Five EASY Ways To Become A Confident Writer

    July 25, 2003

A healthy measure of confidence is vital to your growth and success as a writer. If you feel that you need more confidence, start working on developing your confidence NOW. Without a reasonable measure of confidence, you won’t even attempt writing assignments which are well within your capabilities.

Being confident means trusting yourself. I tell my copywriting students: “If you can write a letter that people can read and understand, you can write copy”. Not only can you write copy, you can write just about anything you can set your mind to. If you’re a writer, you can write magazine articles, novels or nonfiction books — because they’re just changes of form. When you’ve become a confident writer, picking up a new set of writing skills takes no time at all.

Want to become more confident? Try these five ways —

=> One: Write a lot

Develop a writing practice. You can only become comfortable with the act of writing by writing — a lot. When you write each day, you become comfortable putting words on the page, and doing it day after day, after day.

The only way to do this is to do it. It’s the same with any skill — use it, or lose it. Sports people know this. So do pianists, ballet dancers and artists. You must *practise*.

*Practise* means writing just for the sake of writing. Your practice work is not-for-publication writing. Many writers have problems with this, feeling that they’re wasting time. You’re not, any more than a ballet dancer wastes time as she practises for hours each day to stay limber. You must practise to keep the “writing” connections active between your left and right brain. If I don’t do any practice writing for a day, I can feel it — my writing flows less well, and it takes me twice as long as it should to write an article or a chapter in my novel. A famous concert pianist said that if he didn’t practise for two days he noticed, if he didn’t practise for three days the audience noticed.

Here’s a challenge: write a thousand words a day for the next 14 days. Just write a thousand words a day in your journal. At the start of your 14-day stint, take a measure of your writing confidence on a scale of one to ten. One indicates low confidence, ten is highly confident. At the end of 14 days, measure your confidence again. At the end of the 14 days you will find that your confidence has at least doubled.

When you write every day, you train your mind. If you don’t write every day, your mind becomes flabby. It doesn’t matter what you write, just write.

Your EveryDay Write, our free daily ezine, will help you with your writing practice. You get a writing prompt and a writing tip in your Inbox each day—

=> Two: Share your writing

Sharing your writing takes courage. However, unless you’re prepared to share your writing, you can’t become a confident writer. Writers write to be read, after all.

How do you do this?

You can:

* join a writers’ group;

* offer your writing for sale; or

* create a blog (Web log).

When you begin to share your writing, you’ll be nervous. After several months, your nervousness will fade. After a year or two, you won’t remember that you were ever nervous.

=> Three: Read

Writing is part of modern culture, and writing changes over time. A novel written a hundred years ago is very different from a modern novel. Writing for the Web is different from writing for print. All magazines, whether they’re for a general or a trade audience, have a different voice. You’ll become aware of the voice of a publication by reading it. Similarly, your voice when you write a genre novel will be different from your voice for a mainstream novel.

You need to read enough to assimilate much of this type of information subconsciously. Read anything and everything. What you read isn’t as important as the act of reading.

=> Four: Trust yourself

When you write every day, and combine this with reading, you will become aware of what you’d like to write. You’ll read something and think: “I could write that!” Many novelists start off reading a particular genre — romance, mystery, fantasy— and get an “Aha!” moment like this.

Trust yourself. If you think you can, you can. However, this doesn’t mean that it will be effortless. You’ll need to develop craft. Give yourself plenty of time to learn, and enjoy the learning process.

Trusting yourself is vital to the learning. If you think you could write a romance novel, you can. You may need to write five novels before you sell the first one, however. Take heart. Once you’ve sold the first one you’ll be able to tweak the others and sell them too.

=> Five: Befriend your anxiety

If you develop a writing practice, where you write every day just because you’re a writer, you’ll have less writing anxiety.

That said, writing anxiety is common. It’s a form of performance anxiety. Actors get stage fright, writers get page fright. :-)

Expect to become anxious. Then realize that it’s just something that happens and carry on writing anyway. Some researchers feel that the anxiety occurs because your brain is switching gears, from beta consciousness to alpha. If you wish, you can time your anxiety. From the time you start a writing session on a specific piece of work, you’ll notice that your anxiety never lasts for longer than 11 minutes. This tends to bear out the beta to alpha switching theory.

You CAN become a confident writer. Start by writing more. The more you write, the more you will grow as a writer. The five easy ways above will increase your confidence — that’s guaranteed. And with unlimited confidence in yourself as a writer, you can achieve any writing goals you choose to set for yourself.

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