We all contend with the world in various ways, but one thing that's particular to artists/writers is the degree to which we contend with ourselves. In a time/space slot during which you're supposed to achieve your creative goals, the demon of Self-doubt rears its head.
You do something, try something, and then the internal voices start asking: is this any good? Is anyone else going to care? Am I pushing this form/theme as far as I could? Am I just repeating myself? etc., etc.
I should be happy because I've already knocked off 17 chapters of my novel. I'm trying to write a suspense/crime novel with a literary twist, rather than great literature per se. Even so, when I read a gifted suspense writer like Reginald Hill (a wonderful English author, if you don't know him), I trouble over how far my work is from his level.
In my experience, creative self-doubt lessens over time -- partly as a function of maturity, and partly from reassurance as your work does get some recognition (publishing, fans, reviews, etc.). But doubt never goes away completely ... and correctly managed, it's probably a valuable part of the creative cycle. If all of us thought every single thing we create is wonderful, flawless, the greatest thing ever (as so many aspiring writers on social networking spaces are told by their uncritical friends), we'd never feel the urge to hack away at making it Better.
So, somewhat in the fashion of those old morality cartoons where a demon perches on one shoulder and an angel on the other, to continue you have to listen to, and then force a marriage between, your Writing Ego: "My thoughts, perceptions, and feelings are worthwhile! Others need to hear about them! I am original!" and Self-doubt ("This has been done before... I'm just one mind in six billion and counting ... who reads books any more?") and hope that from their unlikely union a perfect child emerges: the book that needs to exist and will be appreciated. Maybe even bought.
Causes John Oughton Supports
PEN International, Amnesty International, League of Canadian Poets, POR AMOR, Greenpeace