hi Jeannine ~ can’t believe that doubt was hanging out with you when you wrote this exquisite piece!
    My dear friend, doubt, is measured by the amount and/or quality of sleep I got the night before.
    Has your ‘crazy poet’ self written some verse on this topic? I’m starting a poetry residency next week and, if you have, would love to read it to the 4th graders.

  15. Lovely image that makes me want to make an ugly doubt doll to sit in the corner (back to me, of course) in my office!
    You’ve read, haven’t you, The Book of Qualities? If not, I think you’d enjoy it.

  16. Re: Doubt
    Oh, Carol, Doubt rarely leaves the corner.
    Wishing you many a good night’s sleep and lots of fun with the fourth graders!

  17. Good idea about the raggedy doubt doll — maybe we need to get Laura going on these?
    And thank you for the book recommendation!

  18. This is great. I agree with you that it’s best to let her in and out from under the skin. “Who YOU lookin’ at?” I’ve been known to say from time to time.

  19. Sorry – anonymous above was me.

  20. Toby, glad to hear it’s you who talks tough to Doubt.
    Wishing you a year when she just gets the hint and goes. Or often enough.

  21. You are wise wise wise and wonderful times infinity! Here’s to acknowledging doubt, but not letting it tromp us! xo

  22. A doodle of Doubt… or a Doubtful doodle?

  23. Thanks dear Debbi. Doubt can have the corner with the bad light, and we’ll elbow past her. Good luck with your January deadline!

  24. Re: A doodle of Doubt… or a Doubtful doodle?
    Yes, this is someone I’d prefer out of the corner…

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