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The Mental Games We Play: Write With Confidence – Part 1

write with confidence

Do you want to write with confidence?

This is the first in a series of three posts about how to write with confidence.

Dashed hopes. Broken dreams. What ifs. Regrets. Wasted potential.

These are the things that writers’ nightmares are made of.

If you’re like most budding writers, you know all too well about the fears and doubts that creep into your mind during the process of creating.

Not only is it frustrating, but even worse – fear and doubt can wreak havoc on your confidence and…

• Keep you from starting something new.
• Intimidate you into scrapping a perfectly valid project.
• Stop you from releasing your work out into the world.

“Confidence cannot find a place wherein to rest in safety.” — Virgil

 

What Are You Made Of?

 

While the rest of the world may think of writers as meek intellectuals, you and I know that creatives (at least those who persevere) are fearless and pretty damn tough when it comes right down to it. They step out into the spotlight and bare it all for the world to see. Figuratively, of course.

Even so, you may view your fears and doubts about your writing as weakness, or even a lack of talent – but you’d be wrong.

 

Somewhere in the Middle Lies the Truth

 

The fact that you experience doubt and fear during the writing process may actually be a sign that you’re on the right track because you’re taking risks and pushing outside your comfort zone. If you don’t stretch yourself, you don’t grow – plain and simple. And when you stretch, it can be scary, so a certain amount of fear is actually a healthy part of the process.

On the other hand, it’s difficult to grow if you have so many doubts that it undermines your confidence. Without the confidence to push on, you risk stagnation.

You need to find that productive zone somewhere between ‘productive fear’ and ‘confidence-wrecking doubt’.

 

10 Mindsets for Confident Writing

 

The trick is to find a level of confidence that lets you experience that useful ‘creative discomfort’ but avoid stalling out due to your fears and doubts.

The development process takes time, but here are 10 mindsets you can easily adopt to help you build confidence in your writing.

 

1: Know your reasons for writing.

A good deal of confidence comes from clarity. And one of the most important things you need to be clear about is why you’re writing in the first place. Ask yourself…

  • What do I want to achieve by writing this?
  • What is my goal with this piece?

You’ve probably heard the advice ‘Start with the end in mind’. That’s what we’re talking about here. When you begin writing with a clear vision of what you want to achieve with your work, you’re starting from a place of clarity and confidence.

 

2: Realize it’s a process.

Just like everything else in life, developing confidence as a writer is a process. Processes force us to grow – and growth always takes time and effort.

When you accept the fact that the Writing Fairy isn’t going to show up and whack you on the head with the ‘famous writer wand’ – you’re on the right track.

Devote yourself to constantly learning and growing – and for cryin’ out loud, learn to enjoy the process.

 

3: Quit quitting. Really. Quit it.

You’re going to get rejected. You’re going to get criticized. You’re going to get frustrated in some way at some point. But once you’ve fully committed to being a writer, remove the word quit from your vocabulary.

The only acceptable time to quit is before you fully commit. When you go all in, stay all in. When you tough it out and see your projects through, your confidence will grow.

 

4: Keep your goals realistic.

Since we’re in agreement that becoming confident as a writer is a process, let’s also agree that we can’t be perfect right out of the gate. For that reason, keep your goals realistic for where you are at this point in time. Set your goal to write the best work you possibly can at this point in your development.

When you set goals you can’t reach from where you are today, it’s like throwing fuel on the fire of fear and doubt.

When you set and achieve realistic goals, it’s more like throwing fertilizer on the seeds of confidence. Sow more than you stoke.

Shoot for better than last timeevery time.

 

5: Don’t expect universal acceptance.

No matter how good you are, someone isn’t going to like your work. You may as well swallow that pill right now. Any great author you can name throughout history had their haters – so why should you be any different?

Being aware of this fact is liberating. It allows you to brush off confidence-destroying thoughts like “What if people criticize my work?”

You know what? No matter what you do, someone will – so why give that any consideration, time, or power?

Remember that you don’t need to please everyone – you just need to please the right ones.

 

6: Forget about finding your ‘voice’.

