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Writer’s Inadequacy


Writer’s block is one thing. The feeling of blanking out, that you can’t  start writing even when you have ideas – the daunting blank page of doom. Writer’s inadequacy however, is subtly different. It can be perceived as writer’s block, except the ideas are there but it’s not that you can’t write – you feel as though the idea, or you as a writer, aren’t good enough.

Drafts Drafts Drafts

I don’t know about you, but I have hundreds of drafts. Great ideas I think have excellent potential. The problem? I don’t think I’m the right writer to help them reach their potential. Of all my drafts, I may have maybe five ideas I think I’ve started to write really well, but I don’t think I can keep that standard going for a whole novel. So I start another idea and hope it will be my salvation. Over and over again. It’s depressing.

Striking Out

It’s not at all like wanting to be a professional dancer, sports star or *insert profession here* but you’re just not that good at it to become professional. Not in my case anyway.  Rather like a batter who has practiced often, knows they can hit the ball out the park, but keep striking out and begin to doubt they will ever hit another ball that well again. They watch everyone else step up to the plate and seemingly succeed with every swing. And that’s depressing.

Keep Practicing

You don’t know how often I’ve come close to quitting. Only you can’t get better if you stop right – also, my brain refuses to stop coming up with ideas, and reading definitely doesn’t help. If you’re a writer at any level or capacity, you’ll understand the frustration of not writing. Of letting those ideas, great or not, fizzle away into the black holes of forgotten memories. You don’t want that. So I keep writing. Keep drafting, editing, revising, reworking, until eventually getting something out of. And that’s encouraging.

You Are Not Alone

You just need to type in “Writers…” and Google will open up a world of aspiring writers like yourself all working towards this daunting task of completing their writing. Some have gone along far enough to submit their completed works. Others have been published. We know its not impossible and that’s encouraging.

The Struggle

It doesn’t make the struggle any less difficult. I could force myself to write and complete something and completely hate it in the process – I think that’s worse than not completing the work. I want to be proud of what I’ve written. I want to enjoy writing it from beginning to end, like I’m hitting the ball well with every swing, and getting home runs every once in a while.

So right now I’m feeling completely inadequate at being able to write an amazing story. Anyone can write a story. Anyone can spin a tale. The goal I’m trying to achieve is to write a brilliant tale that is above good. I want it to be excellent. It’s not easy. My confidence is low. My brain buzzes with excitement from all the potential but the execution leaves me feeling dissatisfied that I can’t live up to it. I guess that’s just part of being a writer.

I’ll just have to keep writing.



How do you get your confidence high when you’re struggling with your writing? I would love to know.


About Nthato Morakabi

Nthato Morakabi is a South African published author. He has short stories appearing in both international and local anthologies, and has published his first book, Beneath the Wax, which opens his three-part novella series "Wax". He is an avid reader, blogger and writer.

19 responses »

  1. Oh mate, I wish we lived closer so I could take you out for coffee and tell you how much ‘writers inadequacy’ is part of the process. Instead you get a mammoth reply here:

    I recently read extracts from John Steinbeck’s diary and I was amazed to see that he had days of excruciating self doubt:
    ‘My many weaknesses are beginning to show their heads. I simply must get this thing out of my system. I’m not a writer. I’ve been fooling myself and other people. I wish I were. This success will ruin me as sure as hell. It probably won’t last, and that will be all right. I’ll try to go on with work now. Just a stint every day does it. I keep forgetting.’

    He also wrote this:
    ‘In writing, habit seems to be a much stronger force than either willpower or inspiration. Consequently there must be some little quality of fierceness until the habit pattern of a certain number of words is established. There is no possibility, in me at least, of saying, “I’ll do it if I feel like it.” One never feels like awaking day after day. In fact, given the smallest excuse, one will not work at all. The rest is nonsense. Perhaps there are people who can work that way, but I cannot. I must get my words down every day whether they are any good or not.’

    You just gotta keep on going.
    And music. Put some trash metal on, scream it out. We didn’t ask to be writers, it’s not our fault.

    • “And music. Put some trash metal on, scream it out. We didn’t ask to be writers, it’s not our fault.”

      I love this quote. And thank you very much for this, I really appreciate it and needed it. Doubt is a real part of writing and we sometimes feel guilty about having doubts. We don’t hear a lot of authors talk about it, or rather I haven’t read a lot about that and here’s a celebrated author reminding us that he too is human.

      Thanks again Jac!

  2. Just keep writing. You’re a wonderful writer and I can’t wait to read the stories you come up with. Sometimes we get stuck, sometimes it lasts for a long time, but you just have to keep pushing through it. I have a ton of drafts and ideas as well. Some may never see the light of day, some may never even get written, but you’re still brainstorming, still thinking, and someday soon one of those ideas will be “the one.”

    • Haha how long shall we wait for “the one”, that’s one thing I think that makes us have doubt in the first place. We want every story and idea to be “the one” but it doesn’t work that way. Sometimes it’s coal waiting to be turned into diamond but the process takes too long and we drop that coal and move on to the next one hoping for the same result. Over and over again.

