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Sitting down to write is a deeply vulnerable, emotional experience. And a writing career is an emotional roller coaster. Sometimes, you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world; other times, you’ll feel like the gum on the bottom of somebody’s shoe. In the face of countless emotionally charged circumstances, is it any wonder that most writers will struggle with low confidence and poor self-esteem at some point in their careers?
At Writer’s Relief, we know confidence issues can strike creative writers at any time. New writers dream of the day when a big writing award or book deal finally “entitles” them to feel confident, while veteran writers long for the easy confidence they had before they needed to live up to the expectations of their audiences in a world full of critics, haters, and trolls.
If you’re hoping for a long career as a writer, learning to maintain a healthy sense of confidence is key to preventing writer burnout during every stage of your journey.
The Truth About Where Writing Confidence Comes From
Feelings of confidence are closely connected to feelings of empowerment. You feel confident when you feel in control—when you know what you’re doing and you know you can do it well.
Confidence and empowerment are cousins in my opinion. Empowerment comes from within and typically it’s stemmed and fostered by self-assurance. To feel empowered is to feel free and that’s when people do their best work. You can’t fake confidence or empowerment. —Amy Jo Martin
A lack of confidence comes from feeling helpless or inadequate, from a sense that your success (or lack thereof) is being governed by the whims/opinions/judgments of others.
So what are some things you can do to feel more confident as a writer?
3 Things You Can Do Right Now To Feel Instantly More Self-Confident And Empowered
Raise your arms. Some studies have shown that certain positions—called power poses or power postures—can have a positive effect on self-esteem and outlook. Hold your arms over your head in the shape of a V for two minutes, then see how you feel.
Dance to a great beat. Dancing—alone in your office or out on the dance floor—can be a huge confidence booster. Dancing fills your body with happy chemical signals that can lead to feelings of empowerment and optimism. Bonus points if you nod along to the beat! The action of nodding has been shown to have a positive effect on self-confidence.
Do something kind. Buy a coffee for the person in line behind you. Send a nice “thinking of you” letter (you know, the kind with a stamp) to an old friend. Random acts of kindness are major boosters of empowerment and self-confidence!
The 7-Day Plan To Immediately Boost Your Confidence As A Writer
You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will. —Stephen King
Day One: Step back. Take a vacation day from writing and reading—and from thinking about reading and writing. Unplug entirely. When worries about your future as a writer arise, gently let them go. You don’t need them today. Tomorrow, you can decide if you still want them—or if you got along fine without them.
Day Two: Grab a notepad. Write down the absolute worst-case scenario of what could happen to you in your writing career. Look your worst fears square in the face. Write down the yuckiest, most terrible future you could think of for your publishing goals.
Then consider this question: So what?
If the very worst were to happen in your writing career, would you still be able to live a good life? Would you let these setbacks become the defining tragedy of your life? Or would you be able to move on and make the most of your time here on earth? What does your reaction mean for your writing and your self-esteem?
We won’t tell you what conclusions to draw, but we suspect you can see how liberating it can be to look at your monsters and see them for what they really are.
You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ —Eleanor Roosevelt
Day Three: Create a celebration journal. At the end of each day, write down the good things that happened to you. Did you enjoy a good writing session? Did you meet with fellow writers, which helped you feel less alone? Did you get a nice compliment worth savoring? Focus only on the positive feelings you get from writing. (And—hint, hint—you can also include favorite non-writing experiences in your journal too!) Savoring is a powerful way of creating positive-thinking patterns that last. This article may also help change your perspective: 6 Signs Your Writing Career Is On Track (Even If You Don’t Think It Is).
I think that you have to believe in your destiny; that you will succeed, you will meet a lot of rejection and it is not always a straight path, there will be detours—so enjoy the view. —Michael York
Day Four: Do some writerly housekeeping. Time to renovate your writing life! In your new journal, identify the triggers that typically make you feel crummy about yourself: rejections, lack of support from family and friends, run-of-the-mill critiques, etc. Dedicate one page per trigger. First, notice what assumptions you are making about your triggers (the rejection letter didn’t include a written note, so I guess there’s no point in submitting my other writing to that editor). Determine which dangerous generalizations are sneaking into your thoughts (I’ll never, ever get published). After you’ve evaluated the fact-based truth versus your thinking patterns, write positive responses that you can refer to each time you encounter one of your triggers. Then, when you encounter a trigger for negative feelings and low self-esteem, you’ll be ready to combat it with a powerful, empowering response.
Day Five: Get outside. Take some time to get outdoors and take advantage of nature-inspired positive thinking. Whether you’re sitting at a sidewalk café or hiking in snowy woods, being outdoors can help you reconnect to your core values as a living, breathing being. The world is bigger than you can imagine. Bigger than your goals. Bigger than your worries. Bigger than your self-esteem. You’re just one person—and that’s okay. Take refuge in your freedom to move through this remarkable life experience as you please.
You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do. —Eleanor Roosevelt
Day Six: Reconnect with family and friends. Having a support system can help you get through even the lowest points of your writing career. Don’t be afraid to call up a friend and have a good cry if you need to. Sometimes, just saying your fears out loud is enough to disempower them. And people who care about you can be great at shoring up your self-esteem.