I swear to God that if I have to read one more post on ‘finding your voice’ I’ll delete the entire internet. I mean it. My finger is on the button.

But seriously – your voice is simply the real you. It’s not an Easter egg that’s under a couch somewhere that you can just find one day if you look hard enough.

The real you comes out when you write more and become more confident in what you’re doing. Focus on that and trust that your voice will show up as your experience and confidence grows.

 

7: Keep your mental state somewhere between Pollyanna and self-deprecation.

The way you talk to yourself about yourself matters. You have to find a realistic happy medium. Many emerging writers seem to live in one of two extremes.

Extreme 1: Negative self-talk.
“I’m no good. I stink. Why would anyone read my stuff?”

Extreme 2: Fluffy, bunny-hugging, unicorn-chasing unrealistic positive affirmations.
“I am the next Pulitzer Prize winning author. I am the best writer anywhere!”

Neither extreme serves any purpose other than to ultimately deliver yet another blow to your confidence.

Being negative about yourself sets you up to fail before you even start.

And stuffing your head with crazy, lofty goals when you’re still developing sets you up to fall short of those goals. Keep your self-talk positive but realistic.

Don’t put yourself down… or up on a pedestal.

 

8: Take compliments humbly – but not too humbly.

While your self-talk is important, so is what you actually say out loud to others about your work.

Humility is a good thing, but be cautious of how you respond to compliments. How do you respond when someone says, “Hey – I loved that piece you did! It was incredible!”

It’s very easy to reply, “Really? I was so nervous about that one. It never felt right to me. You didn’t think it was too (whatever)?”

When you do that, not only are you having internal confidence problems, but you’re implanting your doubts about your work into someone else’s mind. If you tell others that you lack confidence in yourself – they will likely share in your doubt.

Instead, try: “Thank you. I’m so glad you liked it. I appreciate that.”

Spread confidence, not doubt, in your work.

 

9: Select your influencers wisely.

Be careful who you hang out with.

Ok, so I might sound a little like your mother on this one, but let’s all fess up: Mom was right more often than not.

When you associate with negative or whiny people you tend to absorb and duplicate their negativity. Likewise, if you choose to associate with supportive, positive people you wind up emulating those qualities.

Find other writers with positive attitudes to associate with. Form an unofficial support group of people who support and promote each other – or join a more formal mastermind group. It’s a wonderful thing to have people who are a positive influence in your corner.

 

10: When you crash, make sure you find the Black Box.

I’m not going to tell you that you should enjoy your failures. That’s crazy. No matter how you slice it, failure sucks. But when it happens, instead of wallowing in it, the right thing to do is begin sifting through the rubble to find at least one actionable lesson.

When a plane crashes, investigators immediately look for the ‘black box’ which holds all the data they need to find out what caused the crash. The box helps them identify critical problems they can correct in the future to prevent similar disasters.

Somewhere in the wreckage of each writing failure is your black box data that will provide you with the causes of that failure. Use that information to boost your confidence by adjusting or eliminating things that didn’t work for you in the past.

 

It’s All in the Application

 

I keep one of my favorite quotes pinned to the wall in my writing space so I have no choice but to see it when I write.

“There’s a world of difference between knowing what to do and actually doing it.” – Bill Phillips

So you know 10 mindsets that will help you build your confidence as a writer. Now it’s up to you to actually use them.

Please do me (and yourself) a favor. Apply these mindsets to your writing. Make them part of your process. You’ll find that over time and with practice, your confidence will begin to grow.


It’s your turn to share! In the comments section, tell me what your biggest confidence issues are as a writer – or how you’ve overcome confidence issues.

 

About the author:

Gary Korisko writes about The Art of Genuine Influence on his blog RebootAuthentic.com. Download his free eBook, How to Alienate All The Right People – a real world guide to breaking away from the herd and doing something special.

Image: Girl with Butterfly courtesy of Bigstockphoto.com

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71 thoughts on “The Mental Games We Play: Write With Confidence – Part 1

  • John Soares

    Gary, you’ve provided a lot of sensible advice here. I really like the “middle path” approach of avoiding extremes, and I can say from personal experience that setting realistic goals is crucial for success as a writer.

