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.