Day Seven: Identify better goals. Your old goals may have been vague ideas like “get published,” “get an agent,” or “win a writing contest.” But those days are over. When your goal is the process—as opposed to the end point—you shift your mind-set toward self-empowerment and confidence. Instead of pinning your dreams on factors you can’t control, create goals like “write 500 words a day,” or “submit 25 submissions this month,” or “sign up for a writing conference.” Read this: Five Mistakes Writers Make When Setting Their Writing Goals. Then, write down three new goals you know you can stick to—and make a note in your celebration journal when you succeed!
How To Build Confidence In Your Craft As A Writer
Let’s face it: When you know what you’re doing, you feel more confident about doing it. To gain confidence in your writing, invest in your talent by regularly sharpening your skills. Here are a few things you can do at home to improve your craft and become a better, more confident writer without breaking the bank for expensive classes.
Get a library card. It’s been said again and again: Reading is one of the best ways to become a better writer. Make active reading a daily habit. And be sure to read like a writer.
I tell writers to keep reading, reading, reading. Read widely and deeply. And I tell them not to give up even after getting rejection letters. And only write what you love. —Anita Diamant
Schedule time for writing. Every time you sit down to write, you are both teacher and student. The act of writing—in and of itself—is very instructive. In fact, some people believe it takes ten thousand hours of “practice” writing before you reach a professional level.
Connect with others. You may find that your creative writing improves—and your self-confidence does too—when you begin to connect with other creative writers. Buy books at local author reading events—and talk to the writers! Attend an open mic night in your area. Join a local writing group or a creative writing forum online. Find a list of writing organizations here.
Submit work for publication. Don’t let a lack of confidence hold you back from submitting your creative writing to literary agents or editors. You can learn a lot from editorial feedback, especially if you know how to interpret rejection letters.
Worried that rejection letters will shatter your self-esteem levels? Read on.
How To Keep Rejection Letters From Destroying Your Self-Esteem
At Writer’s Relief, we always caution our clients that it can take up to one hundred submissions to earn a single acceptance letter. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen creative writers submit to dozens of literary markets before finally connecting with the right literary agent or editor.
Creative writing is an industry based on subjectivity and opinion. For that reason, rejection letters are par for the course. Rejection might make you feel dejected from time to time, but there’s no reason to let it derail your confidence. Here’s how to handle rejection in your writing career.
Check Out The Eight Rs Of Dealing With Rejection Letters
Reaction: What’s your initial reaction to a rejection letter? Whatever it is, accept it. Allow yourself to feel it deeply. Don’t run away from your emotions. Instead, embrace them for good or bad. You may even want to write about your feelings in your journal if they are especially strong.
I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. —Michael Jordan
Release: Once you’ve accepted your feelings, it’s time to let them go and make room for new, more constructive attitudes. How can you do this? Perhaps rip up your journal page about how the rejection letter made you feel and symbolically throw it away. Or maybe you want to take a few swings at the punching bag at a gym. Find a way to acknowledge and then release your negative feelings.
Resist: Resist the temptation to let negative feelings resurface and take hold of your choices. Instead of stewing and mulling over your so-called failure to get an acceptance letter, take action. Keep moving. Do something that’s going to ensure forward momentum in your writing career.
Recap: For writers, no experience is wasted. Savvy writers learn from their rejection letters. What can you learn from yours?
Was I bitter? Absolutely. Hurt? You bet your sweet ass I was hurt. Who doesn’t feel a part of their heart break at rejection? You ask yourself every question you can think of— what, why, how come—and then your sadness turns to anger. That’s my favorite part. It drives me, feeds me, and makes one hell of a story. —Jennifer Salaiz
Regroup: Although it’s tempting to want to believe that talent alone can get a writer to the top of his or her field, the truth is there’s also a lot of grunt work involved in approaching literary markets. Timing, market trends, financial influences, changing staffs—all of these elements can dictate the success of a submission on any given day.
For that reason, writers need lots of determination and dedication to help ensure their submissions wind up in the right place at the right time. Making lots and lots of submissions on a consistent schedule can help ensure your creative writing will be in the right place at the right time when Lady Luck decides to smile on you. So dust yourself off, regroup, and submit your writing to even more places. Read: Writer Self-Test: Are You Missing New Opportunities For Success?
Reach for help: If you can’t make strong, effective, habitual submissions on your own, find help. Writer’s Relief has been helping creative writers connect with literary agents and editors of literary journals since 1994. Learn more about our services.
Motivation is when your dreams put on work clothes. —Benjamin Franklin
Repeat: Sending out submissions is part of the lifelong work of being a creative writer. In a best-case scenario, your submission process will be as dependable and habitual as the cycles of the moon. After you have submitted one work to a literary agency or editor, lay the foundation for your future submissions immediately—and ensure that the cycle will go on.