    • Gary Korisko

      It could just as easily have been called the “stay sane” path… but somehow that doesn’t read as well. :)

      I, for one, have a tendency to complete step one and then somehow expect to tackle step 10 next. Realistic goals and the concept of staying between the two extremes helps keep me focused when I start leaning that way.

      I’m glad you found the post useful, John. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • Jessica Flory

    “Keep your mental state somewhere between Pollyanna and self-deprecation.” Haha LOVE that one! If you’re down on yourself all the time you won’t be able to get anything done, but if you think you’ve got every aspect of you’re writing perfect, you’ll never try to learn more or try improve. Finding the balance is the challenging part, but I think it can come with experience. Awesome post, Gary!

    • Gary Korisko

      Hello, Jessica. After John’s observations and now your comment – I’m seeing that “the middle” is resonating with the commenters so far. And that makes sense. Writing feels so personal that it’s easy to let yourself go to extremes. Intentionally tempering those extremes really does help.

      Thanks for jumping into the conversation, Jessica!

    • Gary Korisko

      I’m glad you found it helpful, Laura. With regard to the black box: I decided long ago that outside of learning humility, I should be getting *something* out of my failures. And there’s a gold nugget hidden in each one if you just look hard enough.

      Thanks for stopping by and for joining in!

  • Marcie

    Gary, your statement, “I swear to God that if I have to read one more post on ‘finding your voice’ I’ll delete the entire internet’ is too funny! I feel the same way.

    And accept rejection, learn from it and move on.

    • Gary Korisko

      :) Thanks Marcie.

      You know, I think all of us who are taking a stab at writing tend to spend a lot of energy trying to force things that will happen naturally as we develop. I’m as guilty as anyone. And ‘finding your voice’ is one of those things. I’m starting to see that each of us already has a unique voice – but it takes time for us to learn and become comfortable with expressing it in writing properly.

      It’s a matter of patience… who is not a close personal friend of mine just yet. But I’m trying!

      Thank you for joining the chat.

    • Lisa

      I totally agree with that comment too – and found it very refreshing to actually see written!
      I used to worry – still do – about whether I’ve ‘found my voice’. I’m writing constantly. I’ve written full manuscripts, but when someone says something about ‘finding your voice’, I think, ‘have I found mine?’ ‘How can I tell?’ I find the whole thing totally abstract and not very practical advice for a writer, especially when you’re beginning off. If someone had said that to me when I tried writing my first manuscript, I think I would’ve ended up sitting in the corner, rocking, calling “My voice, my voice – where is my voice?!”
      A bit dramatic, but you get my point! :P

      • Gary Korisko

        Agreed.

        That’s why sites like Write to Done exist: So writers can get together and discuss all these things we’re not “supposed to.” :)

        Thanks!

  • Leanne Dyck

    Don’t be too humble. That spoke to me. I use to do that all the time.
    “Oh, you like it. Really? Because I think…”
    Thankfully, I’ve left that stage. Such talk doesn’t serve any one. In fact, it insults your reader.
    Joining a writing group can be a real asset–but be cautious. And be prepared to walk away. I use to think, oh, I should be tough enough to take any criticism. But then I read The Right to Write by Julia Cameron. I highly recommend that book.
    Reading your writing to an appreciative audience is also a great confidence booster.

    • Gary Korisko

      Wow, Leanne. I never thought of it as being insulting to your reader, but you’re absolutely right.

      (This is one of the reasons I love the WTD audience by the way – very smart comments)

      Here they loved your writing and went to the effort to tell you so… and what do you do? Tell them they’re wrong.

      What a great insight. I’m very glad you shared that. Thank you!

  • Jane Robinson

    Gary, this could have written for artists as well. The common thread of rejection, finding your voice, keep on keeping on, etc. It is a difficult path when you decide to carve out your life expressing your creativity – but the alternative is not option for most us. For this reason, your post is very helpful. Thanks.

    • Gary Korisko

      Hi Mike! Structure, eh? :)

      Interesting you should mention that structure and process has something to do with confidence, Mike. Don’t miss the other posts in this series. There just might be a conversation about your take on confidence.

      See? Smart comments!

