Yesterday a writer friend who left our critique group about a year ago indicated she was ready to come back to our fold. We of course, welcomed her back, all wondering what had happened to cause her to leave in the first place. She confided to us that she had given up on writing for a time, due to doubts about her abilities. It gave me pause, because I, and every writer I have met/talked to/read about has had confidence issues at some time. And it doesn’t matter whether you are published or unpublished, traditional or self-published, a fiction writer or non-fiction writer, working on your first book or your fiftieth book. Apparently, self-doubt is an inherent part of the writing process.
When I decided to take writing seriously and pursue it with the goal of publishing my work, I assumed that my confidence level would increase over time, as I became more experienced and honed my skills. While that is true to a degree, I now believe that “confidence” is more a moving target than an end point. Because I am now writing at a different level than I was a few years ago, and I hope to be writing at another level a few years from now. With every accomplishment (like being published), comes new challenges.
So why do writers struggle with a lack of confidence? And how can we continually work to improve our confidence level, when faced with rejection, criticism, and competition? I did some research, and there are many blogs and articles that have addressed this very subject.
AliVentures posted about why writers may not be confident about their work, and gives tips on how to recover. Nathan Bradsford went into the psychological aspects of confidence, and why we may be deluding ourselves. Daily Writing Tips and Copy Blogger both had excellent ideas on how to increase our confidence level through writing activities, and Write To Done took a look at how the Internet has uniquely affected writer’s confidence levels.
I know from my own experience that there are some days when it really sucks to be a writer. But even when I “give up” in frustration or despair, something pulls me back. I just cannot bring myself to really quit. A voice inside says, “You can do it. Just keep trying.” The addiction is real. I can’t quit, even if it means slogging through the tough times.
Here are a few things I do when my confidence needs a boost, you may want to try:
Read something that you received positive feedback on. I know this helps me to remember that not everything I ever wrote sucks! There is hope, even if it is only a glimmer. Sometimes we focus so much on the negative we forget there ever was a positive aspect to our writing.
Talk to writer friends who have been there. Get together with your friends or critique partners, and tell them how you are feeling. Chat online, read blog posts, anything to reconnect and reinforce the fact you are not alone. EVERY writer goes through it at some point! (Although I am not so sure about Nora Roberts, lol)
Work on an old project you have not looked at in a while. Yes, it may still suck, but you might have a fresh perspective on how to fix it.
Outline that plot that has been lurking in the back of your mind, but you never could get to. Outlines are meant to be rough, and no one needs to see it. But you will be writing, not judging yet, because it is so new.
Do some research, especially if your lack of confidence stems from not knowing enough about your subject material. We are blessed these days to have a world of information at our fingertips, so take advantage of it. You can get lost on the internet doing this, but that will move your focus from your lack of knowledge onto ways of increasing your knowledge.
The important thing is to get through your lack of confidence cycle, and back to feeling inspired and hopeful. To my surprise, I learned that writing is more of a roller coaster than an upward climb, at least emotionally. But it’s still one hell of a ride!
Do you ever feel a lack of confidence in your work? Have any tips you’d like to share?