How to Boost Your Writing Confidence so You CAN Hit Publish

    Confidence is key to effortless writing. You know that; I know that.

    And yet, sadly, writers tell me all the time that confidence is one of their biggest struggles. They’re unsure of their skills. Is the work good enough? They hesitate and get stuck in the editing process. They can’t hit publish.

    Some stop writing completely. Lack of confidence is almost a disease, insidiously striking writers down, one by one.

    The Internet isn’t helping. It’s opened up worlds of opportunity for writers around the globe, but it’s only made this lack of confidence worse. Anyone can publish anything they want.

    This creates some pretty big obstacles for writers.

    You know how it goes. You surf around the web and read all kinds of great writing, all sorts of blog posts that went viral, and all the stellar material of successful blogs and online magazines.

    Then you look at what you just wrote. And a seed of doubt blooms. You think, “Is this good enough? Who am I to publish this? I’m no one. How can I ever measure up to that writer? I’m just me.”

    Comparison is a confidence killer, believe me.

    It gets worse. You read some of the comments on blogs. Most are nice; some are nasty. Flamers, trolls, grammar-nazis, dissenters, English majors… all waiting to take writers DOWN. Which reminds you that if you hit publish – if you dare to put your writing out there – you might face their criticism as well.

    More doubts. What if people don’t like what you wrote? What if they laugh? What if they hate it? What if it’s just not good enough…??

    One nasty comment when you tried so hard to get the writing perfect? Horrific.

    It doesn’t stop there. Remember I said that the Internet lets anyone publish anything? That’s not always a good thing. With no gatekeepers in place, writers completely avoid the approval process. There’s no one to say when the work just isn’t up to snuff. There isn’t any proofreading. There isn’t any editing.

    All you need is a blog. Voila, you’re a writer.

    So if anyone can publish anything, and there isn’t anyone to monitor quality control, how do to you know that what you just wrote is up to par? What if it’s terrible? What if readers snicker at you behind their back? What if you proudly publish something… and end up embarrassing yourself?

    No wonder writers constantly tell me they lack confidence.  I don’t blame them. The situation’s enough to make anyone want to retire their pen.

    But you shouldn’t. You can build up confidence. You can feel proud about your work. You can post and publish and share your writing with the world… stress-free.

    In fact, you can quickly and easily build up enough confidence to keep you writing and keep improving until all the doubts you ever had are a thing of the past.

    And it starts right here:

    Get an Editor

    Most smart writers still go through an intensive editing process. (Surprising, but true.) Not only does editing keep the quality of your writing at a higher level, but it gives you a good dose of confidence.

    You don’t have to worry: Someone’s got your back and can catch little mistakes. And as they do, you can see what they corrected, learn why and improve your skills so you begin to eliminate these mistakes until there aren’t any left.

    Knowledge brings confidence, every single time. The more skills you have, the less you stress.

    Editors bring an extra perk to confidence levels: Someone else thought your work was worth reading. And sometimes that’s the boost you need to get past your fears.

    Let me explain: You might think an editor only reads your writing because that’s his or her job. You might also think that an editor takes on any old crap in exchange for cash.

    But an editor’s job is editing, not writing. And that means any editor worth his salt would turn down work that’s so bad it needs to be scrapped and completely rewritten from scratch.

    Honestly? Your writing isn’t that bad, and you know it. In fact, it’s probably pretty darned good. You just need someone to remind you.

    So get an editor for an extra boost of confidence. Don’t have one? No money? That’s fine. Ask a trusted friend or a colleague to read over what you’ve written and give you feedback.

    (And if all your friend has to say is, “Yeah, it was good,” do yourself a favour: find someone else to edit for you.)


    Getting an editor helps, but there’s plenty you can do on your own to help kick your confidence back up to where it should be.

    And you’ve probably heard these writing tips a million times already, but that’s because they’re worth your attention – they work:

      1. Practice, practice, practice. The more you write, the more you improve your skills – that is, if you’re actively practicing a specific technique so you can master it. “Write every day,” isn’t really good advice if all you’re doing is repeating the same old mistakes. Be proactive about your practice sessions and work on improving your skills. That’s the difference between good writers and great ones.
      2. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. This isn’t the same as “practice, practice, practice”. Rewriting means taking what you wrote and writing it again, only making it better. Cut out unnecessary words. Try different adjectives or nouns. Shorten sentences. Lengthen them with more descriptive language. Eventually you’ll be able to tell the difference between what’s garbage and what’s really good.
      3. Get some fresh eyes. Fools who write on the fly and hit publish 20 minutes later are doing a disservice to readers and to themselves. And since you’re no fool, you know better than that: Setting your work aside for a day and coming back to it with fresh eyes reveals all sorts of nasty discoveries.  I promise that 24 hours lets you see what you couldn’t see before… and gives you the chance to fix it.
      4. Read aloud. Print out your writing in a nice, large font and read it at normal speech speed. You’ll hear all the awkward sentences, the strange wordings and the trippy spots easily. (And yep, you’ll be able to fix them right away.) The first few times you try reading your work aloud, you’ll probably feel like an idiot and the cat might look at you funny. That’s okay; do it anyways.

