Usually this is a short lived blip and writers pick themselves up and get back to writing, but on a more serious note, some writers cannot return to writing at all because their confidence has been shattered.
So what makes a writer lose confidence?
- Negative feedback on a writing piece
- Family and friends
Critiques, for instance, are designed to find flaws with your writing and help you improve to become a better writer. Good critiques should be constructive and helpful, however when they are overly negative without the support to correct the errors in your writing, this can severely knock your confidence.
Negative feedback instantly equates in the writer’s mind that the writing is rubbish.
If feedback or critique is what you want, give the story to several people to read rather than just one, because this means you’ll receive positive as well as negative feedback and therefore it’s balanced. That way you can see that your writing is essentially on the right track, it’s good; it just needs a bit of tweaking.
The most common cause of any writer’s lack of confidence with his or her own skills and talent is the rejection. Nothing kills confidence faster.
You’ve spent months or even years working on your masterpiece only for it to be rejected out of hand. It feels like a punch in the guts and almost immediately, a writer will think they’re rubbish.
In reality, rejection means that the story is not quite ready, or it’s wrong for the market, not what the editor is looking for, or isn’t quite strong enough etc. Leave the story for a while and then go back to it and work on it a little more – take on board any feedback from rejection and make the story even better.
What about family and friends? They don’t always help. They may not understand why you prefer the company of your computer, or how important writing is to you. You might receive negative comments from friends who put you down because of what you do, or they read your work and don’t provide constructive feedback.
The thing to remember here is that they are not the expert. You are. Go back to the story and make it stronger and better.
Of course, the worst offender when it comes to losing confidence is ourselves.
A writer can spend months writing and editing and polishing, they’re ready to send to agents …then suddenly they think actually, it’s not that good…it may need tweaking…what if it’s complete rubbish? I’m a mediocre writer. I’m not as good as Stephen King or Lee Child or Dean Koontz (or whoever your favourite writer may be)…
The self doubting spiral is the most destructive. We often question our skills and ability as writers, because often we tend to compare our own writing with other writers who we think are good and that just makes us feel inadequate.
The feeling of being not good enough is when confidence is at its lowest point, we stop cultivating our self belief and this can easily turn into writer’s block.
Remember that with writer’s block, the problem is not the story, but rather the writer.
You have to constantly remind yourself that have the raw talent; otherwise you wouldn’t have started writing in the first place. Everyone starts at the beginning and writing is a constant learning curve.
You can turn self-doubt into a positive aspect, rather than let it stifle your creativity and thought processes. There are ways to get out of the vicious circle of self doubt and lack of confidence in your writing:
- Revisit old stories or unpublished work and see if you can improve them.
- Join a writer’s group – positive feedback is a great way to spark ideas and get you writing again.
- Spend time away from your writing projects and do other things. You don’t have to feel guilty doing that because when you return to your project you’ll have renewed enthusiasm to write.
- Write regularly – try poetry, short stories, flash fiction, articles. Writing regularly encourages growth in the craft and helps a writer improve.
- Practice, practice, practice.
Keeping confidence while writing is all down to how to apply yourself. Take on board constructive criticism, ignore the negativity, turn it around to your advantage and let it spur you to work harder at creating a great piece.
The more you write, the better you become and the better you become, the more confident you’ll be with everything you produce. The more confident you are, the less likely you are to slip into self doubt.
No writer is born with the mastery of the craft. It takes years of learning and understanding it, and, as the cliché says, practice does make perfect.
Above all, be proud of your work.
Next week: How to tease your reader.