Do you ever worry that your writing isn’t good enough?
Maybe you’re scared to let anyone read your latest short story. Or perhaps it’s worse than that – you find yourself agonising over every email that you write.
You’re not alone.
Most writers – even those who make a living from their craft – lack confidence at times. Writing is, after all, a daunting thing to do: you’re putting down your thoughts on the page and hoping that they’ll be worthy of someone else’s time and attention.
A lack of confidence, though, can be crippling. It leads writers to give up before they’ve even begun – or to fret for hours over the simplest of writing tasks.
Whether you’re struggling to get to grips with grammar or preparing to launch your third novel, you can become more confident.
#1: Practice Writing – Regularly
As a child, I had piano lessons. I didn’t much like having to practice – but I knew that if I didn’t, I wouldn’t get any better.
It’s the same with writing. Some people love writing, others find it tedious: but either way, you’ll find that the more you practice, the more you’ll improve.
That could mean:
- Spending ten minutes free-writing every morning
- Working through different writing exercises, so you get experience in several forms
- Deliberately working on the elements of writing that you find hard (e.g. if you write fiction, practice dialogue or description; if you write for work, practice those difficult emails)
- Writing a weekly post for your blog – no excuses!
- Write from a prompt (a word, phrase, question or image that inspires you)
Your writing exercises might be for your eyes only – or you might choose to develop them into something more. Author E.J. Newman’s From Dark Places is a book of short stories that started as pieces written from prompts sent in by her “story of the month club”.
#2: Read Widely
You’re probably already reading a lot in your chosen genre or area – but try dipping into a book, magazine or blog that’s very different from what you’d normally choose.
You’ll come across authors who are:
- Journalistic and factual, giving you the details without making any judgements about them
- Extremely personal and introspective, writing based on their own experiences
- Unconventional and creative with their use of language, perhaps coining new words
…and so on.
There’s no one “correct” way to write a book, a blog post, or an article – and the more you read, the more you’ll realise that lots of different styles can be effective. You’ll learn new techniques, and you’ll also get a better feel for your own voice and style (look at what resonates with you – and what turns you off completely).
#3: Take Time Over Your Writing
If you don’t like writing, or if you find it anxiety-provoking, then you might be tempted to get it over with as quickly as possible.
That’s not a great way to build your confidence. No writer – not even Shakespeare! – can produce a perfect piece of work in just one draft. By taking a little extra time to edit your work, you’ll realise that you can:
- Spot clumsy or ambiguous sentences and correct them
- Change words that aren’t quite right
- Fix any typos or spelling mistakes that have crept in
I often advise writers to write a basic plan then produce a quick first draft, without worrying too much about quality: that way, they don’t get bogged down trying to perfect the first paragraph. After that, though, it’s important to edit rigorously. You’ll feel more confident about your work when you know you’ve given it enough time and attention.
#4: Learn About Writing
I’ve been writing with serious intent (i.e. hoping to get published!) for thirteen years now – half my lifetime. I’ve read dozens of books and ebooks about writing, I’ve subscribed to a writing magazine, I’ve taken several online courses, and I’ve completed an M.A. in Creative Writing.
Obviously, I wouldn’t have progressed very far at all if I didn’t actually write (see #1!) – but I learnt a lot about the theory and practice of writing from all these resources.
Whether you’re a brand-new writer or an old hand, there’s something you can learn. Look out for:
- Blogs on writing (like this one) – a great place to start learning for free.
- Books about your specific area or genre – try your library
- Specialised ebooks and ecourses – you might want to start with 100 Writing Mistakes to Avoid
- Writing conferences where you can attend lectures and workshops
- Degree programs – a big investment of time and money, but a great way to study writing in a thorough and rigorous way, alongside other students
#5: Ask For Feedback
This one requires a bit of bravery … but it’s a great way to give your writing confidence a real boost.
Ask someone for feedback. Ideally, pick a writer or tutor who you know and trust – you want them to be honest but also thoughtful.
Get them to tell you what you’re already doing well (because there’ll be plenty of good things in your work!) And ask them what you could improve on. I know it can be quite daunting to have your work critiqued … but once you’ve edited a piece based on feedback, you’ll be able to have real confidence in it.
#6: Share Your Work With an Audience
One great way to boost your confidence is to have appreciative readers for your work. But where do you find them?
The Web 2.0 era has made publication accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Sites like Blogger.com are free and extremely easy to get started with, and allow you to publish your writing online.
(If you start getting serious about blogging, I’d recommend using WordPress and hosting the blog on your own domain, for maximum control over your work. For all things blogging-related, check out Daily Writing Tips’s sister blog, Daily Blog Tips.)
You might even choose to put together an ebook for people to download and read. You can create this using a word processing program (like Open Office or Microsoft Word) and then convert it to a .pdf file, which can be read on any type of computer and on many devices like Tablet computers and ebook readers.
#7: Submit Your Work for Publication
One of the best ways to achieve publication is to send a guest post to a big blog. This can be a pretty daunting thing to do … but it’s a huge confidence boost if you get your post accepted. Follow the tips above and make it as good as you can before sending it in – and make sure you follow any submission guidelines.
You might think that you have to already be a big “name” in the writing or blogging world in order to get published, but this simply isn’t true: editors care about the quality of your writing and the professionalism of your approach.
If you’re a fiction writer, try entering competitions – winning a prize, or even being shortlisted, is a great validation of your work.
And if you’re aiming to write for magazines as a freelancer, try sending in fillers or letters to the editor – a great first step in making contact and seeing your name in print.
Keep Moving Forwards – However You Feel
Maybe it seems like other writers have far more confidence than you. You see them chatting away at conferences, or you look at their work on big blogs or you read their prize-winning competition entries … and you think if only I was as confident as them.
Perhaps you already are. Maybe they spent a week screwing up their courage to send in that competition entry, or they had to take a deep breath and conquer their nerves before striking up a conversation with a stranger at that conference.
As you write more (regardless of how you feel) and as you put your work out there in the world, you’ll find that you gradually become more confident and comfortable with your writing.
What one step could you take today to help boost your writing confidence? Pick something from the list above – or add your own ideas in the comments!
You can find Ali Luke posting all over the blogosphere – but her home base is on her own blog, Aliventures. If you want to get more writing done, check out her post How to Write Thousands of Words Every Single Week and follow the eight simple steps there.
16 thoughts on “Seven Ways to Build Up Your Writing Confidence”
One of the best tips I ever got was to read an entire magazine editorial, adverts, articles – everything – cover to cover – of any publication you want to submit work to. The same goes for books – read several published by the publisher you intend approaching … you’ll get the mood and know how to fit in.
i am very interested to learn english to write proper way without any mistakes.
i want to write emails to boss and colleague that they like to read repeatedly or they get attracted much
I’ve written and published a book titled Casting the first Stone. It’s about a fictional detective living and working in Denver. I published with Xlibris self publishing and I’m told it’s pretty good. Writing is a hard job and I’ve found that it can be a lonely existence with constantly having to take yourself out of the everyday world into a world created by you, some times you can write all day other times the words just don’t come, but if you continue to make the effort, continue to push yourself through the other side can be rewarding.
This is great advice for every type of writer. Thanks for the encouragement and advice.
I write a seven sentence daily blog about all things creative and I have done so for the past two and half years.
I think keeping it short and manageable with a blog is a great idea. Bite sized and easy to digest for your readers… This is why I blog in Seven Sentences. Writing little and often has I think several benefits…
1. Daily practice
2. An easily achievable amount so never daunting
3. Teachers you to be succinct and relevant
4. It values your readers time.
So I would encourage all writers to blog a little everyday.
I have a friend that I am sending this to right away! She is the epitome of what this article is about. The sad thing is that she has phenomenal story lines and her writing is really good, but she is too afraid to send any of her work off to agents because she is so deeply afraid of rejection. It makes me very sad. The world is being deprived of her brilliance!
My tip I would like to add to this: I am a perfectionist and very rarely let anyone read my work until the third or fourth draft. My brother is also a writer, but gets really frustrated because he only wants to write it once and then thinks it should be done. No matter how good you think you are, it could always use a second, third or even fourth look. Be confident, not cocky!!
… and you think if only I was as confident as them.
Wouldn’t you agree that the above sentence should read this way?
… and you think if only I was as confident as they were.
I was a little self-conscious about my writing in the beginning but now I am more lax about it.
Like learning any new skill it is important to study, practice and constantly learn to get better.
“Practice Writing – Regularly” This one is the main key to become a successful writer . another thing try to read more if you want to be a good writer
Really nice article
@Hanna — fantastic tip! Thanks for sharing. I often see editors complaining that they get pitches from people who’ve clearly *never* read their magazine…
@A.L. White — congrats on the self-publication and on the feedback you’ve had! And good luck with the next book.
@Geoff — glad you enjoyed the piece. 🙂 I agree that “little and often” can be extremely powerful.
@Heidi — hope it helps your friend. Please do encourage her to send her work out; nothing ventured, nothing gained! And thanks for your tip, I totally agree.
@Ken K — I think that either version of that sentence works, though I’m open to different opinions! 🙂
I’ll add three bits of advice that I share with students who lack confidence about their writing.
It is perfectly okay to write garbage – as long as you edit brilliantly. – C . J. Cherryh
There is no great writing, only great rewriting. – Justice Louis Brandeis
God sells us all things at the price of the labor. – Leonardo da Vinci
I think that showing your work to someone really helps, maybe even reading it aloud to another person.I know when I write short or long storys I like to read it to someone, allthough it is awkward when you run into some mistake. Well just a blemish on the way to success.I think this was a really good conversation starter.
Thanks for these tips. One of my biggest challenges, short of my adult ADHD lol, is motivation.
When things in life are up in arms, I have the most difficult time focusing on my work. I know I’m a good writer; and that is just my ego talking, plenty of people have told me so (and no, not just my mother). I love writing. I love writing as much as I love Mike & Ike candies – oh they are so delicious and chewy – makes me feel like a kid again – terrible on the teeth though…uh oh, I’m doing it again.
Oh yeah, and focus, I lack focus. Whenever I think about writing as a career, a full-time career, I see why so many writers have ‘extra curricular’ vices that tend to become their muses. I’m trying my level best not to let that happen to me. Although I do write better under the influence – lol…but that is neither here nor there.
Anywho – great tips. I’m subscribing to your blog as I type; well, after I finish typing anyway.
And, if you come up with any sure-fire ways to tackle adult ADHD, aside from strong narcotics, please do tell.
Good inspiring article
This article has helped me out immensely. Recently, I’ve felt my confidence as a writer, hit an all-time low. Instead of focusing on ways to proactively snap out of this funk, I’ve just been avoiding writing altogether.
Thanks, finding the errors in this article helped me find some confidence, in spite of my perfectionism!