This writing question is from @NinaGPineda who asks:
Hi Mandy! I see writers on these sites I want to post my writing on be carefree about punctuation or even plot and still manage to make the story interesting and get lots of reads. How do I get over the feeling that my writing is lacking and finally share it online?
Great question, Nina.
It’s a good sign if you’re struggling with this question. It means writing is important enough to you that you’re willing to feel vulnerable as you work toward it. And since feedback is so necessary in developing your writing skills, I put together these seven confidence building tips.
Building Confidence as a Writer: 7 Quick Tips
Confidence Booster #1: Write Under a Pseudonym (But Only at First)
Writing under a pseudonym will get you through that awkward first feedback stages while your confidence builds itself. Writing confidence comes with time and exposure. The more you share your writing for feedback, the more you’ll realize that tiny mistakes like spelling errors or the occasional fizzled plot aren’t going to make or break you.
If getting through that initial embarrassment means writing under a pseudonym at first, go for it.
You probably won’t want to write under a pseudonym forever. Living with two names can get complicated. And it’s better to brand yourself as an author if you want to make a career of writing.
Eventually you’ll want to rip off the training wheels and claim your pseudonym. Until then it’ll give you breathing space.
Confidence Booster #2: Activate Your Writing “Observer Self”
My “observer self” is a psychological hack I’ve developed as a blogger. It helps me keep a look out in my writer life for anything that might help you in yours. I’ve integrated it with what Julia Cameron calls the “child artist” in her book The Artist’s Way (affiliate link).
It works like this: Think of your writer self as having two personalities. The first is the “observer self.”
The observer self is that part of you that any writer would do well to cultivate. It’s the part of you that watches your daily interactions, your emotional responses, and the details of your daily experiences (even in the thick of those life-changing experiences and their rollercoaster of emotions) so you can write them later.
Your other writer self is what Julia Cameron calls the “child artist.” Your child artist doesn’t have the emotional detachment of your observer self. It’s the part of you that sees writing as play and whose vulnerability and sensitivity helps him/her know what’s worth writing.
You need both your observer self and your child artist as a writer.
It’s your observer self’s job to ensure that negative feedback doesn’t make your child artist feel like s/he can’t be the writer s/he wants to be. It’s also your observer self’s job to ensure that your child artist gets the helpful feedback, so you can get better at writing.
“Good part of the feedback” doesn’t mean only positive feedback. It means any feedback, positive or negative, that helps you grow as a writer.
Anytime you’re feeling like crap or comparing yourself to another writer or dealing with harsh criticism, activate your observer self.
Our child artist is sensitive for good reason (it makes us better writers). Our observer self is the businesslike but protective parent that protects the artist self and gives you the distance you need to make the right decisions about your writing development.
You need both to be a confident and effective writer.
Confidence Booster #3: Pick Up a Copy of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
We’ve talked about how The Artist’s Way can help you protect your writer self from negative people here before. That this book is so famous just shows you how many writers and artists struggle with the same early lack of writing confidence you’re going through.
Her child artist concept from tip #2 is just one of the many helpful strategies in a book that’s changed the lives of many a writer and artist.
Confidence Booster #4: Obliterate Perfectionism
As a perfectionist myself, I’ll admit that perfectionism works a magic that makes it hard to let go. Because perfectionism helps you do more and do it better than the people around you. But when it stops you from writing or sharing your work with the people who can help you develop as a writer, perfectionism’s got to go.
And if any of these 17 signs perfectionism is killing your writing dreams sound familiar, then the tips there will be especially helpful in building your writerly confidence.
Confidence Booster #5: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (Until the Final Draft)
Try not to focus on things like spelling, grammar, or style in early drafts. That stuff is for the final edits. In the first drafts, what matters is big picture stuff like:
- Do the characters feel real?
- Are there any big holes in the plot?
- Is there enough sensory information (sight, smell, sound, touch and texture, flavors) to make the reader feel like they’re living and experiencing the scene?
Your initial writing efforts should be fun and exploratory. IT IS LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO MAKE A MISTAKE IN YOUR FIRST DRAFT (even if you share that first draft with other people for feedback). Edits and feedback are for bringing that first draft closer to your vision for the story.
Confidence Booster #6: Remember that Feedback Is Just Feedback (And Not All Feedback Is True)
Readers are entitled to their opinions. And some people online are jerks. When you parse the feedback you get using your observer self from tip #2, remember that some of that feedback won’t get you closer to writing the story you want to tell.
If the feedback won’t get your story closer to that vision, throw it out. That goes double for feedback from assholes, unless it helps you discover a solution to a writing problem. Then great! Use it! But that person is still an asshole 😉
Confidence Booster #7: Keep Doing What You’re Doing
Keep asking questions. Keep looking for solutions. Keep thinking about writing and reading about writing. Connect with other writers. Share your work. Ask for feedback. You’ve got what it takes already to make it with your writing. Don’t quit.
Did I miss anything? Share your writing confidence tips in the comments.