  • Christine Hurst

    I was trying to work out which was my favourite piece of this blog, so I could make some clever, thoughful comments here. But do you know what, I loved it all. It really spoke to me. I either do all of those negative things, or need to do the positive things. I loved the black box analogy (I tend to dwell in failure. Nay, it is my land). So thank you.

    • Gary Korisko

      Your comment made me smile, Christine.

      While it’s no good to dwell in negativity, at least you realize it’s a problem. And honestly if you had to pick negativity or over-confidence (you do not have to pick either by the way) I think erring on the side of humility is a *tiny* bit closer to the truth. But I’m sure you’ll find the middle ground. By your comment, you seem to be very grounded and open to change.

      Thanks very much for sharing.

  • Roberta Budvietas

    Wise words Gary. SO often we steal our own success because of our mindset. Not sure about the order of your 10 mindsets but love the black box one (10) although sometimes that can lead to blame so I often find that it’s better to shrug and go what next or what will it take for me to get there and never, never, never give up to cite a famous PM

    • Gary Korisko

      Thanks Roberta. I think you’re right about how we steal our own success… And thank you for joining in the discussion!

  • Helen V Anderson

    I’m naturally a bit of a self-deprecator (not a word? why?!) but always feel my self-affirmations are a bit hollow and unconvincing, when I try to ‘project positivity’. I’m going to print this article out and put it in the ‘sensible advice’ drawer in my desk. (I’ve created one, specially). Thanks!

    • Gary Korisko

      Ooh.. I like being in the sensible drawer! I’m happy you found the post useful. Thanks, Helen!

  • Liz

    I like #5 Gary,

    I liken it to our personal acceptance as well. We want everyone to like us and we’re offended when someone doesn’t like us. That’s not realistic and it only keeps us from being all that we can be.

    There will always be someone that doesn’t like us or our work.but we can’t let that stand in our way.

    Nice post :-)
    Liz

    • Gary Korisko

      Thank you Liz. #5 is near and dear to me as well… And is largely the topic of my free eBook. Being all you can be as you put it requires knowing who you are and who you’re not… And whatever you *are* someone is going to bristle over it. The trick is to learn to be ok with that. (It actually feels pretty good when you reach that place!)

  • Lisa

    My biggest confidence issue is having other people, other than my husband or my writers’ group read my work. For some reason, I don’t like to admit I’m an aspiring writer. I think I feel like, well, if I fail, then everyone will know if I tell them I’m trying! Ridiculous, I know. Aspiring Olympians don’t have that problem. But there’s something about writers. Unless you’ve been published, people can tend to make you feel like you’re not actually a writer yet. I must get over that. Regardless of whether I’m published or not, I’m a writer. I write. It’s what I do, it’s what I love and that will never change.

    • Christine Hurst

      There you go, Lisa, you said it! You are a writer. Unfortunately for some of us, it doesn;t ghet any better. Even when you’re published, all people can say are things like “Oh what have you written? Will I have heard of it?” or “When’s your next book coming out?”. And I write children’s books, so I get the ever-pleasant “Oh childrens books. Have you thought about writing a real book?”.
      Just enjoy being a writer. Know that not everyone will enjoy your writing anyway, and that there will always be haters who hate everything (so don’t take that personally) and the most important thing of all: that you must like your writing. You go girl!

      • Lisa

        Thanks, Christine! I too am a children’s author… an unpublished one at that, so there’s a double whammy there! But I know what you mean about the reception…. “Oh, just children’s books”!

      • Gary Korisko

        Oh geez, Christine. I wan’t to say “I can’t believe it”… but I do.

        “Have you ever thought of writing a REAL book?” Oh boy.

        I give an EXTRA gold star to anyone who writes books that cause children to fall in love with reading. That’s something to be proud of.

        Obviously by your comment you let that roll off your back. Thanks for sharing that!

    • Gary Korisko

      Lisa…

      I felt the same way, but Mary (Jaksch) fixed that for me. She told me “if you write, you’re a writer.” So obvious, and so simple… but true.

      It sounds as if you’ve already resolved that, though. Good for you.

