in reverb10

Maybe I Shouldn’t Have Posted This

You are your biggest critic. You’ll hold yourself back more than anything, or anyone ever else will. The biggest obstacle you’ll ever have to overcome is your own self-doubt. Telling yourself “I can” when the only thing in your head is “I can’t” is no easy task.

#reverb10 day two is upon us, and Leo Babauta over at Zen Habits gives us a great prompt:

What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?

For me, the answer came immediately. The one thing that I’ve both overcome and continue to struggle with, especially when it comes to writing, is second guessing.

We often forget that a blog is YOUR space. YOU own it. YOU are free to speak your mind and share your opinion. That simple and (what should be) obvious fact is often forgotten.

Why? Because we second guess ourselves. We think our opinion isn’t worth a damn – that no one will care what we have to say, and that our opinion is “wrong”.

That, or we start writing for the benefit of someone else. We write what we think others want us to write. We base our opinion on other’s and focus on agreement instead of embracing that their CAN be a difference in opinion – and that it actually can be a beautiful thing.

And the thing with second-guessing. It CAN be eliminated. You have complete control over your own self-doubt. Overcoming your fear of persecution or criticism and writing what YOU want to write is something you can and always control.

Start shooting from the hip

The takeaway? When it comes to writing, shoot from the hip more often. Write what first comes to mind – don’t focus on AP style and editing – write with emotion, write with passion, speak your mind. THAT’S when your best writing will come out, that’s what people will connect with, subscribe to, share, and, if you’re an author, buy.

I’m challenging myself to do just that with #reverb10 this month – writing what first comes to mind. It may not be as eloquent as something I’ve spent a couple hours crafting, but it will without a doubt be free of second-guessing.

What can you eliminate that doesn’t contribute to your writing? How can you break free from second-guessing?

(Photo c/o paloetic)

Add Your Voice



  1. Needed to read this – have been second guessing myself constantly lately and it stems from fear and fear of failure in particular. Seems cliché to even say that but anxiety is at the source of this self-doubt!

    • I hear ya – but – can I be frank and ask you what you’re afraid of? Is the fear of failure related to writing, or fearing failure in general? Always know that if you want to chat about anything, I’m only an e-mail/tweet/skype call away (and I won’t make you sit on a couch and tell me why you think the sky is blue. :)

  2. Yes! This. I love this post!

    I actually got a 98% on a paper I wrote in 20 minutes. I made no stops, no corrections until it was finished. Surprisingly, I didn’t even have to make that many changes (Damn that AP being drilled into me) but my best pieces always come out when I don’t second-guess myself.

    • I was the same way in school – honestly. It always seemed like when I didn’t try, I did better than when I’d pull an all nighter to write a paper – that same concept has transpired into my blog writing. I used to spend HOURS writing a post – now I force myself to shoot from the hip. Not only am I writing with more emotion, I’m writing more efficiently, leaving more time in my day to enjoy other things.

  3. So true. The best writing (and decisions) often come quickly and naturally, with no time for waffling, hemming and hawing. Gut instincts are instincts for a reason, and instincts have carried our civilization through thousands of years.

  4. Great post. Second -guessing kills so much. I’ve gotten better at staying with what comes first. I’ve yet to write Day 2 Reverb10, but I know what keeps me away from my best writing….

  5. Thanks for sharing, and for the reminder to just write. I think most of us that commit to writing have a desire to share and are too limited by the constraints we think others place on us. Keep up the momentum and spontaneity!

  6. Was reading some of the #reverb10 tweets and came across your post here.

    Have to say I agree 100%! I’m the worst second guesser of all! I often only get a sentence or two into something I’m writing and start judging it – thinking it’s shit, deleting, rewriting, over and over. It’s maddening and needs to stop!

    They say a writer is like a painter, they are never fully satisfied with their work or consider it done. And no matter what you write, or how talented of a writer you may or may not be, you will ALWAYS be your own worst critic.

    Blogging is supposed to be fun, a creative outlet. But many of us tend to torture ourselves by striving to get it perfect. It will never be perfect. Accept that. And just let the words fall where they may.

    • Amen brother. It will never be perfect and I’m rarely 100% satisfied with something I write, design, etc. You’ll always find the tiniest imperfection.

      That’s never going to change – so instead of letting that mount in front of you and hold you back – allow yourself to be imperfect and just have fun with it.

      Thanks for coming by, David.

  7. Wham! I was thinking about this very thing today. I spend way too much energy worried about what others are going to think about my writing. But today, I thought, who cares? Just say it. It’s YOUR blog. It’s your words, your thoughts, your heart, and if people don’t like it, they don’t have to read it. Period. But I have an obligation to myself to write what I’m passionate about.

    • As long as you enjoy what your writing about, nothing else matters, really. Of course, this depends on the context – if you’re writing on behalf of your business, then obviously it’s important to think about who you’re writing for. But a blog like this? It’s my personal space – my personal opinion. Why stifle it with second guessing?

  8. Great post, Matt. Second guessing is such a big problem for me, too. I think “shooting from the hip” is good advice. Too many times I find myself staring at a blank word doc, trying to formulate the perfect sentences. Once I finally get my raw thoughts written down, though, editing is the easy part.

    I’m looking forward to the rest of your #reverb10 posts.

