How confident are you about your writing?
Ideally, you feel a happy certainty that you’re a good writer. You realize your first draft won’t be perfect, but you’re confident you can improve on it. You’ve know you’ve got a message worth sharing or a story worth telling.
If you’re like many writers, though, your confidence levels might be dangerously low.
Perhaps you find yourself thinking:
- It’s not worth writing. I’ll never get anywhere.
- This is rubbish. I might as well delete it all.
- I’m not a real writer.
At best, thoughts like this sap your writing energy. At worst, they stop you writing altogether – not just for a few days or weeks, but for years.
These ten tips should help you build your confidence and feel good about your writing.
#1: Practice Writing – Regularly
As a child, I had piano lessons. I didn’t much like having to practice – but I knew that if I didn’t, I wouldn’t get any better.
It’s the same with writing. Some people love writing, others find it tedious: but either way, you’ll find that the more you practice, the more you’ll improve.
That could mean:
- Spending ten minutes free-writing every morning
- Working through different writing exercises, so you get experience in several forms
- Deliberately working on the elements of writing that you find hard (e.g. if you write fiction, practice dialogue or description; if you write for work, practice those difficult emails)
- Writing a weekly post for your blog – no excuses!
- Write from a prompt (a word, phrase, question or image that inspires you)
Your writing exercises might be for your eyes only – or you might choose to develop them into something more. Author E.J. Newman’s From Dark Places is a book of short stories that started as pieces written from prompts sent in by her “story of the month club”.
#2: Read Other Writers Discussing the Writing Process
All writers have times when they feel like quitting—even bestselling authors. By reading what they have to say, you’ll realize the difficulties you’re having are completely normal.
Here are just a few quotes on the struggle of writing:
“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
– George Orwell
“Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.”
“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”
― John Steinbeck
#3: Start and Finish a Writing Project
“I never finish anything.” Does that sound familiar? A huge stack of incomplete projects can be really discouraging.
So this time, turn it around. Pick one not-too-huge project to focus on—perhaps a poem or a short story or a blog post—and finish it.
Sure, it won’t be perfect. (I’ll let you into a writing secret: nothing is ever perfect.) But you’ll have learned a lot in the process.
#4: Keep Learning Your Craft
One great way to grow not only your confidence but also your skill is to continually learn more about writing.
That might mean developing your dialogue skills or making multiple points of views work.You can learn from blogs, books, magazines, talks, courses … whatever fits into your life. It doesn’t matter how. What matters is that you do keep on learning.
And if you come across tips you’re already following, celebrate! You’re getting it right.
#5: Share Your Work With Other Writers
This can be a scary step—but also a hugely rewarding one. It’s an amazing feeling to have readers, and letting other writers see your work can provide you with a great confidence boost.
Hopefully, they’ll be supportive and encouraging. (Most workshop groups, and writers’ forums online, are.) You might want to ask “What do you think is working well?” and “What could I improve?”All of us secretly want to hear, “Don’t change a word, it’s perfect!” – but good feedback will help you strengthen your story. You’ll gain confidence as you realize that, while your current draft might not be perfect, you now have ways to improve it.
#6: Get Your Inner Critic to Shut Up (Temporarily)
Your inner critic is that little voice saying, “This sentence isn’t working” or “Your dialogue is too bland” or “You need to rewrite that bit.”You don’t need to listen to that voice when you’re drafting. Remind yourself that you can edit later—and then your Inner Critic will be useful, rather than discouraging.
It’s worth experimenting with different ways to block out that voice as you write. For me, music helps switch it off—and so does having long writing sessions, so I can get right into the flow of the story.
#7: Read Widely
You’re probably already reading a lot in your chosen genre or area – but try dipping into a book, magazine or blog that’s very different from what you’d normally choose.
You’ll come across authors who are:
- Journalistic and factual, giving you the details without making any judgements about them
- Extremely personal and introspective, writing based on their own experiences
- Unconventional and creative with their use of language, perhaps coining new words
…and so on.
There’s no one “correct” way to write a book, a blog post, or an article – and the more you read, the more you’ll realise that lots of different styles can be effective. You’ll learn new techniques, and you’ll also get a better feel for your own voice and style (look at what resonates with you – and what turns you off completely).
#8: Set Yourself Goals—and Meet Them
When you start out writing, your only goal might be to write on a regular basis—maybe daily, but it might be weekly or twice weekly if you’re busy.
As you go further with your writing, though, a great way to boost your confidence is by regularly setting and meeting goals.
The trick here is to make your goals a little bit challenging—but not so challenging you give up entirely. “Write novel in three months” would be pretty tough for a full-time pro, so you might want to try, “Write two chapters this month” or “Finish the first draft in 12 months.”
You might also want to consider whether word count goals or time-based goals work for you. (If you’re not sure, try experimenting with both.)
#9: Learn About Writing
I’ve been writing with serious intent (i.e. hoping to get published!) for thirteen years now – half my lifetime. I’ve read dozens of books and ebooks about writing, I’ve subscribed to a writing magazine, I’ve taken several online courses, and I’ve completed an M.A. in Creative Writing.
Obviously, I wouldn’t have progressed very far at all if I didn’t actually write (see #1!) – but I learnt a lot about the theory and practice of writing from all these resources.
Whether you’re a brand-new writer or an old hand, there’s something you can learn. Look out for:
- Blogs on writing (like this one) – a great place to start learning for free.
- Books about your specific area or genre – try your library
- Specialized ebooks and ecourses
- Writing conferences where you can attend lectures and workshops
- Degree programs – a big investment of time and money, but a great way to study writing in a thorough and rigorous way, alongside other students
#10: Get Paid for Something You Wrote
One wonderful confidence booster is to get paid for your writing. That might come in the form of a competition prize, or a fee from a magazine, blog, or other publication. It could mean self-publishing your novel or a short story collection and selling it e-book form.
Don’t be afraid to submit your work to editors. Rejections are painful—but all they mean is that your story wasn’t right for one particular person on one particular day.
Getting paid might take time, and it might well mean writing something different—perhaps an article for a magazine or a post for a blog that pays guest authors. But when you receive money for your work, it’s a wonderful validation that your writing is valuable.
Maybe it seems like other writers have far more confidence than you. You see them chatting away at conferences, or you look at their work on big blogs or you read their prize-winning competition entries … and you think if only I was as confident as them.
Perhaps you already are. Maybe they spent a week screwing up their courage to send in that competition entry, or they had to take a deep breath and conquer their nerves before striking up a conversation with a stranger at that conference.
As you write more (regardless of how you feel) and as you put your work out there in the world, you’ll find that you gradually become more confident and comfortable with your writing.
What one step could you take today to help boost your writing confidence?