Confidence and The Writer
By Jana Richards
Putting the words “writer” and “confidence” together in the same sentence seems like an oxymoron to me. I struggle with issues of confidence in my writing (in other areas of my life too, but let’s not go there). Although I’ve finished and sold four full-length novels and my novella “Burning Love” is being released today by The Wild Rose Press (http://www.thewildrosepress.com/), I always wonder if I can finish another novel. If I do finish it, will it be any good? Will anyone want to read it, or buy it? Or am I just kidding myself about this writing thing?
A writer can drive herself insane with all the negative thinking. It certainly doesn’t help the writing. I can wallow in self-pity or I can try to find ways to work on my issues. So here I go.
Confidence Issue #1 – Rejection. What writer hasn’t faced rejection from an editor or an agent? Or maybe you received a harsh critique, or a less than stellar review. Rejection can cripple a writer if she lets it have that power. I know because it happened to me and I almost quit writing at one point. Knowing I wasn’t the only writer who was ever rejected gave me the confidence to keep on keeping on. Laurie Pawkik-Kienlen says to improve confidence a writer should read other writers memoirs and biographies. http://theadventurouswriter.com/blogwriting/quoted-writers/how-to-improve-your-confidence-as-a-writer/ You will be truly amazed by the number of famous writers who were rejected numerous times before someone finally recognized their talent. If rejection could happen to Stephen King, I must be in good company! Check out this site http://susiesmith13.tripod.com/id12.html for some famous writers’ rejection stories.
Confidence Issue #2 – Sure, I finished writing a novel once, but can I do it again? I’m pretty sure I’m not the only writer who questions their ability to do it again. There are a few things to try here. If a full-length novel seems too daunting, or you’ve started and then abandoned more than one novel, start and finish a smaller project. Dan Goodwin writes in “Five Powerful Ways to Kick Start Your Confidence as a Creative Writer” http://ezinearticles.com/?Creative-Writing-Confidence--5-Powerful-Ways-To-Kick-Start-Your-Confidence-As-A-Creative-Writer&id=626660 that tackling a project you can finish in a couple of hours (like a short story or a blog) will boost your confidence. Nothing drains a writer’s confidence more than beginning an ambitious project that she is unable to finish.
Another way to boost your confidence and to remind yourself that you can finish a project is to keep a list of your accomplishments. This list would record every novel, every short story and every blog post you’ve ever completed. Or perhaps you would like to keep your finished novels lined up near your computer where you can see them every day, just to remind yourself you are a writer who can finish what she starts. Writer Sarah Hilary http://sarah-crawl-space.blogspot.com/2009/09/confidence-and-writer.html celebrates her successes, and uses the confidence that small successes give her to aim at bigger markets and bigger projects.
Alan Rinzler http://www.alanrinzler.com/blog/2009/02/08/how-successful-writers-keep-up-their-confidence/ recommends reading a good book by an author you admire. It’s like holding up a beacon of hope that says “Yes, this can be done!”
Confidence Issue #3 – But is it any good? It takes me forever to finish a book, not because I’m so horribly slow, but because often, I don’t trust my own vision for the book. I go back endlessly and revise, changing plot and characters. Sometimes revision is necessary (okay, my work often needs revisions). But on occasion I’ve let an unfavorable critique totally derail a story, spinning it in directions I never wanted it to go. How do I develop the confidence to trust my own vision?
Writing something every day helps. Dana Mitchells http://www.writing-world.com/life/everyday.shtml says “Writing something every day, no matter how little, will help you overcome these fears [fears of rejection, perfectionism, and poor writing]. It will cause your confidence to escalate, because each day that you actually write something is a day when you have faced your fears.”
Another thing I’m doing to combat this issue to continue learning the writing craft. I’ve taken several on-line classes dealing with plot, characters, sexual tension and many other areas of writing. Currently, I’m reading Donald Maass’ (http://www.maassagency.com/) book “Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook”. I’m working through the exercises and studying other writers’ work so that I can learn to plot and characterize my own novels with confidence.
Do you have confidence issues? Do you find that lack of confidence is affecting your writing? What have you done to try to boost your confidence?
Jana Richards’ novella “Burning Love” will be released today at The Wild Rose Press (http://www.thewildrosepress.com) . Jana would love to hear from you. You can reach her through her website at http://www.janarichards.com/ or join her at http://prairiechickswriteromance.blogspot.com/ where she blogs every other Monday.