Confidence is a big thing in writing. Without some self-belief, the whole thing will fall apart, and you’ll find yourself never completing your work. I’ve talked about the importance of writing confidence in the past, and how ability and enjoyment both contribute towards eventual success.
But how can one be confident? There’s a difference between confidence and arrogance. Arrogance is a blind belief based on an inflated sense of self-importance. Confidence, on the other hand, is a belief in the quality of your work and the strength of your abilities. Sure, you might not be Shakespeare (who is?), but you know how to tell a good story, right?
The first step to a more confident and positive outlook to writing involves cutting out those thoughts that create failure. Imagine two hypothetical pitches – one brimming with belief and desire, the other hesitant and uncertain. The first person could be shaking with nerves and still deliver a more convincing account of their book than the second.
I’m very interested in words and the power of language to create certain connotations and emotions. It’s amazing to consider the sheer power difference achieved by, say, cutting the ‘t’ off the end of ‘can’t’. But anyway, I digress.
Here are three thoughts to cut out of your writing life. Three thoughts that breed failure. Three thoughts that will stop you from writing and selling your book.
1. I’m not a good enough writer
This is a natural thought that all writers experience. I’m almost certain that Tolkien or Orwell probably had the same thoughts one day when they sat down to write. It’s natural to question our abilities.
But it’s important to crush this question as soon as possible.
Can I let you in on a secret? My first drafts are absolutely abysmal from a technical standpoint. The writing quality is of a standard a few years behind myself, the grammar is all over the place, and the manuscript is often riddled with typos and inconsistencies.
But that doesn’t mean that I lack writing confidence. Instead, I accept it, and sort it out in the rewrite.
No first draft is publishable, unless you edit every word as you go along, and even then there will probably be larger problems with the text. Just give yourself permission to write poorly in the first draft, as Alan Watt argues, as it is more important to just get the story down at this stage than to worry about correcting errors.
The saying goes that one can’t polish a shit. In writing, as long as you’ve got a good idea that stretches over 80-100k words, you can polish it all you like.
2. My idea isn’t good enough
Another writing confidence crisis often comes from a lack of belief in an idea. If you doubt your idea, then it probably will end up not so great after all. Doubt creates failure. But the beauty of it is, it’s easier to switch doubt off than you may think.
If you’re in the business of ‘coming up with ideas’ as a process, which I’m not, then just throw everything that comes into your head down on paper. Don’t judge any. The second you think, ‘oh, that’s a terrible idea’, you’re doing it wrong. Just get them down, and put them away for a while.
When you return to them, the good ideas will immediately stand tall above the not-so-good ones. Pursue an idea you are intrigued in. Create a rough plan for writing to follow loosely. If it’s coherent, it’s a good idea.
In writing, there are no ‘marks’ or ‘grades’. Sure, there are reviews, but don’t worry about those just yet. Let your positivity and determination shine through. If you believe in your best idea and pursue that belief, you’ll get a book written. If you doubt your idea, you’ll probably suffer a crisis of confidence and fail. It really is as simple as that.
3. I don’t have enough time to write
Want to know something about time? Time is an illusion. Not in a sci-fi, Matrixy sort of way, but in the way that we distribute it to certain tasks.
Say you work a 9-5 job. That’s a pretty full schedule, especially if you have to get kids ready before school and end up exhausted at the end of the day. Your targets are going to be different to someone who say, lives alone and gets a few days off per week. You might aim for 500 words per day. Maybe just 250.
But that’s absolutely fine, just as long as you acknowledge that you do have some writing time. If it means getting up half an hour earlier in the morning, then do it. You’ll find yourself settling into a new routine, and it’ll benefit your life in general.
If it becomes too much, change your writing time, or even day. There is a myth that every successful writer writes daily, but I doubt even the people who invent those myths follow that practice.
Basically, cut out the belief that you don’t have the time to write, or you’ll probably end up using the time you could be writing in for something else. Create a schedule. Map things out. Eventually, you’ll find a way to make writing a part of your life, and wonder where those doubts ever crept up from.
Which writing confidence struggles have you encountered, and how did you defeat them? Are there any doubts you still find yourself struggling with at the moment?
Image courtesy of Israelavila via Flickr