      • Rebekah Jones

        Gary: I’ve been published. Yes, it’s great to be able to say that to people but I still have doubts and fears. Thanks so muc for your post!

        Years ago I took a course re: writing for children. Most people don’t realize just how difficult it is to write for kids. I think it’s much more difficult than writing for adults.
        1. you are influencing young minds = awesome responsibility!
        2. kids won’t let you get away with anything; kids are usually blunt about what they like and don’t like

        Keep up the great work! I’m looking forward to part 2!

  • Starlyt

    This is a “Truth Be Told” article. It is also great writing. I am a perfectionist. I will plow through my writings without thinking. Walk away from it. 2 days later, look at it and totally destroy it with every ‘perfectionist’ thing I can come up with. Hence, I do not keep much of what I write. I get a rush when I just write with no boundaries.
    Then I go back to reading, like this article, to learn how not to be a perfectionist and start all over. It is a cycle I am not sure how to break. I am terrified to let someone read what I write. So this list you gave will be posted at my desk also. Thank you so much for your article and making the list.
    .

    • Gary Korisko

      I’m glad it helped, Starlyt. Remember – do the very best you can do right now and be proud of it. Then be better tomorrow. Perfect never shows up!

      And thank you for the nice comment!

  • Elizabeth

    Your comment on those ceaseless exhortations to find one’s voice was spot on! I was getting worried… in the end, I thought to heck with it, I’m me, this is my voice. I also like your comments on hanging out with positive people…so true. I cannot put a website in, since I don’t have one. Look forward to part 2 of Confidence in Writing! Oh, one last thing – I’d also say be careful of which critique groups you join. If you are in one that doesn’t help, or undermines your confidence, maybe you should bow out gracefully.
    Elizabeth

    • Gary Korisko

      Hi Elizabeth! Good point about joining groups. In fact, your “mastermind group” doesn’t have to be formal. Sometimes they just loosely appear out of a group of friends or associates… which is also helpful :)

  • Kathleen Heady

    Loved the comment about “finding your voice.” I think that is such an elusive idea to beginning writers. It’s almost as if when your writing is criticized, then you have failed because you haven’t found your voice. If you focus on what you do well in your writing — that is your voice.

    • Gary Korisko

      Right Kathleen. “Elusive” is a great word for it. I do think “your voice” is a real thing – and an important thing. I just feel like it’s spoken/written about so much that it distracts from things like practicing :) Personality and voice tends to appear (and evolve) with practice. Good points.

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  • Francesca Nicasio

    Gary, you provided a ton of down-to-earth, no-BS points here. Writers who want to put themselves out there should take your advice to heart.

    #5 in particular is something that I’m still working on. I still feel bad whenever I get negative comments or when haters blast my work, but I’m learning to accept that I really can’t please everyone and universal acceptance is something I shouldn’t aim for. My mind knows this already, but my heart (yeah as cheesy as that sounds) still struggles with this.

    • Gary Korisko

      I think we all still struggle with it to a degree, Francesca. I mean, who doesn’t want to be liked? So although it never feels good to have criticism aimed at you, even a level of acceptance of the fact that it will be there is helpful. Thanks for the nice comments!

  • Jesse

    Hi Gary,
    The mindset is the thing that will determine how far one may go as the begin this writing journey. You brought out some very good points pertaining to this, and I want to thank you for advice and insight. As for myself, #1 resonates with me most. Staying focused on the reason you are writing and what you want that writing to achieve are very key in this process. I believe, just as you said, once you have that vision, clarity and confidence will show themselves.

    • Gary Korisko

      Thank you, Jesse.

      #1 is so basic and (supposedly) obvious, isn’t it? And yet it’s the basic stuff that we tend to overlook so often. I have to credit Danny Iny with keeping me grounded with the information in #1. More from him very soon. You’ll like the second post in this series!

  • Jim Bessey | SoWrite.Us

    This advice is so “you,” Gary!

    And, seriously, it seems to me that you have indeed “found your voice.” (What? The Internet has been DELETED?? How can that be?)

    I’ve heard you speak in presentations and via Skype, and you write with the same no-baloney attitude, combined with solid, sensible advice assembled into memorable phrases.

