As writers, it can feel as though we are constantly searching for new ways to identify ourselves. We take time to evaluate our writing techniques and quirks, such as whether we use Word or Google Docs, writing sprints or word counts, drink tea or coffee, are plotters or pantsers. With all this categorizing, there is one box many writers are hesitant to tick off: calling themselves writers. It’s not due to dislike of the term, or even an attempt to dissociate from the struggling-author stereotypes. Rather, many people who are in fact writers refuse to refer to themselves as such due to lack of confidence in their work.
Building this confidence as a writer is an important yet difficult process. Having confidence in yourself transfers to having confidence in your work. This results in allowing yourself to put in more effort and time into your writing as well as lessens the nervousness that can come with sharing your work. Confidence is an important tool for writers, yet it is easily shaken. Whether you’re trying to dig your way out of a writing slump, brave through a rejection letter, or tell your family you’re a writer when they ask what your future plans are this holiday season, these five tips can give your confidence the boost it needs.
Remind yourself why you write
Oftentimes, especially when working on longer writing projects or novels, it becomes difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The piece can seem never-ending and even a bit superfluous. During this point in the writing process, a writer can easily lose motivation and even abandon their project, or writing as a whole.
If you are starting to get these feelings, it is important to take a moment and ground yourself. Think about why you started writing in the first place. Consider the excitement you felt when you first started creating the piece. You can even take this a step further by drafting a list of reasons you write. It can be as brief or in-depth as you like. And once it’s completed, you can carry it in your wallet or purse for quick reference whenever you need the reminder.
Don’t forget about your past accomplishments
Totally immersing yourself in a writing project can be an amazing feeling and allow some of your best work to flow out of you. But, if you are only focused on one project, it can be all the more frustrating when feelings of discouragement start to worm their way into your thoughts.
When this occurs, I suggest taking a look at some of your previous works and the accomplishments you’ve earned. These writing achievements don’t have to be a Nobel Peace Prize. Even accomplishments that seem ‘small’ are valid. For example, take a look at how many words you managed to write the other day, or how many likes your old blog post got. You can even look back on the piece you're frustrated at. Find an earlier paragraph that is beautifully written, or a sentence that fits together perfectly. How you find these achievements doesn’t matter, the real importance is that you’ve created amazing work before, and you can do it again.
Share your work with someone you trust
Letting another person read your work can be considered many writers’ biggest fear. As scary as it may be, it is an inevitable part of the writing process. And finding someone you trust who will give you some positive feedback can reinvigorate your desire to jump back into your story.
Writing, like a lot of art, is lonely in its creation. During the drafting and editing process, it can be difficult to envision people ever reading your book, let alone enjoying it. Allowing the story to leave the confines of your mind and computer screen can help you remember that one day people will read your work and that your words will have an impact.
Stop comparing yourself
Yes, that means putting down the book you’re obsessed with and stop daydreaming about how many novels James Patterson has written. Every ‘successful’ writer has gotten where they are in their own, unique way. You wouldn’t compare Rupi Khar’s path to success to that of Stephen King. So, don’t do that to yourself!
Of course, it’s a great idea to look at other writers and how they got to be so well regarded, but you cannot discount the years of dedication and effort they put in behind the scenes. Rather than attempting to emulate one of your favorite writer’s rise to fame, try making a plan to carve out your own path.
Let yourself write badly
I’m not kidding. Your worst ideas, the ones you're embarrassed for even thinking, that you try to push from your mind and forget they ever happened, put them on paper. Make a list of all the ones you can think of, or jot them down whenever they pop into your mind. Then, read them over and expand on them. Treat these thoughts like they’re the result of the best bout of inspiration you’ve ever received. And once you’re done, you can take a look back at your work and one of two things will happen. You’ll either realize that what you’ve come up with is nowhere near as bad as you thought, or, you’ll still hate it.
Both outcomes are perfectly fine! Once you recognize that you can write poorly without consequences, any fear of writing the ‘wrong’ thing completely vanishes. No one is going to shame or judge you, because you don’t have to show anyone. Once this hesitation is gone, you will feel more free to take risks and experiment with your writing, which could lead to some amazing discoveries.
And if after all that your confidence as a writer is still not where you want it to be, keep in mind that even the most established writers doubt themselves. All creatives question the art they produce and often feel as though it isn’t worth showing anyone. But they do. And they keep creating. The more you push yourself to be vulnerable with your work and take risks, the more your confidence will flourish over time. Remember, your writing is valid and your work is worthy of being created.
For many students, it’s difficult to balance work and a full schedule of classes at the same time. Commitments quickly add up, and it can be overwhelming to say the least. At the same time, for writing students, writing as a job is the dream. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to find work without prior writing experience.
Luckily, there is a way to gain writing experience and make some extra money as a student at the same time: Freelance writing. Freelance writing involves writing blog posts, bios, social media posts, or whatever else a business or clients needs written. Over the summer, for example, I wrote for a pet blog. These jobs are typically short-term, and you remain self-employed. As long as you meet the deadline, you set your hours, and you can work in whatever space you’d like.