      But thanks for the encouragement, really needed it and I appreciate it. Onward forth!

      • I don’t think we would be writers if we didn’t “doubt.” You have no idea what “the one” will be, but that’s just like everything else in life. You can’t predict the future, but you just have to push through and keep going. Pretend that it’s the one. That’s what I’m doing with the current novels I’m working on, lol.

  3. Honest article, reflects a load of my struggles. Sometimes a long walk, in a place you always passed by while driving, but never got out to explore. At times that’s the magic key to unlock the block.

    • Hmmm that’s some truth. If only someone or something would be able to guide us to that magic key all the time. It’s why I admire authors like King and RR Martin and RL Stine who are able to just churn out books so often.

  4. I think reading other writers struggles would help, but, yeah, definitely not alone.

    It’s a lonely ‘hobby’ to do as well so you only have your own thoughts to keep you company. Unless you’re lucky enough to have writer friends, I imagine having ones you can actually meet and write would be super motivating!

    • Definitely and I do have local writers group. We haven’t met in a while except as individuals but we’re part of a IM group and we chat a lot there. They are very motivational but when you sit with the screen before you alone, like you said, it’s very lonely.

  5. So whatever I’m going through has a name! Like you, I have a million ideas and they stubbornly remain just ideas because I’m terrified I’ll do a horrible job of writing them. I’ve been reading a lot and there are so many good books that they shatter my confidence even more – I definitely cannot write that well. I feel like I know nothing of writing, that plotting and character development and all that are great scary techniques I can never master and so my writing will remain bad forever.
    I don’t know how I’ll climb out of that pit, but I can truthfully tell you that you’re an amazing writer. Although I don’t prefer dark stories, I still enjoy of yours. I’m here to tell you that you can bring all those ideas to fruition if you just pick up the pen and they will turn out brilliantly. Just keep writing! 🙂

    • Haha I came up with the name myself, I don’t know if it has an official name but I think it explains exactly how I’m feeling and how you’re feeling too. I’ve met so many great writers and read so many great books, I can only wonder if I’ll ever get that good too.

      Also, thank you so much for your kind words. I’m glad you enjoy my stories too, even if they are dark haha. We’ll just have to document our climb out of the pit and work our way towards being the best writers we can be even when our confidence is low and our fears are great.
      Like you said, let’s just keep writing yeah? 🙂

      • Yup, same fear. I have all these extremely talented authors whom I look up to and it freezes me. But I know that if I have to get there, the best way is to keep writing. Haha yes, that should work. 🙂

  6. Pingback: Blog Round Up: February 2017 – Rachel Poli

  7. I once read an article that talked about the pressures of an artist, the way in which creativity can be a terribly daunting task, particularly when someone aspires to be a paid professional.
    The author suggested that the solution was to relinquish that burden by returning to the concept of a muse.
    The theory goes that every day, or every week, the artist sits or stands in their “studio” and creates art. It doesn’t matter if the art is good or bad; the artist’s role is simply to create, and be patient. And if fate smiles upon the artist, the muse, all unseen, will step up to the artist, and guide them. But, like a force of nature, the muse is not something that can be forced, trapped, or cajoled. It must be lured with steadfast and diligent practice, welcomed with wonder, and allowed to come and go as it pleases. And when it’s absent, the artist simply says “I’m doing my part. The rest is out of my hands.”
    I think there’s a lot of value in that idea. Granted, I don’t think it’s easy, but I think it helps.

    • That sounds like a great article to read. As you said, the muse is an uncontrollable force that we want to control. Or that we can call on a whim. It doesn’t work like that.

      At the same time, to keep hacking away at your creative piece without the muse requires a lot of patience and diligence. Importantly, it requires the ability to stop yourself from getting frustrated. That the work that held so much potential is fizzling away into a “bad” work.

      As true as all of these are, I think the worst feeling is continuing to push, and work, and practice and create, but you do not feel you will ever create a masterpiece. That everything you do is terrible. That you’re inadequate as an artist.

      That is my struggle. My anxiety.

      My greatest fear.

      • I think that’s often the challenge, but the reality is the only control we have is over whether we try. Beyond that, it’s a matter of just keeping at it. I think one of my struggles has been the desire to perfect each story, but at a certain point it’s good to move on to the next piece, and maybe return to “this one” at a later time. A lot of authors talk about writing half a dozen bad pieces before writing a good one, so there’s some comfort in having that in common.

      • Well that does bring some comfort indeed. Thank you for your comments and bringing perspective into this seemingly common problem that authors face. Knowing I am not alone does persuade me to keep pushing past the imperfections. You’ve been a great help 🙂

      • You’re welcome. One thing I like to do is use the WordPress Reader Search option to browse for blog posts on topics like this. Writer Doubt has led to some good ones. It’s been very helpful to read what others write about this experience, both as a reassurance that I’m not the only one, and as an opportunity to learn how others handle it. 🙂

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