    Check Your Mental Chatter

    After all this, you still might be thinking, “That’s all well and good, James, but I’m no pro. I’m not an expert. Who am I to write about this topic?”

    Stubborn, aren’t you? Which brings me to the biggest confidence killer out there: your mental chatter.

    Mental chatter is the conversation you carry out with yourself in your mind. We all do it. Some chatter is positive and helpful, like, “Okay, I can handle this.”  Some holds us back and prevents us from overcoming our fears.

    The mental chatter that tends to happen in a writer’s head is often incredibly amazing – and completely disabling. I’ve seen perfectly brilliant writers talk themselves down so far that they come to believe they’re utter failures and all they can produce is crap.

    Some even stop writing completely. Forever.

    Think of it this way: Would you let someone smash down your child’s self-confidence with bitter condescension? Would you let someone say nasty, hurtful things to your significant other? Would you let a stranger walk up to you, lace into you and absolutely tear you apart?

    Of course not. So why, for the love of Pete, do you allow this to happen in your own mind? Even worse, you’re the one doing it to yourself!

    Take control of your mind. Start talking back to yourself. Challenge negative comments and recognize them as self-imposed obstacles. Replace them immediately with positive, healthy thoughts and stand up for yourself.

    If you think, “Who am I to write about this?” immediately challenge the thought: Who are you NOT to write about this?  If you start to think, “But I’m not an expert,” then challenge that thought too: How do you know you’re not an expert? At one point you believed you could write about this topic. You still can.

    And if it really bothers you that you’re not an expert? Become one. Learn what you need to know. Gather the missing skills. Get the knowledge you feel you don’t have.

    You won’t be an expert at anything until you try.

    Do What’s Already Been Done

    Speaking of experts, I hear plenty of writers say, “This topic has already been written about 100 times. What more could I possibly add?”

    The answer is plenty – and in this case, the Internet is your friend.

    So many people publish on the Internet today that some measure of repetition is almost impossible to avoid. So what? Why would you want to avoid it? If you can improve upon the topic, or if you can write a better article, or if you see a different angle, or if you have an opinion, then you have brilliant reasons to write.

    The important thing to ask is, “Can I write something better than what’s out there? Does my argument add value to the topic? Do my thoughts present a different view or a new angle?”

    I’m betting you’ll say yes. But if you answered no, then scrap the idea and move on. It’s not the end of the world. Write something else. Discarding ideas can be a liberating experience and a concept that every writer should embrace without regrets.

    Remember your mental chatter check, though – don’t toss out every single idea you come up with in some unhealthy form of self-censorship. If you catch yourself doing this, grab any topic at all and just start writing. Break the cycle immediately.

    You’ll quickly find your unique view on the subject shining through… probably mid-sentence, too.

    What Else Helps?

    There are tons of ways to boost writer confidence and get yourself back to hitting publish. I’ve covered a few strategies here, but I want to hear about your favourite ways to get your writing mojo going on. Let’s compile as many as we can!

    Want to learn all the skills you need to unleash effortless writing? Check out the Damn Fine Words, brought to you by professional copywriter James Chartrand. Coming your way May 7, it’s the only writing course geared for business owners who could use a huge confidence boost… and effective writing skills.

    About the author

      James Chartrand

      James Chartrand is a Top Ten blogger and an advocate for stress-free writing that gets results. Learn how to write content that really works, build rapport with readers, and fill your magical hat with money with the Damn Fine Words writing course for business owners. It's Write to Done approved!

    • Thanks James. Confidence has been one of my biggest struggles as a writer. My first guest post on WTD was in 2009… I didn’t have the confidence to pitch another post until 2012. Your advice and support have given me a HUGE confidence boost in my writing.

