Do feelings of inadequacy keep you from writing more often and publishing your work?
Do you suspect your friends pity you and only praise your work because they don't want to hurt your feelings?
Do you fear the words you put on the page will never match the quality of the ideas in your mind?
As writers, we all deal with feelings of inadequacy from time to time, but some writers feel plagued by them. Let's face it—writing with confidence is hard. But if you allow yourself to wallow in these feelings, you won't write enough to improve your work. If you don't improve your work, you'll never build a writing career you love.
How do you escape these feelings?
You can reshape the stories you tell yourself about your work, but will you?
When Self-Doubt Comes Crashing Down
I experienced a nearly career-crippling moment a few months ago.
I spent the week working on the draft for my second book, a blog post on my website, and a guest post for another blog. In total, I wrote more than 8,000 words.
I reviewed my work. It all looked like rubbish—not the normal “crummy first draft,” rubbish—the type of writing you read and think, “Why am I even doing this?”
I thought about deleting every word and giving up. Thankfully, I remembered the ideas I'm about to share with you and pushed forward.
I revisit these ideas when ever I feel stuck, and I bet they'll help you too.
Focus on Helping Others
You're a writer, so you spend a lot of time—likely too much—in your head. You want your words to be perfect so you can feel good about yourself.
If a heavy object trapped your child underneath it, you wouldn't question your strength before trying to lift it. You'd do everything in your power to save them, regardless of your capabilities.
As a writer, it's your job to save readers through your words.
Words lift weight off people's souls, give them an escape from their hectic lives, and touch their hearts. When you focus on the impact your words will have on other people, you'll start writing with purpose, conviction, and strength.
Adopt a Growth Mindset
Let me know if the following scenario describes you.
Your parents and teachers praised you for your intelligence and talent instead of your effort. They always told you how bright you were and how much potential you had.
This type of praise seems benign, but it often leads to a “fixed mindset,” which has a perilous impact on self-image and effort.
“Parents think they can hand children permanent confidence—like a gift—by praising their brains and talent. It doesn’t work, and in fact has the opposite effect. It makes children doubt themselves as soon as anything is hard or anything goes wrong. If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”
Don't be a slave to praise. Embrace challenges. You're reading a blog post on The Write Practice, not The Write Perfectionist.
Research shows us our abilities aren't fixed. You have room to grow as a writer, and you will improve as long as you continue to practice.
Real writers write and hit publish, even when they don't feel like it, because they know it leads to growth.
You can be just-another-writer with a dusty manuscript sitting in their drawer, or you can focus on growth and improvement, regardless of your opinion on your writing skills.
I used to believe writing had to be painful. I've read many a story about the tortured artist who slaved over their work—at the cost of their sanity—to make it great.
The idea of the “tortured artist,” damages confidence, and we need to stop internalizing it in our own work. Pain and art don't have to intertwine with one another. It's okay to have fun!
I enjoy writing. I never had intentions of becoming a big shot author when I started. I just wanted to write.
When I take myself too seriously, my work suffers.
Go back to the “why” behind your writing. You have amazing ideas, clever stories, and interesting characters dancing around in your head.
Don't force them out. Let them out.
What reminders help you keep writing with confidence even when you're filled with self-doubt? Let us know in the comments.
What's something about writing that scares you? Maybe you're not sure how to write believable dialogue; or you've hit writer's block in the middle of your novel; or you just re-read your first draft and now you feel like a terrible writer; or you have a brilliant idea for a blog post, but you're afraid of sharing it with the world.
Today, look that fear straight in the face—and write anyway. Pick up a piece of writing you've put down, or tackle a project you've been avoiding. Take fifteen minutes to write. When you're done, share your writing in the comments, and don't forget to leave feedback for your fellow writers!