Everyone questions their worth at one point or another—but especially those of us in creative industries, such as writing, because we face so much rejection.
Whenever we prepare to share a story with others, we’re tempted to judge ourselves by how it might be received. Is it good enough? Are we good enough? Will readers like it? What will they think of us? Is it clever and original? Are we talented? Will a publisher accept it? Do we belong?
I’ve wrestled these nagging doubts, as have many of my friends. If a similar burden is weighing you down, know that you’re not alone and hopeless (or helpless). You can become more sure of yourself with practice. All you need to do is adjust your habits and mindset. For that, I have five tips.
1. Find a Mentor
Every writer needs guidance from someone more experienced. A musician learns to master her instrument from a teacher, and an athlete learns to become a successful team player from a coach. Writers are no different.
Sometimes your worries will be causeless, but they can also indicate that an area of your life is lacking. A mentor can give you the training you need to hone your craft and the perspective you need to stop underrating yourself. After all, they’ve walked the path you’re now traveling on. They’ve survived disappointing detours and tunnels so dark that they considered turning back. They can empathize with your struggles, make recommendations that are directly applicable to your situation, and encourage you to keep pursuing your dreams.
Your mentor might be a favorite teacher, an older relative or friend who writes, or a professional in the publishing industry. If you don’t have access to anyone who matches those descriptions, try researching your favorite authors. Soak up the insights contained in their interviews, articles, and books. A personal mentor you can call or email on a regular basis will be more reassuring than public content, but any source of expert advice is better than none.
When I began writing seriously, I wasn’t acquainted with any other writers. So I scoured the internet for interviews, blogs, podcasts, and YouTube channels to foster my growth. These tided me over until I was able to connect with a real mentor.
2. Talk with Writer Friends
Opening up about your insecurities can be uncomfortable, but it’s essential to overcoming them. Your writing peers will embrace you with understanding and remind you that you’re not trapped in a corner by yourself. All of them are bumping into the same obstacles as you. As you join forces to conquer doubt, you can keep each other accountable. When fellow writers point out places where you may be criticizing yourself too harshly, you’ll develop a healthier, more balanced view of your abilities.
Writer friends can also provide honest feedback on your latest project, identifying problems and suggesting fixes. Each person will have unique strengths they can pass along to you—some will excel at plot and others at prose. As your skills improve through their influence, you’ll have more faith in yourself.
If you don’t have any writer friends, look for some. Facebook, for example, has plenty of writing groups you could join, and a quick search online will likely lead you to a wide assortment of forums and membership programs, or even a local meetup. Ultimately, the relationships you build with other writers and the support you give each other will be worth all the effort.
3. Leave Your Comfort Zone
Have you been putting off writing a particular story because the premise intimidates you? No matter how unequipped you feel, don’t hold yourself back anymore. Each sentence you type will teach you how to move forward. It’s an act of discovery. You’ll learn which characters to include and what emotions you need to evoke. An ambitious concept is an opportunity to stretch yourself, and when you finish, you’ll have an accomplishment to celebrate.
This is one of my personal favorite tactics for boosting confidence. Out of all the stories I’ve written, I’m most proud of the ones I believed I was unqualified to tackle.
Venturing outside of your comfort zone is scary, but the worst-case scenario is that you end up with a terrible first draft. And what’s unusual about that? Every writer does multiple revisions and runs their manuscript through beta readers and editors because the first version is always rough. The need for polishing isn’t a sign of failure but of potential. You’ve fleshed out your idea into a full-length novel, which is the hardest, most important part of the process, and now you can see where it takes you. You and your story can only become stronger from this moment on.
4. Reread Your Old Writing
Revisiting old writing might seem like an activity that’s guaranteed to lower your morale. But that’s because you’re interpreting past mistakes as evidence that you’re a bad writer when the opposite is true. Your less experienced self committed those errors again and again without realizing what you were doing wrong. The fact that awkward phrasing and ineffective scene structure jumps out at you now proves that your knowledge has expanded. Don’t discount that! Instead, recognize the progress you’ve made and imagine how the quality of your writing will increase in the future.
5. Stop Calling Yourself an “Aspiring” Writer
What’s the definition of a writer? Three famous authors offer an answer:
- Gerald Brenan says, “It is by sitting down to write every morning that one becomes a writer.”
- Orson Scott Card says, “Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.”
- And Victor Hugo says, “A writer is a world trapped in a person.”
Though their opinions vary, I want to draw attention to the one detail they have in common: none of them mention publication.
Word choice is as significant in writing as it is in how you refer to yourself. When you use the “aspiring” label, you imply that you aren’t a real writer, which feeds your insecurities. You don’t need a Pulitzer Prize, New York Times bestseller, or even a published piece to be a writer. If you sit down at a desk and fill a document with words, you are one. Consciously strive to view yourself that way.
We Serve a Creative God
As the Christian Storytellers Manifesto explains, we reflect God’s image when we write. J. R. R. Tolkien once summarized it like this: “We make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker.”
You don’t need to earn a full-time living from your writing for it to have value. You don’t need to be a bestseller to be worthy. Your writing is a treasure not because of the money it brings in or the status it achieves, but because of the Creator whose image is embedded in it. And He is where you should base your confidence.
Allison Raymond has been captivated by stories for as long as she can remember. She was only eleven years old when she came to recognize writing as God’s purpose for her life. Although many years have passed since that moment, she has never doubted this purpose. Instead, she chooses to spend her time working hard to make her dream of becoming a published novelist a reality.
Allison grew up in Virginia, Illinois, and Oklahoma. She now lives in Missouri, where she is attending college in pursuit of a degree in Secondary English Education. In the future, she hopes to become a high school English teacher to share her passion for storytelling with aspiring young writers. Currently, she shares this passion on her personal blog and in a large number of her daily conversations.