Freelance writing is great for students because it allows you to work around your class schedule and work from wherever is most convenient. If you are looking into writing as a career, it is also a great place to find experience, references, and pieces for your portfolio.
In order to find a job, you need to first identify your strengths. When searching through sites like Upwork and Indeed, you need to know what exactly you’re searching for. A lot of freelance jobs are very niche, and you should be aware of what you’re interested in as well as what you’re already knowledgeable about. Identifying your strengths will help you sift through opportunities and apply for jobs you’re most likely to get.
It’s important to note that, generally, you won’t be making much money from this at first. Indefinitely didn’t, but it was enough to make some extra money, and now I have experience. Many well-paying freelance jobs require experience, and in order to gain that needed experience, you’ll have to take beginner-level jobs first. While these don’t pay much, they do pay. The more you do, the more experience you gain and the more you can build your portfolio. As you become more experienced, you can raise your rates.
The length, topic, and time for each piece often varies job to job. This allows you to apply for tasks that specifically fit your schedule and that interest you. You should get used to pitching as well-- for every job, you will most likely have to write a letter explaining what you want to do for the piece, your past experience, and why you’re the best writer for this job. These letters should be brief, but be sure to show your interest in the topic and in the business/brand as well.
So, where do you start? First, you’ll want to have a resume or cover letter prepared. Going in blindly and trying to apply for as many opportunities as you can might eventually work, but it’s always better to be prepared. Even if you don’t have a formal resume, be sure to have a list of any previous work you’ve done in one place so you can reference it when applying. When you’re ready to start searching for a job, remember your strengths and what you’re interested in. At the same time, keep an open mind. Even if you aren’t the most passionate about what you’re writing at first, it’s still gained experience. I’m not particularly passionate about dog breeds, but with research I was able to produce quality work. You will want to keep the business or client that you work for as a reference as you move forward, and in order for them to be willing, you need to produce content that follows their guidelines, is of great quality, and is memorable.
Once you have all of this in mind, there are a few different places to start searching. As stated previously, freelancing jobs are everywhere. Everyone is in need of a good writer, you just need to find them. Indeed.com offers a variety of opportunities, and you’re able to add filters in order to find exactly what you’re looking for. Upwork is a great site that is used specifically for freelancing, and it is the website that I use. Sites like Upwork do unfortunately take a portion of your profit, but the rest of their service is free. You are able to search for specific jobs,salaries, topics, and experience levels which makes it very easy to find what works best for you. You are also paid directly through the site, and the website shows you if the client has actually paid freelancers in the past. On Upwork, and many other freelance sites, you are able to apply for any opportunity you’d like. This is where that resume, cover letter, and portfolio come in handy. Some will want to do an interview with you before you start writing, others will just send you the guidelines and a due date.
Freelance writing can become a career. This takes a lot of time, practice, and clients, but it is possible. This job is very entrepreneurial. You have to be able to market yourself and your writing in order to receive jobs and contracts for your work. It is also important to constantly challenge yourself to grow as a writer, this will keep clients returning to you. Another important aspect of freelance writing, especially if you’re looking to turn it into a career, is customer service. Having memorable and professional interactions with your clients will leave a good impression--helping you gain future jobs both with them, and from recommendations from them.
Freelancing, like any writing, takes a significant amount of work and practice. However, its benefits, especially for students, make the work worth it. As long as you are willing to persevere through the beginning stages and continue to put effort into your writing, you may find yourself being successful in freelance--whatever that looks like to you. Whether you are just looking for some extra money, or a full-time career, it all begins with taking the first step.
In Writing Arts, we are all part of a community that fosters learning and exploration in writing. How will writing look in our lives when we are no longer directly connected to that lifeline of ideas and encouragement?
There are a million things you can do with your writing degree, there are a lot of different ways to approach post-graduation life, but here my top three tips on how to be a writer beyond graduation.
The first is to find a new writing community, and to stay as connected as you can to Writing Arts. For tips on finding or making a writing community, read my article from last semester. You can choose or create a writing community that caters to your new needs as a writer, and it will help keep you on the up and up with your writing. You’ll get practice, peer review, and a social outlet, as well as a place to spark new ideas. And Writing Arts is always there to support you. You can stay connected by following the WA social media accounts (@rowanwriting) and attending alumni events. Send in your accomplishments as a writer! WA is always happy to celebrate the success of its students, both former and current.
The second is to find a writing routine that works for you. Now that you’re no longer in school, or even if you are pursuing a higher degree, it’s likely you have a new lifestyle to work around. Maybe you’re living in a new place, working different hours, adopting a new pet, planning to have kids. Whatever it is, you no longer have the routine and assignments of school keeping your writing sharp. It’s up to you now to work in time for writing on your own. You can set aside times to write every week and writing goals for you to reach for. Many of us already have a writing routine, but structuring a new one and sticking to it can be hard, especially in light of big life changes. Remember, the most important thing is that you’re writing and that you’re doing it in a way that works for you. You’ll get all kinds of recommendations and advice, requested or no, but if it doesn’t work for you, scrap it.
And finally, figure out the next steps to take on the writing path you envision for your life. All of us are using our Writing Arts degree and concentration(s) for something different, but no matter what, it’s important to know where you’re going in life. If you’re looking to become a full-time author, start trying to get your work published. Submit your work to small presses, literary magazines, or maybe even venture into self-publishing. If you are getting involved in the publishing industry, as an editor or administrator, apply for internships or positions that can help you get experience. Editors need versatility and know-how in many different areas, so branch out and keep learning. If you’re still figuring out what you want to do with your writing degree, check out my article on how versatile Writing Arts is and take a quiz on writing careers, like this one.
No matter where you go, take what you’ve learned from Writing Arts--techniques, networking, and writing, writing, writing--and apply it to your new life. Embrace what comes after you step off the stage at graduation as a new chapter, and maybe even--write about it.
Novels are constantly being pulled into the political sphere and criticized or praised based on the public’s opinion. When we hear that a book is controversial, we tend to assume that its contents challenge a more conservative viewpoint. Take for instance To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, The Hate U Give, all of them speak out against social problems or injustices.
This narrative flips, however, when it is the author who is controversial rather than their work. With the social media boom of the last decade, readers have been able to keep up-to-date with their favorite authors via Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, and every other social site. While this is a great way to generate new fans and keep readers informed, it comes with a brand new set of consequences that readers, authors, and publishers have yet to come to a consensus on how to navigate. It only takes one person, of malice intention or not, to uncover an author's problematic past. Whether the comment is an antiquated view or a blatant disregard for human rights, debate breaks out across platforms over how to react to the news as readers try to grapple with the fall of one of their favorite authors.
Before making a quick decision about how to handle the discovery that an idolized author is not who we believed them to be, it is important to figure out why we feel the way that we do about the situation. Random celebrities take a fall from the unproblematic-throne almost everyday, from child actors to beloved musicians, we watch as they are exposed for misdoings. Yet, these never seem to leave a lasting impression on the general public, the celebrity either fades into oblivion or remains prominent.
The difference with authors is the deep connection that the readers make to their book. It is natural to feel so attached to a novel that it inevitably becomes a part of your identity. And when we learn that the person who created something we relate so strongly to is actually a worse person than they are good, many of us feel some sort of guilt. Though unjustified, we feel as though we are to blame for enjoying the product of someone who is inherently problematic.
Take for example, J.K. Rowling, one of the most adored authors of our time. That was until the past few years in the wake of her transphobic comments surfacing. Rather than apologize, she only doubled-down on her beliefs, making heinous remarks toward the trans community. For many, these comments shattered their world. It was not some sleazy Hollywood executive, or some washed up actor, or even a jaded author of a classic. Instead, it was the woman who created a world that millions of people devoted their childhoods too. Writers and non-writers alike looked up to her as an inspiration and idol, even.
And that’s exactly why it hurts all the more. It becomes less about separating the book from the author, and much more about separating ourselves from the fantasy that our favorite books exist just for us. It is the acknowledgement that the novels we felt so understood by exist beyond our own interpretation. They have a life outside of our heads. They never belonged to us. If anything, they belong to the author, and they have let us down.
While J.K. Rowling is certainly not the first and will not be the last author making headlines over controversy, her prevalence and fame brought the issue into the spotlight and led to many dividing conversations. Fans, fellow authors, publishers, anyone with a relation to the author and their works are left scrambling over the most ethical way to handle the situation. Questions fly through articles and comment sections. Can we still read the book? Watch the movie adaptation? Buy merchandise? Recommend it to a friend? And most importantly: Can we enjoy the books we still love without feeling guilt?
Though there are no clear answers, a general consensus has developed over time: appreciate the books you already read, stop any further support. There is a movement to hurt severely problematic authors where it impacts them the most, financially. Former fans generate excitement over an author’s newest book only to boycott the release as an act of denouncing their admiration. While this solution appears to be the best option, where readers don’t have to sacrifice their favorite books while still making their anger over the author’s problematic actions known, there are many middle men this tactic fails to address. False-hype for a book does hurt an author’s wallet, but it also causes financial trouble for the publishers, the author's agent, employees who worked to print the book, local libraries, and independent book shops. Still, the others do not rely solely on the success of one book, the author does.
Ultimately, the discussion about problematic authors is difficult to navigate. Our scope of knowledge on the subject constantly expands with each new instance and we are forced to reevaluate our stance. It is important to remember there is no right way to react. Regardless of how other fans respond, each reader must decide for themselves how to approach this complex issue. Whether you continue to immerse yourself in one of your favorite stories or condemn it with a one-star review on Goodreads, the choice is yours so long as you acknowledge the author’s misdoings.