I once read a story about Mr. Daly, a poor farmer, his wife and their three kids. As a last ditch effort to save his farm, Mr. Daly spent his last few dollars to buy some new laying-chickens so he could sell their eggs to make ends meet.
However, when the delivery guy came to drop the chickens off, the family was out at Bible study. Not wanting to have to return the next day, he left the crate of chickens on the front step. By the time the Dalys returned home late that evening, the crate was empty and the chickens were scattered all over the property.
The family spent hours in the dark, catching the chickens and putting them into the coops they had pre-prepared. Mr. Daley, tired and frustrated, called the delivery man and said to him, ‘How could you leave the chickens at the front step? We searched for hours in the cold, but could only find 12 of them!”
“Twelve?” the delivery guy exclaimed. “I only brought you six!”
Sometimes, if we look hard enough, we’ll find elements to our nature we didn’t even know existed.
Like Mr. Daly, you already possess the assets you need to succeed!
The same is true for your writing. The confidence is buried deeply, and the good news is that there are steps you can take to tease it out to the fore. Here are some of the things you have to do in order to find and build confidence in your writing ability.
Get out of your ‘learning mode’ to build confidence in your writing
Are you devouring hundred of writing websites each week? Are you trawling though Amazon and other online shops looking for books to teach you the rules of grammar and how to get writing clients? Are you paying much of your hard-earned money on writing course after writing course – learning everything you need to grasp so you can get the writing confidence you seek?
I’m not saying that reading articles and how-to-write books, or enrolling in writing courses is bad; quite the opposite, actually! These are all good practises – but not if they’re all you’re doing.
A baby will never learn to walk if all you do is show her ‘how-to-learn-walking’ videos. She actually has to get down on the floor on all fours and crawl for all she’s worth. If she can’t seem to crawl like the other ‘walking students’ do, she’ll usually drag along on her bottom, or in the case of some kids (like my youngest daughter) creep along on one knee and drag the other leg behind her. (We didn’t know at the time, but she had a mis-formed knee cap in one leg and is now awaiting surgery to fix it. She still learned to walk, though).
The point I’m making is that if you want to build confidence in your writing ability, you simply must get out of your learning mode. You have to crawl, drag along on your bottom or pull one leg behind you, but you must start to ‘practise’.
No one starts perfectly. You’ll make mistakes, you’ll do dumb things and write terribly at first, but you need to practise. So start a blog, guest post or write cheap articles while you’re learning. Whatever, you do, crawl out of the comfort zone of ‘learning’ and begin your baptism of fire by allowing yourself to make mistakes. You become confident by learning from your mistakes.
Learn your craft to build confidence in your writing
This sounds like the total opposite of what we’ve just covered, but it’s not. If you want to build confidence in your writing, you have to learn your craft. Once you’ve read the books, subscribed to the writing sites, and started writing, hone your craft. Sharpen your writing skills, polish them and never stop creating.
Brilliant ways to learn your craft are:
Write every day
You’ve heard that practise makes perfect and it really does. I learned to ride a bike when I was 15. We were very poor and I didn’t have access to a bicycle when I was growing up. When I hit 14 I still didn’t have one, but I had a few friends who had bikes of their own. Every now and then I would remember my desire to learn to ride and would borrow their bikes to learn.
I’d end up with terrible scrapes (and even a serious Achilles tendon damage) because I only did this sporadically. The more injuries I got, the more scared I became to practise riding. Eventually, a friend of mine had enough of my whining and decided he would take a week off in our school holidays to teach me to ride on his bike. Each morning I jumped on his bike and we went out riding – he on his brother’s cycle, and me, on his. Through hours of consistent hard work and lasting bruises I learned to ride. And you know what, later in my life I worked as a missionary and had to use a bicycle to get to some of the places I needed to go to. If I didn’t know how to ride I couldn’t have done this.
Sporadic riding practise brought me no success, though. It was concentrated, regular training that did the trick!
Get a mentor
Even if you don’t have a mentor, keep close to people you think are good at what they do. Copy the things they do until you can find your strength and voice. We’ve each got our definitive voice and way of expression. Find this, and you’ve arrived on the road to advancement.
Reading will definitely improve your writing skill. You’ll see good examples and bad. You learn from bad examples more than you’ll realise at first.
Submit your work to build confidence
I know that on this blog I’m mainly addressing people who write articles and blog posts. Authors will tell you (and as an author of 5 books I can vouch for this) that one of the most stressful times in our careers is the point at which we submit our manuscripts. We wait, sometimes for up to a year (I’ve waited an entire year for an answer from a publisher) only to get a rejection letter in the post. On a side note: authors have to always keep in mind that rejections aren’t personal.
In this post however, I’m addressing freelance writers who create articles and blog posts.
Submit your pieces and get them published. Even a post on your own blog will build your confidence. You’re now a published writer. You have a blog, or you’ve had a guest post accepted. It can also be helpful to submit your work to competitions as well. Even if you don’t win, any positive feedback will build your writing confidence greatly.
Finding that others have benefited from your words has a way of boosting your confidence in your skill. Don’t wait until you think your work is ‘perfect’, get out there. You’ll learn as you go along, and the more positive affirmation you can get, the better your work will become.
Never forget your accomplishments
Finally, in order to build confidence in your writing ability, don’t ever lose sight of your past accomplishments. You may have come from a non-writing, non-reading background, where no one in your family was interested in the arts. You may come from a non-English speaking family and are now writing blog posts in English. You may not have done very well in school. You may have been told you have nothing of value to share with others.
Whatever your story, don’t forget your writing accomplishments. Savour them because they will be the building elements you have to use to keep on your path to success. There will be times when your mistakes will be pointed out crudely. You may look back on your own work in despair. You may find that other newer writers/bloggers are much better than you, or are more successful than you are.
Keep your accomplishments close to you for times like these. You’ve already dodged stumbling blocks to be where you are. You’ve dragged yourself along the ground – sometimes on your bottom – in order to get to where you are at this point (regardless of where you are with your writing at present).
Remember that even if you have one little accomplishment now, dwell on this and carry on. Tomorrow you’ll have two, and before the end of the year, you’ll have a lot more.
Please share other ways you use to build confidence in your writing ability. What’s the one thing you’d advice new writers to do in order to build their writing confidence?
Anne Lyken-Garner is a blogger and published author. She also wrote her inspirational memoir, ‘Sunday’s Child’ available on Amazon. She blogs at the popular personal development site, How To Build Confidence, where she shows people how to build self-confidence, based on her life experience and qualifications.