Writers On Writing / How to overcome self-doubt with Annabel Smith

This week we spoke to internationally best-selling author, Annabel Smith ahead of her workshop, Overcoming Self-Doubt and Procrastination on Saturday 14 March at Writing NSW.

On your website you write about experiencing self-doubt as a writer, which you say doesn’t go away upon publication (to many yet-to-be published writers’ surprise). After three published novels, what techniques have you developed to combat self-doubt?

If I waited until I overcame self-doubt, I would never write anything. I’ve learnt to accept it as part of the process and keep writing anyway. I have a phrase from Brene Brown stuck above my desk to remind myself that a lot of self-doubt is ‘fake news’ and is not based on rational thinking: ’the story I’m telling myself is…I’m never going to finish this book’, or ’the story I’m telling myself is…I’m wasting my time’. I also find seeking feedback from trusted readers is a valuable process, as then I can get a more reliable indication if I’m on track with what I’m writing.   

What would you say to a writer who hasn’t submitted their work anywhere because they’re too afraid of rejection?

Like self-doubt, rejection comes with the territory. We have to learn to accept it as a natural part of a writing life. I’m not saying it’s easy. I still struggle with it. But we tend to think of rejection as being purely based on the merit of our work. It’s useful to educate yourself about the industry and understand the many reasons why a piece of work might be rejected, some of which will have nothing at all to do with your work. For example: stylistically, it’s not a good fit for the journal; the commissioning editor is going through a divorce and doesn’t want to work for a year on a book about marital disharmony; they only publish one narrative non-fiction work a year and they’ve already signed an author; their last sci-fi publication was a commercial flop; they already have a piece on IVF in the pipeline; zombie erotica isn’t selling well right now etc  

How did undertaking a PhD in Writing at Edith Cowan University help you improve your writing practice?

Having three years of financial support via a scholarship was the most incredible gift – just having time to focus on my writing is the ultimate luxury. Also, my PhD supervisor Richard Rossiter was a miracle-worker. He was an editor and coach rolled into one, giving me feedback on the manuscript throughout the writing process and motivating me when the going got tough. Having that support all the way through the journey was invaluable. IN addition, I met other early career writers –Danielle Wood, Donna Mazza, Amanda Curtin–and we’ve walked the path together, celebrating each other’s successes and commiserating each other through the challenges. But you can find that without doing a PhD. Building a team is one of the best ways a writer can support themselves. Avengers, assemble!

Annabel Smith

Annabel Smith is the author of The Ark, US bestseller Whisky Charlie Foxtrot, and A New Map of the Universe, which was shortlisted for the WA Premier’s Book Awards. She was one of five inaugural recipients of an Australia Council Creative Australia Fellowship for Emerging Artists, for her interactive digital novel/app The Ark. She holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Edith Cowan University.

Join internationally best-selling author Annabel Smith for Overcoming Self-Doubt and Procrastination on Saturday 14 March, 10am-4pm at Writing NSW
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Overcoming self-doubt and procrastination

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