    For me, as for several of the earlier commenters, your “black box” advice stood out. It’s such good imagery for ‘lesson learned’ that I couldn’t help but smile and tuck that away for the future.

    Looking forward to the next installment. Thanks for a superbly helpful post.

    • Gary Korisko

      Well, thank you, Mr. Bessey!

      I’m not sure if I’m no-baloney because it’s “my voice” or if I’m just to lazy to expend the energy required to sugar-coat things :) It depends who you ask, I suppose.

      But seriously – I appreciate your very nice comments. And I think you will for sure appreciate the next post in the series.

  • Archan Mehta

    Thanks for your contribution: I had a fun time reading your post.

    Writers need to develop a thick skin. After all, your writing may be perceived to be controversial. Look at the reception received by Mark Twain, one of my personal favorites. You can expect unconditional love only from your mom. Other than that, the real world is judgmental and readers won’t massage your ego.

    It also helps for a writer to learn business skills. By bridging the creative tension that exists between dream and reality, a writer arrives at the truth. That truth is based on an inner guidance and it is different for different people. If you lose sight of the True North, you can stumble but ultimately you will find your self.
    That is a lesson worth keeping in mind for any writer. After all, setbacks are temporary.

    If you fall from the saddle, dust yourself off and get back in the game. And keep on writing. Cheers.

    • Gary Korisko

      Archan:

      You just made a buddy. I have always loved Twain. And I could not agree more about thick skin. An open mind and thick skin are a useful combination!

  • Nicolia Whyte

    The black box tidbit really stood out to me. As painful as it might be, looking at the wreck that was your latest attempt, the reflection really does help. How else can we learn if we don’t analyze our mistakes.

  • Dan Erickson

    Great post. I look forward to the rest of the series. I’m in complete agreement with your points, especially the one about finding your voice. I’ve never even thought about finding my voice, I just write who I am.

  • Sophie Lizard

    I don’t want to doom the internet to deletion, Gary, but I’m listening to a podcast about “finding your voice” RIGHT NOW. I was listening to it while I read your post, too–you might wanna take a shower. ;)

    #10 is my touchstone. I don’t mind screwing up as long as I can understand why, and how to repair it.

    • Gary Korisko

      Ha! :)

      I know of which podcast you speak, Sophie… and I’m guessing from that source, it’s probably pretty good.

      #10 is for sure very valuable. I’m the same way – I’ll take a beating as long as I walk (limp) away from it with new information on how to improve.

      Good to see you here!

  • Sylvie W Farmer

    This was just what I needed to hear today! I loved it all, but number 9 stuck out to me. I’m blessed with a very supportive family and group of friends. I reach out to them when I’m feeling especially discouraged and I’m grateful for them every day. It’s too easy to listen to the many negative voices out there. If I’m not careful one of them starts to have a long conversation with my own mocking little voice. Dangerous! Thanks for this post. I know that I will come back to it many times. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!

    • Gary Korisko

      Thanks for all the compliments, Sylvie. As everyone here knows, it’s a great feeling to write something that helps the people who read it. And in addition to your personal support network, you have sites like Write To Done where people understand, too.

  • Rob Leonardo

    Great article Gary! Although in the past, i knew I write well because I get good feedback and was accepted writing for some paper. Yet after many years, I simply did not know how to start writing in a blog! Until I decided my personal blog with my daughter’s evening prayer. And voila, the rest is history. I found myself getting good feedback from bloggers and also media personalities from my home country Philippines. Those experiences got me inspired and move further.

  • Kimberley Grabas

    Wow! Love this, Gary!

    As a writer, I reacted a little to the ‘find your voice’ point–for some of us it is embarrassingly hard to find :(

    But you are right: ‘voice’ is found by knowing who you really are and having the guts to let other people take a peak.

    Can’t wait for the next instalment!

    • Gary Korisko

      Kimberly – I’m not saying that “finding your voice” isn’t a real thing or it isn’t important. I’m saying I think it’s written about and talked about so, so, so much that people get the impression that it’s as important *right now* as oxygen :) My point is that it comes from practice and time. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Always nice to run into you in the comments, Kimberly!

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