Building Confidence in Writing: Tips, Ideas, and Techniques
Confidence for Writers
Writing can be an absorbing and very enjoyable activity. It can also be an emotional roller coaster, especially for writers who lack confidence. A severe lack of confidence can interfere with the ability to write.
A writer may experience wonderful periods when words flow with ease and something significant is created. On the other hand, the writer may also experience periods when the rush of ideas stalls, the writing seems stilted or inconsequential, and the possibility of creating anything of value seems remote.
Another emotional challenge for writers is the presence of negative feedback and rejection, which every writer experiences at times. For some people, criticism and failure are very demoralizing.
Writing is a very personal activity. Factors that increase confidence in some people might not do so in others. In general, though, the following tips and suggestions should make a writer feel more confident and help them to achieve personal success in writing.
Like a writer who lacks confidence, a confident writer may still experience emotional highs and lows, but the lows are generally less intense and shorter in duration. Confidence gives resiliency to the ups and downs of writing.
Set Writing Goals and Try New Techniques
Becoming a more frequent or more creative writer can be a big help for building confidence. Activities that help a writer attain these goals are very valuable.
- Try to write regularly and often.
- Create a writing schedule and try to follow it as much as possible.
- Choose a goal for each writing session.
- Don't stop to criticize yourself during the first draft of a composition. Let ideas flow. Editing can be done later, if necessary.
- Practice writing in a new genre, style, or voice. Realizing that you can write out of your comfort zone is a great confidence booster.
- Use writing prompts from online writing sites to stimulate your writing. Don't avoid a prompt because you think that it doesn't look interesting. Try to rise to the challenge of writing about a subject that you wouldn't normally choose. Use brainstorming techniques or mind maps to come up with writing ideas, if necessary.
- Read your writing aloud when you come to the editing stage. This may help you to detect problems in language, sentence structure, composition, or flow that you didn't notice while reading your work silently.
Surroundings can be important when a person tries to start a writing project. Some writers may be more confident when writing outdoors or when surrounded by particular objects.
Share Your Work
As daunting and strange as it may sound for beginning writers, one of the best ways to slowly build confidence is to share writing with others and receive constructive criticism. This can enable a writer to improve their work, receive positive feedback, and become more confident.
It's often very hard for a writer to judge their own work. Some people may be happy writing for sheer enjoyment and may not want to get feedback on their work. To improve writing skills and thereby develop more confidence, it's usually necessary to share writing, however.
Sharing short pieces of writing with friends on social media websites could be a gentle introduction to the sharing process. Sharing work with a trusted individual or a small and friendly writing group could also be a good way to build confidence.
After this, a writer could consider publishing work on a free blog or an online writing site. Supportive followers of the person's writing can give a definite boost to confidence with their comments. If a person's writing efforts are open to comments from the general public, however, they may get negative as well as positive feedback.
Constructive criticism describes the merits in a piece of work and also offers suggestions for improvement of the weaker areas. Destructive criticism indicates the problems in the work with no suggestions for improvements and no mention of any merits.
Get Constructive Criticism
Criticism done correctly can be helpful for a writer's confidence in the long term, although it may be difficult to receive at first. Constructive criticism can help a writer improve their future creations as well as the one that is being assessed, which can lead to increased self confidence. This type of criticism can be very supportive. On the other hand, destructive criticism can severely damage a writer's confidence and may even discourage the recipient from continuing to write.
Excessive praise and flattery where they aren't deserved can also be unhelpful. Praise can certainly be encouraging and is a great way for someone to support a writer. False praise can cause a crash in the writer's confidence when their writing gets a more realistic assessment, however.
Writing instructors, mentors, fellow writers in writing groups, and editors may be good sources of constructive criticism. Relatives or close friends may or may not be, depending on their objectivity.
Some people may prefer to deal with written corrections instead of oral ones. Examining how a good editor has changed a composition can be a great learning experience. The examination can improve a writer's skills and boost confidence.
Lucy Diamond's Tips for Building Confidence in Writing
Even commercially successful writers have had to deal with repeated rejections, as these statistics show.
Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen - 140 rejections
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig - 121 rejections
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell - 38 rejections
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling - 12 rejections
Develop Techniques for Dealing With Rejection
All writers—even successful ones—have to face rejection. Rejections have the potential to cause a major loss of confidence, so it's important that every writer learns how to deal with them.
Dealing with rejection successfully requires determination and perseverance. There are a few strategies that can make the process easier, however.
- Always celebrate successes—even small ones.
- Make sure that you always have a writing project in progress. If a previous project is rejected, the current one may provide hope for the future.
- If you don't have another project in progress when you receive a rejection, start one as soon as possible, even if you don't feel like it. It's important to write something. The initial effort can be edited later, if necessary.
- When some writers receive a rejected manuscript, they immediately place it in a new envelope and send it to another publisher to try to reduce any loss of confidence. Consider whether this strategy would work for you.
Rejection doesn't necessarily mean that a piece of writing is inadequate. A publisher may reject a submission even though the writing is good because it isn't suitable for the publisher at that time. A letter that gives information about why a project was rejected is very useful. If a writer knows that there is something wrong with their work and also knows what the specific problem is, they can take steps to correct it and improve their chance of success in the future.
Sean Platt's Suggestions for Building Confidence
Keep Learning About Writing
Learning by writing is important in order to improve writing skills, but so is learning by reading or listening.
- Visit your favorite writing advice websites to read their suggestions for improving writing.
- Read or listen to writing hints from a writer that you admire.
- Read writing magazines.
- Read the work of other writers who are successful in some way. Analyze their work to try to discover what they are doing right (or wrong).
- Consider taking a writing course to improve or add to your writing skills.
- Attend writing workshops or conferences.
Of course, while suggestions from experienced writers may be useful, ultimately the decision as to whether or not to follow a suggestion or practice a technique is up to the student.
Entering writing competitions with the right attitude can be a great stimulus for boosting confidence. A writer can still be successful even if they fail to win a prize. Trying to create an excellent piece of writing for a competition can improve creativity and writing skills.
Decide What Success Means for You
Success and confidence are partners in the writing endeavor. Success in writing builds confidence and confidence increases the likelihood of writing success. The definition of "success" is different for different writers, however.
For some people, creating stories that entertain their children or grandchildren or having a group of loyal followers on a writing site is the only success that they want. Other writers might want to earn a specific amount of money from their online writing efforts, publish and sell a specific number of ebooks, get published in traditional media, get a reputation as a good writer in their niche, or become well known. Fortunately, in this digital age there are many ways for people to experience success in writing.
Determination and Resilience
In the poem below I describe the experiences of a writer who lacks confidence yet is determined to keep writing. Determination and resilience are important qualities for a writer.
I'm writing, writing, writing,
a race against my mind.
Keep back fear and misery,
don't let doubting win.
I'm crying, crying, crying
in the presence of The Loved.
Their writing scintillates
and feeds their readers' dreams.
I'm sinking, sinking, sinking
in shame of words that fail,
in worthless shards of thoughts
and broken hopes and plans.
I'm fighting, fighting, fighting,
to save creation's flow.
and comforts in distress.
I'm hoping, hoping, hoping
that someone may be touched,
appreciate a point
or like a single thought.
I'm loving, loving, loving
exploring all I can
with senses, thoughts, and dreams,
and writing from my heart.
© 2013 Linda Crampton