Being a writer by profession is an incredibly public thing to do. Our work will inevitably be distributed and read by extended audiences that we may never meet.
With the opportunity of self-publishing thriving, more and more writers have emerged and there is now a saturation of content. More than just asking ourselves how to produce great quality work, we now have to face the question of how to stand out among the crowd as well.
To do this, one of the most significant attributes to have is confidence.
Confidence helps us stay focused about our writing paths regardless of the amount of competition that is in the industry. Confidence also keeps us motivated to write and write some more regardless of whether our work is labelled successes or failures.
Here are a few simple ways to help writers boost that confidence.
1. Understand the learning process
Though it sounds cliche, it makes the saying no less true: writing is a learning process.
The more we write, the more we will learn about language itself and about the topics we are writing about. For example, if you’re writing about a character in your novel, re-writing the dialogues and revising the plot lines helps you to think more critically about that character and their situation.
Writing and re-writing forces you to make connections between ideas and self-expression. Consequently, the output of repetitive writing practice allows you to create more established thought processes for your next piece of work. In this way too, your confidence will be boosted.
2. Read to learn
The equation of becoming a better writer is simple. We must read and we must write. But to do this well, it is important to maintain a teachable perspective.
As easy as it is for others to read your writing, so will you of others. With no shortage of readily available reading material for us online, it’s become even easier to learn about writing on a more dynamic scale.
People are made up of different stories and their own unique experiences. Consider it a privilege to have incredible amounts of reading material at the tip of your fingers.
Reading with a teachable perspective, though, makes a distinction between reading for enjoyment and reading to learn. Try not to spend too much time comparing, it will only disappoint you as you realise that there will always be someone out there who writes better or has found greater success.
When you read to learn, however, you give yourself potential to discover new ideas, more patterns of writing, new vocabulary and so on. This will help your confidence.
3. Celebrate the little victories
Rarely do writers find success overnight. The potential for an incredibly long process of trying, before your work gets recognised or published, can be confidence crushing.
One way to avoid this is to celebrate the little victories, because success is essentially made of milestones.
Milestones, like getting your articles published online, building your market of influence, extending your network of contacts and gaining inspiration for new ideas, are all included. Even through these victories, you’ll be able to learn more about the writing industry, how to build your writing career and even who to go to when you need help.
These little victories will boost your confidence as you know that you’re gaining achievements that’ll help you in the future.
4. Give yourself a break
Everyone makes mistakes. However, when we understand the learning process of becoming a better writer, we begin to appreciate the mistakes we make.
It’s through our mistakes that we discover what we can improve on in our work. Responding with determination and an active spirit for learning, rather than self-degradation, is a much healthier way of dealing with mistakes and failures.
For Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale and more recently, The Heart Goes Last, she says in an interview with The Guardian:
“Failure is just another name for much of real life: much of what we set out to accomplish ends in failure, at least in our own eyes. Who set the bar so high that most of our attempts to sail gracefully over it on the viewless wings of Poesy end in an undignified scramble or a nasty fall into the mud? Who told us we had to success at any cost? Get back on the horse that threw you, as they used to say.”
5. Find a trusted writer community
Confidence is a contagious spirit, but so is doubt. It’s crucial that you assess the type of environment you can allow yourself to thrive in.
Ask yourself: is it one that provides opportunities for you to flourish confidently?
Having a community that encourages and inspires your writing processes may be the only thing that is standing in your way of having some inner writer confidence.
More than that, having a trusted writers’ community will put you in a place where you can bounce ideas off each other, get feedback and even, discover ways to overcome challenges specific to a writers’ world.
Writing itself may be something you do alone. However, in preparing for it, ensure that positive energy fuels your writer-mind and places you back into a confident space.
6. Embrace criticism
Finally, criticism is a gateway to a steep learning curve.
As noted before, it’s through criticism that we find out more about what we can make improvements on. At the same time, it’s also through criticism that we see where our strengths lie.
But before you take the criticism too seriously, it’s important to know where your criticism is coming from.
In a digital era, anyone can scrutinise your work and publish harsh comments that may or may not be relevant. It’s easy to have low confidence because of this. After all, hearing negative views about work you’ve poured your heart and soul into can be hurtful.
Furthermore, you must understand who is criticising you. Are they people you can trust? Are they people whom you respect? Do they want the best for you? Are they offering constructive feedback or just being nasty?
Asking these questions can definitely point us in a better direction on who to trust without sabotaging our writing careers. Some criticism might be worth taking with a pinch of salt. And some can be dismissed altogether.
All in all, keep an open mind, and try to let your confidence flourish through all criticism, mistakes and little victories. Stay positive, and surround yourself with people who will support you and your writing.