Tips By James Chartrand 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.) Pre-Editing 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: 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. 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. 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. 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.