How to Recover Your Writing Confidence (Even if You Think You Never Had Any)
This post was first published in June 2011 and most recently updated in February 2023.
I don’t think I’ve ever met a writer who felt completely confident about their writing. Whatever stage you’re at, it’s normal to go through some times when you doubt yourself or your words a little.
In fact, a small degree of self-doubt can be a positive thing. It encourages you to:
- Revise and edit your work thoroughly
- Seek a second option before publishing your writing
- Continue learning and practicing as you develop your craft
However … a deep lack of confidence can be a huge stumbling-block for would-be writers.
If you find yourself constantly revising and tweaking, or if you cringe every time you show a piece of writing to a friend or publish a blog post, or if you work always sounds stilted and guarded … then you might need some help regaining your confidence.
Once, You Were Confident About Your Writing
I titled this post how to recover your writing confidence.
Perhaps you feel that you never had any confidence at all. But I’m certain that at some stage of your writing life, you did.
Maybe it was when you were very small. You learnt to form letters and words, and though it was hard just to write each letter, you persevered.
Maybe you loved writing when you were a child. You wrote stories in the style of an author you enjoyed. (All my early stories were Enid Blyton rip-offs…)
Or maybe you were a teenager when you last felt confident writing. You might have written for the school newspaper. Maybe you wrote poetry or song lyrics. You probably knew that you weren’t perfect – but you still felt pretty confident in what you were doing.
At some stage, you enjoyed writing. It hardly crossed your mind to feel anxious about the process.
But then, something happened. Maybe it was gradual, or sudden. But you lost that confidence. And you started worrying that you just weren’t good enough.
Who Took Your Confidence?
You might have simply lost confidence over time – perhaps you didn’t write for so long that you’re now worried you’ve forgotten how. Sometimes, life gets in the way: you might have had a busy day job, young children to raise, or you might have been grieving the loss of a loved one.
Coming back to writing after a long break can make it difficult to feel confident in your ability to craft stories or articles.
But it could also be the case that your confidence was taken (probably not deliberately) by another person or group of people.
Teachers Can Drain Your Confidence
Over the years, I’ve known a number of writers who suffered a huge blow to their writing confidence as a result of negative feedback from teachers.
Now, I’ve been fortunate enough to have known many excellent teachers (my mum included!) who are great at being encouraging and supportive, and who really help their students to improve their writing.
Unfortunately, not all teachers are so good. The fact that someone’s a teacher or lecturer or writing coach does not mean that their opinion is gospel truth – but many students take it this way.
You might have had your essays harshly criticised in school or at university, or you might have had a piece of creative writing critiqued very negatively.
That doesn’t necessarily mean your writing was “bad”. Another teacher might have judged it very differently. There may also have been positive feedback that you struggled to truly hear, because the criticisms stuck much more sharply in your mind.
Fellow Writers Can Drain Your Confidence
Some writing groups are fantastic, and I’ve been lucky enough to be a member of several very supportive, constructive ones over the years.
Occasionally, though, fellow writers aren’t very constructive in their feedback. Perhaps you’ve been unfortunate enough to have received an unkind review of your work: maybe you had a lot of criticisms but no suggestions on how to improve and no acknowledgement of anything good in your writing.
Writing is very subjective – and some people may not “get” your work simply because it’s not the style or genre that they would write.
Plus, other writers may have their own agenda. Sadly, some people feel better when they put others down – whether that’s in person or, more commonly, online. And some just aren’t very good at giving feedback in a helpful way.
Your Loved Ones Can Drain Your Confidence
Sadly, sometimes loved ones aren’t encouraging or supportive of your goals (even if they intend well). They might not understand why you want to write, and they may not realise how important your writing is to you.
Maybe your partner or a friend said something that made you feel that your writing wasn’t worthwhile. This might not have been a deliberately nasty comment … but one that really hit home, like:
- You won’t make any money from it.
- You’re always scribbling away. Are you ever going to finish anything?
- You should write [something entirely different].
Or perhaps they never really said anything … but you somehow felt that they didn’t really understand you. Writing wasn’t important to them, and that made you question whether it was really important at all.
Five Little Steps to Help You Recover Your Confidence
No-one else “owns” your confidence. However you lost it, you can take it back.
Here are some little steps to take. Don’t feel that you need to hurry through them: take them at your own pace.
Step #1: Play Around With Words
Write something for the sheer pleasure of writing. That might be a haiku, a blog post, a humorous rant, a piece of flash fiction, a letter, a journal entry … anything you want. You might simply want to come up with a list of words.
Step #2: Write Regularly – Several Times a Week
It’s much easy to feel confident when you do something frequently. If you rarely write anything other than emails, build up a regular writing practice. Set aside time on several days each week and write. If you’d like to write daily, go ahead … but you could also aim to follow Laura Vanderkam’s rule “Three Times a Week is a Habit“.
Step #3: Show Your Writing to Someone You Trust
Once you’re into a steady writing habit, choose a piece that you’ve written and show it to a close friend or relative who you know will be supportive. Simply ask them to read it – you don’t have to ask for any feedback or for their opinion (unless you want to).
Step #4: Write for Public Consumption
Now, write something for anyone to read. That could be a blog post, or something much shorter – perhaps simply a post on Facebook, or even a comment on a blog or a news site. Alternatively, how about sending a letter to a magazine?
Step #5: Work to Improve Your Writing
Deep confidence comes from feeling a sense of mastery. So don’t just write, learn about writing. That might mean reading a book, taking a course or even going to a writing-related conference. You might also want to check out my self-study seminars to dig into a particular area of writing.
I know that a lack of confidence can be crippling – but it’s not insurmountable. Good luck! And if this post has brought up any questions or worries for you, please feel free to share them in the comments below.
I’m Ali Luke, and I live in Leeds in the UK with my husband and two children.
Aliventures is where I help you master the art, craft and business of writing.
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