Nov 14 2018
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Build confidence as a writer in 5 steps

I write, but I don’t feel like a writer. I hear this from beginning and blocked writers all the time, and the issue isn’t talent or commitment or energy. The issue is confidence.

Do you feel insecure in your writing, like maybe you just aren’t cut out for it? Do you feel like it’s something you enjoy doing and want to do more, but you can’t justify the time spent on it, either because it doesn’t make you money or you aren’t publishing your work? Does the thought of sharing your writing with even one other person make you anxious? When you read through something you’ve written, is there a little voice in your head that says, This is terrible. You’ll never be a writer.

Congratulations. If you feel insecure, you probably ARE a writer!

I know that sounds cynical, but writers, artists, and most manner of creative types experience insecurities, especially when starting out. The trick is managing them. When self-doubt creeps in, here are five ways to respond to that critical inner voice:

Say it out loud: I am a writer.

Have you ever heard the saying, Speak it into existence? Put it this way: only speaking your desires into existence without actually putting in time and effort isn’t going to work; but all the time and effort in the world isn’t going to get you what you want if you don’t believe you can, should, and will have it. Say it out loud to yourself when you feel doubt, and say it to people who ask what you do. I am a writer. I write.

Set a goal for your writing.

Along the same lines, you need to set a goal for yourself. It can be to write once a week or once a day, to get 500 or 5,000 words down per writing session, or simply to set up a space for writing in your home. When you meet a goal, make a new one to work toward, and keep track of your efforts in a journal so you can see how much progress you’re making.

Now, write regularly.

Now comes the hardest but best part. You actually have to write. There is no shortcut here. Use writing prompts if you’re drawing a blank on how to start. One of my favorite exercises is to pick a book and open a page at random. Point to somewhere on the page and make a first sentence using a word your finger landed on—not the or and or she, but the word with the most specificity that is nearest your finger, like interstate or thermometer or sheriff. Write any sentence that comes to mind using your chosen word, and then free write from there. No rules; just write. If you actually know what you want to write about it, do that instead. Try to keep your pen on the page or your fingers on the keys and write for at least 10-15 minutes without thinking too hard. Find a zone and keep your focus there for as long as you can to generate a draft.

Choose a piece of writing you like and make it one you love.

Once you have five or six different drafts of writing, pick the one you like the most and commit to working on it to make it better. Why did you choose it? List a few positive attributes about the piece, along with a few notes about how you might revise or add to the piece to showcase those attributes. If you like a character you created, develop that character more. Give the character action, emotional tension, a problem to overcome. If you like the imagery, add more, or write a continuation of your scene that echoes some of that imagery. Trim away what you don’t like, what is repetitive or unnecessary. Read your piece out loud and make notes about parts that sound clunky, and smooth them out. Ask yourself what the main tension in your piece of writing is and make every sentence work toward either further articulating or resolving that tension.

Share it with someone.

Now you have a second or even a third draft, a revision, of a piece of writing you feel good about—well done! How did it feel to hear well done! just now? Hopefully, you feel a sense of accomplishment that gives you some confidence in what you’re doing, which is committing to a writing practice. But you can’t hear well done! from anyone but yourself (do say it to yourself, though!) until you show someone your writing. Sharing with even one other person gives you an opportunity to receive feedback to help you improve, and to offer some yourself, if the other person writes and wants to share with you, too. Whether you do your sharing with a trusted friend or in a writing group or class, sharing builds community around your writing practice, which gives it more weight and meaning in your life. And it isn’t that everything you write is going to elicit a well done! response from everyone who reads it. It’s that hearing well done! is going to help you keep writing. If you keep writing, you’ll keep getting better, and you’ll grow more and more confident in your practice.

Will you or have you taken these 5 steps toward becoming a more confident writer? Share with us in the comments!

Related reading: How to make more time to write (and why it’s probably not a time problem you have)

How to make the “write” work space for you

Writers, revise or edit? How and when to do both

5 tips for sharing your writing for the first time

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