How to Increase Your Confidence as a Writer
Do you ever find yourself staring at the blank page, wondering whether you have what it takes to be a writer? Maybe your stories are getting rejected everywhere you send them. Maybe your latest piece got a negative review that's been gnawing at you. Perhaps you're struggling to stay disciplined or haven't written anything for a while.
Committing even a single paragraph to the page seems like an insurmountable challenge. Your expectations of what you want your writing to look like weigh you down so much that it's impossible to make any progress at all.
I've been there before. These feelings are very real, but they aren't permanent. You can work through them and restore your confidence in your writing ability. In this post, I'll show you how to do it.
Let's get started!
The Filters in Your Mind
When writing something for publication, your words pass through various filters. In most cases, this isn't a conscious process. You may not even be aware that those filters are there.
Like most writers, you're likely concerned about the quality of your work. You want to ensure you're putting out the best work you possibly can. That's your first filter.
You may worry about what others think about your stories. You don't want to be ridiculed or rejected. That's another one.
You may also be concerned about the facts in your stories being fair and accurate. You don't want to publish a story that's simply wrong.
These are just examples. Different writers have very different filters. You don't think about them when writing. Instead, they manifest as creative blocks, pathological perfectionism and bouts of procrastination.
Ever wonder why writing can be so exhausting? It's these filters in your unconscious scrutinising every word.
The lower your confidence in your writing, the more aggressive these filters become. Getting anything past them becomes nearly impossible.
Fortunately, you can circumvent these filters and build your confidence back up. As you do, their power over you decreases.
Fast drafting and freewriting are two popular ways to achieve this.
You may be familiar with the term vomit draft. It illustrates the concept pretty well. The goal is to write the first draft as fast as you can without any regard for the quality of what's coming out.
When working fast, your filters don't have enough time to process the stream of words. You're effectively overwhelming the defences in your mind. By the time you start doubting yourself, the words are already on the page, and you're onto the next thing.
Fast drafting works best when you know where your story needs to go next, but you're procrastinating. It can take a bit of practice and some getting used to before you can fully commit and let the words flow.
Your first drafts won't come out as clean at first. But they won't be nearly as bad as you might expect. Agonising over each paragraph for hours doesn't help all that much.
For many authors, fast drafting became an essential part of their writing process. The next time you find yourself on YouTube, trying to avoid writing at all costs, try writing the first draft as fast as possible.
Some editors have a mode that prevents you from deleting anything from your draft. This can help if you find yourself rewriting the same paragraph over and over again.
Freewriting goes even further. It can help you break through the worst creative blocks and find inspiration even if you feel like you will never have another good idea for the rest of your life.
Writers have been using this technique for a long time. I first learned about freewriting from Dorothea Brande's 1934 book Becoming a Writer. It's still one of my all-time favourite books on writing.
Julia Cameron popularised the practice of freewriting in her 1992 book The Artist's Way. Elizabeth Gilbert, Patricia Cornwell, Alicia Keys, Pete Townshend and many other writers and artists credit The Artist's Way as a major influence on their creative practice.
The idea is simple: you write down whatever is on your mind with no intention to publish it. Like fast drafting, this disarms the filters in your mind that are holding you back.
I used to free-write for 30 minutes first thing in the morning for years. I set a timer and wrote down anything and everything that came up. I would write about my plans for the day. Often, I would process various decisions I was making at the time. Sometimes, I'd try different ideas that would make their way into my stories later.
When you first try it, you'll notice how much easier writing without these filters is. I'm a pretty slow writer, but I can free-write 2,000 words in 30 minutes, no problem.
Seeing how many words you can generate in so little time will be a massive confidence boost. Prose will go from being scarce to abundant.
This simple habit showed me that I can write as many words as I please. It gave me the confidence to keep writing that lasts to this day.
Remember that any blocks that may be holding you back are only temporary. You have to unload some of the weight so that you can keep moving forward.
Try fast drafting if you know what to write but are procrastinating.
When it seems like you're hopelessly stuck, try freewriting for a while. It's a great way to find inspiration and restore your writing confidence.
Pretty soon, your words will flow like a river.