Is it possible to build confidence as a writer?
I don’t know about you, but I find it incredibly difficult to talk about my work. I can talk for hours on writing in general, but to speak about my books or articles? Eeesh, it’s like I want to retreat to my burrow. (Maybe I should start calling my office “The Burrow”. What do you think?) Which is kind of funny, really, because I’ve worked hard to crank out content so I can share it.
I think it’s like this with many types of art. But wouldn’t the art of words be easier to … put into words!?! So many of us are introverts holed away in solitude that it feels a little shocking when a real, live person wants to hear what we’ve been up to. “Who, me?”
So whether you’ve been invited to speak about your latest publication, you’re about to click “submit”, or your Aunt Donna corners you at the family reunion, keep this in mind:
It starts in your head…
Go to the library or a bookstore. Pick up a few titles and flip through them. You’re sure to find prose that is less-than-inspiring. Have you ever thought, ‘I can do better than this?’ It’s true. (Unless you’re a stuck-up narcissist.) There are scads of writers out there who are not as good as you. But guess what? They’re working harder. They could sit around fretting about the quality of their work, too. Instead, they chose to put it out there and are reaping the rewards of risk and hustle. You can, too, you word wizard, you.
But you have to embrace the truth. If you write, you’re a writer. If you inhale reflexively when you enter a bookshop, you’re a writer. And if you rank your pens, you’re a writer. Look back and evaluate. That person, soaking up fine fiction, riveting nonfiction, or crystalline poetry? The one who was so moved by a book or books, the course of their life changed forever? That’s you, writer. Maybe it’s so hard to talk about because it’s so special. Share it, anyway. The world needs that kind of lit-up passion.
…then continues with your actions…
We put tags on ourselves. I’m a real writer, or a wanna-be writer, or a loser because I only dream about it. The remedy for this self-limiting belief is simply to write. Writers write. That’s the only requirement to earn the title. And if you’re crafting plot structures in your head at your day job, you’re still a writer; you’re just undercover. Bad things happen when a Creative won’t allow themselves to be creative. It’s risky to your mental and physical health! So write. And the more you write, the more you’ll realize you ARE a writer.
…until you embody your work.
You’ve heard the mantra: “Fake it ’til you make it!” Buy a couple of writer’s outfits. It may seem totally shallow, but stay with me. I wore a school uniform for nine years of my school life; I’ve had dress code guidelines for over a decade of my work life. The power of clothing fascinates me. Look up photos of your favorite authors. Do they have a ‘look’? Wes Anderson does such an over-the-top representation of his characters’ signature looks that their identities become visual. Try it, even if it means taking a lap through Goodwill for the perfect blazer with elbow patches. (Really? Hey, whatever, it’s your look.)
If it seems like I’m advising you to be a poser, think again, and check out the research. Businesses use these principles all the time. You’re a professional, so you can, too. What do you have to lose, besides your usual jeans ‘n’ t-shirt?
Writing is a calling, and it’s calling you.
Don’t be afraid to tell people about your project. You can counter with a question if you like, and buy a little time. “Oh, I’m outlining a new novel. Are you sure you want to hear about it?” Treat your responses like snippets you reveal on social media; drop a breadcrumb at a time to gauge their interest. They might be just trying to be polite, but chances are they’re genuinely interested. “I’ve never met anyone who’s written a book before,” my neighbor once confessed to me over the backyard fence. It was extremely embarrassing, but I thought about it later. It was an opportunity to connect with another person in a meaningful way, and to learn from one another. Keep that in mind, and you’ll build real confidence as a writer.
NOW YOU: Have you found a strategy for building confidence? Share it in the comments or tell me in the form below: