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
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.
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’.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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 time… every time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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