Building your confidence as a Writer
First published in Electric Dreams, April 2018
While I was sitting, staring out of the window wondering what to say and worrying if it would be the right thing for the blog, it came to me that I needed to write about confidence – or a lack of it. As a woman (I’m sure there are men out there who also suffer from a lack of self-confidence but we women definitely out-number them) – we often feel our work is not good-enough to share, or perhaps we so lack confidence we don’t even begin. Or if we begin, we soon give up. I’ve had writers in my creative writing classes who always preface their work with the words, ‘It’s not very good but…’
We – and I am guilty of this too – feel that it’s somehow impolite or big-headed to state that our work is good. There’s always space to improve, of course. Few of us can claim our work is comparable to Shakespeare, Milton, Virginia Woolf or Sylvia Plath. But when we know that our work has guts and power, when we’ve edited it and re-drafted it countless times, why do we still hesitate? Because we are fearful. Because we fear criticism – from others, from the voices in our own heads.
Promoting our work isn’t boasting. There is nothing wrong with saying, Yes, I wrote that. It’s not perfect but it’s good. It has something to say to the world.
Fear holds us back. Fear of rejection. Fear of success. Fear of being ignored.
I will be sixty-two next month. It has taken me a very long time to get a grip on my own self-doubt. In order to produce good work we need to be self-critical and we need to be able to take criticism from others, but we shouldn’t allow that to stifle our voices.
My third book comes out this month. This time I am self-publishing through Matador. I’ve had doubts. I still have doubts. What if people don’t like it? What if they criticise the subject matter? After all, I’ve never been in a war, I’ve never been a refugee – what gives me the right to write about such things? Is the book compelling enough? Are the characters believable? And so on. These nagging questions are always going to be there in one form or another but we, as writers, have to face up to them. I have to face up to them. Not everyone will like my book, not everyone will like your book, or perhaps our books will be ignored – which, in a way, is harder than a critical review. As Anne Lamott says, I still encourage anyone who feels compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. (Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird – some instructions on Writing and Life).
Isn’t that what matters in the end? That you did it. You wrote it. It’s all yours. Be proud. Stand tall. Don’t let anyone cut you down.