I started writing to be a better communicator, arguably one of the most important skills of a UX designer. As a writer, the biggest critic I face is myself. Battling and overcoming those voices of doubt is a constant struggle, something I still deal with today. I wanted to share some of the challenges I encounter and how I reframe my thinking to overcome them.
1. “Why would anyone want to read my content?”
When I started blogging, I struggled to come to terms with having an audience that would appreciate my perspective. I hesitated writing publicly because I didn’t think anyone would want to read my content. But recently, I published a piece on the benefits of participating in UX hackathons for UX Booth, a popular online design publication, and it was shared over 70 times on social media. It was a great feeling of validation, knowing that my work is worth reading.
Solution: I write for myself first. I’ve been doing that for a long time and eventually learned to love that process. I try to focus on improving the quality of my content. Looking back, my earlier entries aren’t that great but I’m not taking them down. They helped me get to where I am today as a writer. Instead of caring so much about having an audience, I appreciate having my own platform to express myself however I please.
2. “Is there anything unique about my voice?”
A lot of topics I write about have already been covered so I sometimes hesitate publishing articles about them. Plus, many people around me said that before I start blogging, I need to find a niche first – worst advice ever. I still wonder if my voice is unique and whether there’s any value to what I have to say. But if it wasn’t for sharing my own perspective on topics that have already been discussed, I wouldn’t have found my unique voice in UX design, writing and running.
Solution: Getting out of my own head helps. I spend a lot of time in it, especially during long runs. But getting all too familiar with my own voice makes me prone to feeling generic and boring. Knowing that there is an audience out there that will appreciate my unique experiences is encouraging. Staying inspired by talking to those with different experiences and points of view are incredibly valuable as well.
3. “Am I going to be judged for my mistakes?”
Making mistakes is a healthy part of the process but I have yet to actually build a healthy relationship with that. As a UX designer and writer, I’m constantly battling my perfectionist tendencies. I’m also fighting the voices of doubt that says I’ll be judged for my mistakes. I’m especially afraid of being “caught” as a “fraudulent” writer. I try to maintain excellent grammar and punctuation in what I write but I’m afraid that even a minor mistake in that aspect could make me judgment prone.
Solution: A design mentor once said that conviction is a powerful tool. Sometimes, people make mistakes but if I’m able to own up to it and stand behind it with conviction, I could go really far. Rather than be fearful of making mistakes and being judged for them, I choose to stand behind my work and own up to the decisions I make. Making mistakes will always be part of the process and I have to accept that.
4. “What if I run out of things to write about?”
I was adamant that if I started blogging, I’d keep it running for as long as I can. I didn’t want this to become another project that would eventually stop. In fact, I was planning to wait a year before launching my blog – I was going to use that time to brainstorm ideas and have a vault of articles in case I did run out of topics. If I was going to blog, I wanted to do it consistently. I didn’t realize that I could share my experiences in the moment authentically and that’s good enough.
Solution: Rather than worrying about the longevity of my blog, I focus on writing in the moment. The more I write, the more ideas I get. As soon as I publish a post, I come up with a string of new topics I’d like to explore. I read a lot to stay inspired and try to have stimulating conversations on a daily basis with those around me. I nurture and exercise my curiosity. A year and a half later, I haven’t run out of things to write about and have a massive ocean of ideas I’m waiting to explore.
5. “How will I deal with critique?”
Creatives are known to get the most criticism. I mean, look at the comments section of every YouTube video. I like to portray myself as someone with thick skin who can deal with criticism but in reality, I can take things personally and am really good at unjustifying feedback that doesn’t work to my advantage. I’m actually good at accepting feedback, which is how I managed to get an A for my undergraduate senior thesis. But if I’m writing on topics that are personal, I’m sometimes afraid of being open and making myself vulnerable to critique.
Solution: I learned to take criticism with a grain of salt. It turns out, people who are completely oblivious to the writing process and aren’t actually good writers themselves end up being my biggest “critiques.” Those who are amazing writers know exactly how to give constructive and useful feedback and actually offer solutions as opposed to “don’t do this” and leave it at that. Filtering critique and trying to contextualize their feedback is really important.
6. “Is this whole thing worthwhile?”
Blogging is a lot of work. I love writing and do it at my own pace so that may alleviate some of the pressures. But even if I write for myself, I still question whether this whole thing is worthwhile. On many occasions, I’ve asked myself questions like, “Will it benefit my career? Will I become an even better writer? Will I manage to inspire others with my writing?” I can humbly answer yes to all those questions but I still have days when I wonder if it’s all really worth it.
Solution: Overanalyzing the return on investment (ROI) of blogging is a waste of time. And instead of thinking about the sacrifices I’m making to meet my goals of blogging consistently, I think about all the benefits I gain. I’ve improved my communication skills and am able to articulate my thoughts in a cohesive manner. And nothing has been more rewarding than receiving compliments on my work – that’s what ultimately helps me keep going.
Doubt is a natural emotion that writers of all levels feel. I’d love to pick up more of that confidence to quash my feelings of doubt and I am getting better at doing so. But understanding what my doubts are help me figure out what I need to do to overcome them. I might even argue that doubt is actually my secret weapon for success and I know it’ll take me even further than where I am today.