    • Khaalidah says:

      This post offers good solid advice. I’ve seen some traditionally published and self-published writing that was pretty good in terms of the gist of the story line; you know, engaging and smart and even well paced. Unfortunately, without the gatekeeper process, that thing called an honest editor, there are sometimes ginormous problems. I’m currently reading a self-published story that has an extremely unique plot but there are so many grammatical and tense errors that I am having an extremely difficult time continuing. I actually find myself correcting and revising the sentences as I read, instead of getting caught up in the story, as it should be.
      I appreciate the new movement, though, that allows authors who are confident they have a good thing, to publish without having to pass through the front door of a traditional publisher. I feel as if they’ve been holding us hostage. So with this new freedom comes a rush of not so great writing. I think its worth it though.

    • James, I too am grateful for your words about exploring topics that others have written about. I am often drawn to articles on the same topic–another reason why other readers will be too. They will want, as I do, to see how I cast my words, what angle I present and what new information I bring to the topic. Beth

    • Oh boy have I been there!

      What helped me the most was when I started getting kudos from people who were under no obligation whatsoever to say anything nice. I’ve created a file of my compliments from people who not only liked my work, but requested it again and again. They wouldn’t do that if my work stinks, right?

    • moUla says:


    • “You’ll find your unique view on the subject” — this is so helpful as I think about the topics I want to cover. I’ll stop worrying about the other 1,000 articles and concentrate on making mine different, better, an improvement — my own.

    • Jeanelaine says:

      Thanks for the kick, just the kind of reminder I need from time to time

    • Just push the publish button. You’ll be happy after you do.

      Unless you’ve published sheer rubbish, that is. 😉

    • I do some of the pre-edit things you suggest and for me reading aloud is a huge help! But, admittedly the little anti-confidence voice is alive and well. Thank you for all the suggestions.

    • @brusselsneo says:

      Quite apposite. Thanks much.

    • This is just what I needed this week! I think a writer’s ability to keep a clear head and stay positive as just as important as having the necessary writing skills. Keep in mind, if you have a book in you that you just have to get out, no one can write it better than you!

    • Charlene W. says:

      I enjoyed this article. Its come at a time when I truly needed the lesson, and the reminder that I am not the only one who deals with those fears. They are actually a large part of why I stopped writing for many years.
      I felt the need to comment because I haven’t seen an article lately that’s addressed every one of my concerns.
      Thank you for providing it.

      • You’re very welcome, Charlene, and you’re definitely not alone in this. There are hundreds – probably millions – of writers who are plagued by all sorts of fears. All curable, and all it takes are a few coping methods until you can fly on your own.

    • After my very first community college writing class twenty years ago, I got brave and sent out my first magazine query, fully expecting to begin my collection of rejection slips. But I got the assignment!!! It scared me so bad that I convinced myself I couldn’t do the work and backed out of it. I’ve got that out of my system now.

      • Oh damn, talk about performance anxiety! When you’re braced for the worst and the best happens, I can certainly see how that could jam you into a bad case of the OHNOZ WHAT IF! Glad to hear that you’ve since worked it out to your benefit!

    • candileer says:

      I have been writing long enough so that it has become obvious to me when downs or complete stops descend upon me, it is not caused by the machinations of a petulant writer or some horrible peculiarity of personality that should be eradicated, but the cause is that there is something I need to know. Whether it is a kookie location or a stimulating incident, no matter, I don’t even have to know what it is that is holding up the process. I just dive into my source of material, either the work of other writers or an academic treatise on the topic, that’s where I find the solution.

      • Exactly. We’re all in control of our mind, so if something’s holding us back, the smartest route is to figure out what that is… and fix it!

    • Wendy Reid says:

      James, this was a wonderful post and you definitely hit the nail on the head when it comes to writers and their feelings of inadequacy, and I don’t think I’m speaking just for myself. I will be taking your advice to heart. Thank you. 🙂

      • I hear you, Wendy. When people sign up for my DFW newsletter, I ask what they struggle with… and some of the answers I get back are absolutely heartbreaking.

        Luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way!

    • Steven Devonport says:

      Wow, thanks for the inspiration!

      Think I’ll bookmark this and return to it when I’m feeling low.


      • Do it when you’re feeling high too – it keeps the positive feelings flowing!

      • Karen says:

        16a14935142You actually make it seem so easy with your pttienearson but I find this matter to be really something which I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it! 187

    • Nathalie says:

      Hi James,

      Thank you so much for your timely article.
      I now have a solution to my paralysis :).
      Have a great day.

    • I’m happy to say that James Chartrand is now one of our regular contributors on WTD. Personally, I always learn something new from your posts, James. They are top quality!

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