    • Writing, on some level, has to come naturally – you can’t force it at you can’t manufacture it. Well, you can, but usually it doesn’t turn out for the best. Thanks for coming by, Andre!

  9. Matt –

    We are too much alike – it freaks me out. I touched on this topic in my first #reverb10 post. I write all the time. I probably have a dozen completed posts on my lap top and more on my phone that I haven’t posted because I think people don’t care about or want to hear what I have to say. Well if this is true, why the hell do I have a blog. Why are people reading it when I do post.

    I guess i am not along in my second guessing. Thanks for doing an awesome job at explaining the craziness that goes on in the mind of…well us.

    Cheers buddy!

    • We were clearly separated at birth – I think by now we’ve established that by now. You’re definitely not alone when it comes to second-guessing – I have over 50 drafts saved over the past couple years – and many, many more that never even made it to “draft” phase. Less second guessing, more saying what’s on our mind without worrying about what anyone else thinks it 2011, capiche?

  10. I really enjoyed this! I think when we write for a blog it is indeed all about second-guessing. When I write in a notebook I don’t hold back, but when we’re writing for readers we don’t want to offend or reveal too much (plus the world is not a safe place for details, and neither is the internet). Writing is an intensely personal process and product, so we assume that the only person who can really relate is…well, ourselves. I agree – and I am so thankful for Reverb10 – we should write for ourselves and not worry about our readers. If they can connect with what you’re writing, thinking, feeling, they’ll read it.

    • Good point about holding SOME back when writing on the web – it’s important to know how much is too much – but you still want to be transparent and honest – not allowing what someone else may think hold you back from speaking freely and honestly. Thanks for stopping by, Jen.

  11. Great post, Matt! I think I need to take your advice as well. Sometimes, I need to let things simmer, but I tend to get to the point of being obsessively picky. There’s something impersonal about having a piece that’s too carefully constructed: It loses the human element. Having been a proofreader, though, I believe there’s always time for AP Style :P

    • Haha, well as a proofreader I hope you didn’t read this post TOO critically – no doubt it’s far from perfect :)

      I’m using #reverb10 as a springboard to start what I talk about above. With every prompt, I’m going to write what first comes to mind – and I’m not going to spend over 30 minutes or so on each post, if that. I think this month-long endeavor is about ‘raw’ emotion and writing passionately – and that comes to surface when you focus on writing more and thinking less.

  12. Matt,

    Excellent, excellent point quite often overlooked. Self-doubt was at the top of my list as well.

    Day 2 of reverb10 was almost poetic timing, as I’ve been toiling through the process of pushing myself to create without paralyzing expectations, assumptions and the like.

    Here’s to writing without the ball and chain.

  13. Hi Matt,

    I really enjoyed this post! Judging by the comments, it seems like this is a very common problem. It can be difficult to think of new and unique content but eventually we all just need to stop worrying and write. I loved the point you made about letting your own voice come through instead of shrouding it in proper AP style. Some of the most entertaining posts to read are often more conversational in tone, rather than formally written. Those of course have their place as well, but there’s something to be said for just letting loose and letting words flow.

    • I have been and always will be a very conversational writer – and honestly – the post itself isn’t the most important part (at least to me) it’s the conversations and connections made as part of the conversation that follows a post, here in the comments. Blog posts to me are nothing more than conversation starters – share an opinion, ask questions, learn, grow, connect…it’s all good!

  14. I think you figured it out, Matt. This is spot on. I think many of us “shoot from the hip” when we write, but then fear sets in and we don’t share it. At least, I know that happens to me.

    The first part of this post resonated so much — about how your own self-doubt sabotages you, even when you think you’re confident… or “faking it til you make it.”

    • Yep. It’s happened to me many times – I write and write and write and then before hitting publish, somehow convince myself that it’s no good. Here’s to doing a lot less of that in the year ahead!

  15. it’s hard to ‘shoot from the hip’ more when trying to think about my ‘blog voice’. i’d love to be more of a niche blogger, and.. as ashamed as i’d like to admit, more blog-famous! but my writing just isn’t very cohesive or coherent and doesn’t offer much “value” to attract a wider audience.

    • I think being a niche blogger is a great thing – focus on whatever it is you love to write about and go with that. If you try to be everything to everyone you’ll burn yourself out VERY quickly…

  16. I had a friend who wrote about something similar once. He said he wanted to be a “no-look” blogger, meaning that, like in basketball, he wanted to think of a post, write it, and hit publish. Like a no-look pass at full speed from a point guard, he wanted no second guessing, no doubt. Make the pass, put it out there, and score.

    • I hope to do more of that – I think that style produces the most “real” and often the best writing – not to mention – it saves you from staring at words on the screen blanky for hours trying to find the “perfect” way to say something. Most often, imperfection is exponentially better than perfection.

  17. It’s good to be a critical critic, however it’s better to just do it. Execute, go for it. There’s more money and success out there than you can ever imagine!

  18. These command files became known as the Gerber files.
    They offer competitive salary, excellent benefits,
    outstanding bonuses, and a fast track for advancement. A few good clicks
    will tell you right away that you have a good speaker.

  19. you are actually a good webmaster. The site loading pace is
    amazing. It sort of feels that you’re doing any distinctive trick.
    Also, The contents are masterwork. you’ve done a excellent activity
    on this subject!