I’ve been hearing a lot of negativity from writers lately: “My writing sucks,” “Every time I read x author I cry because I will never equal their talent,” “I’ve been working on this WIP forever and it’s still not done/it’s crap/it will never get published.”
STOP. Stop it right there!
Writers, please stop beating yourselves up and talking yourselves down. Why are we such a self-criticizing bunch? What happened? Where’s the confidence? I am by no means excluded from this either. I may talk the talk but I most certainly am guilty of a little self-criticism too— okay, maybe a lot…
So I decided to make this little Confidence Boosting post— along with some inspirational quotes because come on, who doesn’t like some wise words paired with emotive pictures?—This is for you, for me, for any and all writers who need a reminder of why they started writing in the first place and why they should keep doing it.
First things first, I have a little mantra I like to use. If you’d like to humor me for a minute, please repeat after me:
I am a badass writer. I can do anything. I am going to kick my novel’s butt. I will succeed.
There’s nothing wrong with starting with a little positivity. If you sit down to write with a negative attitude and the affirmation that you will fail, then you will fail. I know you’ve done it. I’ve done it. I still do it. Therefore, I created the mantra. I know some of you may think that this is silly, and repeating something to yourself that you don’t believe won’t do anything. And hey, maybe it won’t work for you. But if you say it enough your subconscious may pick it up and, believe it or not, it will stick.
Writing is bravery
Writing is a terrifying profession. You are putting something out there that will be open to scrutiny and criticism. Your work is a part of you. You are basically giving the world a piece of yourself. And some mean people will pick you apart— What were we thinking!? :S
But baring your soul to others is noble. It can be terrifying and overwhelming, but remember that people out there will relate to you and will take comfort and courage in your words. You never know who’s life could change because of your story. Your story. You could be helping others overcome their own issues by relating to your plot and characters, or encouraging other budding writers to pursue their dreams, or you could simply be giving joy to someone who really needed a good story.
We’re writers which means we battle our fears every time we put words to paper. By battling that fear and writing your story, you’re contributing to the world. Be proud of that.
Dealing with rejection
Rejection can be devastating, especially when you feel that what is being rejected is part of your very self. But we— me definitely included— need to learn to separate ourselves from our work. What is being critiqued is our story, not ourselves. That one story that may not have been as successful as you had hoped does not define who you are as a writer or as a person.
We also should remember that rejection (when given in good faith) can be a good thing. It means that what we wrote can clearly be better. We can improve our craft. We can be better versions of ourselves as writers. I anticipate my writing workshops with equal excitement and utter terror, and fight a wave of emotions every time someone criticizes my work. I have to remind myself that they are only trying to help me improve.
Be thankful for those rejections and closed doors. I know it sounds crazy, but bear with me here. After the initial wave of despair and questioning your career choices and feeling like your world is ending, there comes a point where you fight back. You realize that those rejections make you stronger, more determined and more resilient in your pursuit to be published. Your hardships will make you more appreciative when life (and a publisher) finally says yes.
What’s important here is to learn not to reject yourself first. Don’t beat yourself up and sentence yourself to the rejection pile before you even finish your manuscript or send it off for review.
If you’ve been critiqued or rejected or simply have self-doubt, the next step should be to:
Figure out the thing(s) about writing you are badass at
Is it characterization? Are your characters so vivid and complex that you sometimes wish you could meet them in real life or would be terrified if they did come to life? What about description? Are your readers instantly transported to your story’s world within just a few sentences? Do you create mind-blowing plots that leave your readers wanting more?
I never considered myself to be even remotely funny. But when people fell in love with my character’s antics and jokes, it made me re-think. That’s what writing should do. Not bring you down but give you courage! Let you explore and learn new things about yourself, give you a new perspective.
Pinpoint that thing, or various things, and write that ish down. Blow it up and put it on your wall. Don’t let yourself forget that you do have skills in writing, that you are a good writer. It’s easy to forget or put yourself down when you’re in the middle of a rut. But it’s much harder to deny when you can see it every day shining proudly on your wall. You can turn it into your own personal mantra too. I know, some of you may be thinking this is lame. But let me tell you, a constant reminder and confidence booster isn’t going to hurt anybody.
Another thing you can do is:
Get a group of writer friends
These people are your personal cheerleaders. They understand your suffering and fears and hard work more than even your non-writing family and friends could. They’ve been there. They are there. They’ll need your help too.
Whenever I question my skills and my decision about being a writer, I talk to my writer friends or show them my work. And, bless them, they encourage me to keep going. They don’t lie to me and tell me I’m perfect and that my work is flawless. They give honest critiques of my work. They make me a better writer. They tell me the truth and insist that I have talent for writing and that I should pursue it.
Every writer should have a set of friends like these. And yes, other non-writing friends and family who support you and encourage you to keep going.
—Shout out to my amazing family, friends and support system! I love you all!
Now it’s time to:
Squash that little voice that says you’re not good enough
Right now. Do it. Imagine that little bug, all glib and gross and tiny, and stomp on that negative sucker. You can even grind it into the floor for good measure. Wipe off your shoe. Take a deep breath. And let it out.
Now that that’s done, I don’t want to hear any more negativity! Stop that little voice from coming back. How can other people believe in you if you don’t? How will others love your work if you keep hating everything you write? I’m not saying take on this fake confidence and absolutely love everything you do even when it’s not working. I’m saying have a little faith in yourself. You’re a writer for a reason. So write! Being a writer takes a lot of work. You can’t perfect what’s not written.
I’m going to say it because it needs to be said: the first draft is supposed to suck! And even the second. And possibly the third… What people tend to forget is that writing isn’t just about typing words on a page and expecting them to be perfect from the get-go. It’s about writing and rewriting and more rewriting and revising. You need to turn off editor mode and just write the darn thing. Then you can go back and edit to your heart’s content. And it may take just two drafts, or seven. But this doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. If you’re persistent and dedicated, you will get to the desired, finished product.
Don’t be so hard on yourselves. YOU CAN DO IT. (Bonus points to those who read that in Rob Schneider’s voice.)
Okay? WE DO NOT SUCK.
But the most important thing you need to remind yourself daily is:
YOU WRITE BECAUSE YOU LOVE WRITING
I know it may seem odd to have to remind yourself of why you’re doing something, especially something like writing which requires so much time and sacrifice. “I’m a writer!” you may say. “Of course I know. I don’t need reminding!” But we do. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that our sleepless nights, our desk-chair-imprinted butts, our aching hunched-over-keyboard backs, and our one or two mental breakdowns are all worth something.
Regardless of whether you have a 9 to 5 job and write in your spare time, or you made the brave and scary decision to quit your job to achieve your dream of getting published, or you’re already a published full-time writer: you write because you love writing. You write because you have a story inside you that needs to be told. You’re doing what you love.
And the great thing is, that when all of our hard work is finished, we will be able to share it with others. Writing is rather solitary. We are trapped inside our heads and spend countless hours and intimate moments with our laptops. Alone. But when the story’s done you get to share it with your friends and family and those wonderful fans, bless them, who will read it and love it and all of a sudden, all that hard work was worth it.
Even if you choose not to share your work. Even if you simply write for yourself. Then do it for yourself and write. Bash that self-doubt and self-criticism and just write.
You are all amazing and I would love to read your finished books when they are published! Yes, when. I believe in us. We can finish these books and get them out to the world. And damn it, the world will like it.
SO GET OFF YOUR BUTTS AND…get back on your butts… AND WRITE!!!
What do you do to boost your confidence in writing? Do you have any mantras or other tips?