Resilience: Eventually, the submission process does become less emotionally painful. Writers who dedicate themselves to an ongoing submission process learn to shrug off rejection letters as a natural part of their writing career. It takes time, but if you continue making submissions, you’ll find that your self-esteem as a writer is not tied to the number of rejections or acceptances you receive.
I discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. They teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, ‘To hell with you.’ —Saul Bellow
How To Keep Other Writers’ Successes From Eroding Your Confidence
Every writer’s path is unique. That said, comparing your writing career to other people’s careers sometimes feels unavoidable. But comparisons lead to feelings of jealousy that can shake the foundations of a writer’s already fragile self-confidence. If the green-eyed monster is standing between you and your sense of personal empowerment, here are a few things you can do to turn jealousy into self-confidence.
- Use jealousy to motivate yourself. One of the nice things about seeing peers succeed is that it proves what seems impossible is actually pretty darn possible. And if they can do it, you can too! Instead of feeling jealous, feel encouraged to know that success is not a pipe dream.
- Say “congrats” and mean it. Being gracious feels good. And if you’re struggling with envy, you need all the good feelings you can get. It pays to be a nice writer (on many levels).
- Pick some brains. Maybe your writing partner’s success leaves you feeling a little bit jealous—but his or her gain can be yours too if you see it as a learning opportunity. Ask questions, learn, and then make a plan to continue along your own unique writing path.
- Talk it out. Don’t keep jealousy bottled up inside. Confide in a close friend or spouse. And when your kind friends remind you of all the reasons you shouldn’t be jealous, don’t blow them off. Be open to hearing—really hearing—their words.
- Don’t be afraid of envy. If being uncomfortable with jealousy makes you avoid writing groups and writers’ conferences, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Push through your feelings courageously and never let them stop you from creating opportunities for yourself.
Self-Confidence Boosting Affirmations for Writers
French psychologist Émile Coué de la Châtaigneraie is famous for his affirmation: “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.” He believed regularly repeating positive phrases (affirmations) could lead to greater confidence and self-esteem.
The theory behind affirmations is that habitual repetition can change your thinking patterns to create positivity and self-confidence.
In a field where rejection letters are an expected consequence of making writing submissions, positive statements can help stave off low self-esteem.
Here are some examples of positive affirmations that can improve your self-confidence as a writer:
I am a writer. Writing is my art.
I am not at the mercy of my muse. I can find inspiration at any time.
I can visualize success, and I have the patience and talent to reach it.
My writing is strengthened by constructive criticism from others and from myself.
I write every day, with confidence and eagerness.
I can create rich images.
I am creative. My words flow.
I can be a successful writer and a successful (mother/lawyer/cabdriver).
Rejection letters are guideposts on my path—from which I can move on.
You don’t have to rely on someone else’s writer affirmations—you can create your own! Here are some tips:
- Focus on only one or two phrases at a time.
- Use the present tense (not future tense). Instead of “I will be more famous than Elvis,” try “I am evolving as a writer every day.”
- Don’t lie. Your subconscious will reject flat-out lies. If you aren’t already a bestseller, don’t use an affirmation like “I am a best-selling author.” Try “I am moving toward my goal of writing a great novel.”
- Make it a habit. Peg your affirmations to daily tasks like brushing your teeth or making a cup of coffee.
- If you practice yoga or meditation, hold your affirmations in your mind.
- Display your affirmations prominently. Put them on a sticky note by your computer monitor or hang them on the bathroom mirror.
More Quotes And Mantras To Inspire Confidence In Your Writing
To build your confidence, surround yourself with empowering phrases and quotes. Every week, post a new confidence-boosting quote near your writing place. Read it, internalize it—make it yours!
Here are a few more confidence-boosting and empowering quotes for writers to get you started.
Best advice on writing I’ve ever received. Finish. —Peter Mayle
It is confidence in our bodies, minds, and spirits that allows us to keep looking for new adventures. —Oprah Winfrey
Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love. —Brené Brown
Confidence is a habit that can be developed by acting as if you already had the confidence you desire to have. —Brian Tracy
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. —Eleanor Roosevelt
Long-Term Thinking: Proper Care And Maintenance Of Your Confidence As A Writer
Maintaining a sense of confidence and empowerment over the course of a long writing career means checking in with yourself regularly to ensure that you are always taking steps in a positive direction—and not sliding back into negativity.
The most important thing you can do to maintain your confidence as a creative writer is to never forget the reason you fell in love with writing in the first place!
When you want to give up, return to the written word. As long as you love writing, you’ll keep writing. That’s what matters most. —Writer’s Relief
Instead of worrying about whether or not you are confident, shift your focus to what you love about your work—and let your fears, insecurities, and inhibitions go. There’s a reason you fell in love with writing. That passion may get obscured over time by things like family responsibilities, insecurity, and distraction. But the flame of your passion to write is always inside you, flickering and sparking. Find it, and you’ll find your confidence there too.
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And if you need help making submissions of your creative writing, it would be an honor to hear from you.
WRITERS, Can You Help Us?
Please share in our comments section your thoughts about what it takes to stay confident as a creative writer. Other writers will appreciate hearing what you have to say!