Doubting Your Work? An Excellent Sign!

Eugene Cross

Here’s an absolutely fabulous and honest piece by Eugene Cross about what it feels like to study writing as an undergraduate/graduate.

It reminds me of how I hoped, wished, dreamed that one of my professors would tell me, “You’re one of the students who really does have the gift. YOU should write.”

That never happened. And I’m glad it didn’t, because it wouldn’t have been enough. Nothing is ever really enough. (And talent or passion aren’t enough.)

But let’s hear from Cross:

[C]omparing was what I did. Constantly. I was convinced that each class I enrolled in held only two or three “real” writers and that I was never among them. I perpetually worried about whether or not my stories lived up to those of my classmates when what I should have been worrying about was whether or not they lived up to themselves. What they were capable of becoming. I was consumed with doubt. Was it possible that I had found my calling only to discover that I really sucked at it? Could the world be that cruel? I was certain it could.

You must click here to read the entire piece—part of this month’s Glimmer Train bulletin.

Posted in Writing Advice.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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People have always told me and I have always agreed that writers are their own worst critics. 

kathryn magendie

You know – that did happen to me – I was a forty-something year old student and was going into Kenesiology when an English Prof said, “Why are you wasting your time with Kenesiology? – you should be writing.” I half-believed her until the next semester when another Engl instructor urged me to change my major and consider taking my writing seriously.

If they hadn’t of told me that, I do wonder how much longer I’d have “wasted” Not Writing.

Now, do I still have doubts? You betcha – and ironically, sometimes after publication those doubts rise up even stronger.

[…] “Doubt is oftentimes a good signifier of talent,” says short-story writer Eugene Cross in an essay Jane Friedman included in her writing-advice series. If you’re tempted to trash your WIP, read what Cross has to say. […]

Susan McNerney

One thing some students in MFA programs don’t often realize is that many students are so insecure in their work they only bring things to class that they’ve been working on for months, or even years. So if you’re the student who’s actually producing new work (in my opinion, that’s a good thing), your work will look a lot less polished. It’s nothing to worry about, but can be annoying in workshop when your work gets ripped apart and someone who’s workshopped a piece three times already is roundly praised. In the end, you’ve got to do whatever moves your… Read more »


He’s hit on some nice insight about writer doubt. And I had to laugh aloud with his path from “pre-med” to creative writing; it was all too familiar.

Heather Marsten

Thanks for this article – good to know that doubts are a sign of talent. LOL, I must be very talented 🙂


Thanks for sharing. I’ve always yearned for the confidence some writers have.


After 9 years of doubting my writing I am taking the ultimate plunge and publishing my first ebook…. I am terrified!! I so know everyone will hate it!

Josh Hogg

I bookmarked this page… even if it is only Eugene’s opinion that self-doubt is a sign of talent, I’ll take it as gospel because it motivates me.