Three Types of Self-Confidence That Will Help Your Writing Career (and How to Boost Yours)

16 Nov 2020 | Motivation

This post was originally published in March 2017 and updated in November 2020.

What’s holding you back from writing?

A lot of writers say their biggest problem is “finding time” … but sometimes the underlying problem is really a lack of self-confidence.

Maybe other priorities keep crowding out your writing.

Maybe you feel that there’s not much point writing because it’s so hard to get published.

Maybe you enjoy writing but you secretly worry you’re not very good at it.

All of those problems can show up as “I don’t have time” when really, you might find that you could make the time if only you had more confidence.

Self-confidence doesn’t mean having an unshakable (but potentially unwarranted!) certainty that you’re an excellent writer. It’s more about being able to value yourself and your writing, and being able to put your writing out there into the world without feeling unduly anxious about doing so.

As I see it, there are three types of self-confidence that you can develop as a writer:

  • Confidence in your writing itself – the nuts and bolts of the craft
  • Confidence in your ability to get things done – seeing projects through
  • Confidence that your writing is worthwhile – it’s important and it matters

#1: Confidence in Your Writing

As a writer, it’s obviously important to feel a certain confidence in what you’re doing. If you’re a freelancer, you want your writing to be of a professional standard – not necessarily amazing, but certainly competent. If you write fiction, you want readers to enjoy your stories.

To boost your confidence in this area:

  • Remind yourself that you are good at writing. How can you be sure? If you’ve had work published, if you’ve been paid, if you’ve been shortlisted in competitions, if you’ve received positive feedback … anything like that.
  • Keep working on your craft. Read good blogs about the “how” of writing (try the excellent Helping Writers Become Authors, which focuses on fiction and Craft Your Content, which focuses on non-fiction).
  • Swap work with other writers. You might do this in a peer workshop setting, as part of a course, or simply as a private arrangement with a writing friend or two. Receiving (and using) feedback before putting your work out there into the world can help you be confident that you’ve made it as good as it can be.
  • Save any nice reviews or testimonials. As you progress as a writer, you’ll hopefully be getting at least some reviews (of your books) or testimonials (from freelancing clients). If you blog, you might get comments saying “this was just what I needed to read!” or emails thanking you for your writing. Keep at least a few of these somewhere safe, so you can read over them when self-doubt creeps in.
  • Remind yourself of past successes. I record “achievements” each month and it’s great to be able to look back over these and see what I was up to a few years ago. Even on bad months, I can always find something to record – and looking back over time helps me see how small successes add up.

 #2: Confidence in Your Ability to Get Things Done

Even if your writing itself is very good on a craft level – you can turn a beautiful sentence and put together a well-structured article – it’s hard to feel confident if you struggle a lot to get things done.

One of the biggest problems I hear about, after “finding time,” is “procrastination”. If you find yourself procrastinating a lot, this can be both a symptom and a cause of a lack of confidence. It works something like this:

  • You’re feeling unconfident about your project-in-progress so you put off working on it…
  • The more you put that project off, the larger it looms in your mind, until it seems nearly impossible to start…
  • You start telling yourself “I never finish anything” or “there’s no point even starting” or “I’m rubbish at focusing” … and this knocks your confidence even further.

On the flip side, if you’re good at doing the things you set out to do, this can help you to value your writing. For instance, if you decide that you’ll write for two hours every Saturday from 7.30am – 9.30am and you stick to it, this helps you make genuine progress, and shows you (and the people around you!) that you’re serious.

To boost your confidence in this area:

  • Make and keep your writing commitments. To begin with, make small focused commitments, like “I will write from 8pm – 9pm on Wednesday evening this week”. I find it helps to tell someone else (try your partner, friends, or Twitter followers) to help you feel accountable.
  • Get organised. I know that’s not something you can do overnight, and I know some writers are more naturally organised than others … but if you can move towards being more organised, it really will help you get things done.
  • Take a time management course or buy a good book. A great one to start with is Get Everything Done (and Still Have Time to Play) by Mark Foster. It’s a succinct guide to time management with lots of helpful exercises and techniques. If you want a comprehensive system, Getting Things Done is a very popular one. Another great option is Michael Hyatt’s Free to Focus, which takes a more holistic view.
  • Commit to finishing. Choose one project, preferably a smallish one like a short story or blog post. Focus on finishing that before you tackle anything new. If you’ve started projects that you no longer have any interest in, finish them by deciding to let them go: close down that old blog, or abandon that half-finished poem for good.

#3: Confidence that Your Writing is Worthwhile

This is a tricky sort of confidence to address, but I think it’s sometimes the most crucial type.

If you’re going to get far as a writer, you need to have a certain confidence that your writing – not just writing in general, but your writing – is worthwhile.

You need to be able to believe (at least some of the time!) that your writing matters. That it’s important.

For some writers, though, this type of confidence has sadly been seriously dented – perhaps very early on, or perhaps through a particular negative experience. This could look like:

  • Parents saying “writing’s just a hobby, you need a real job”
  • Classmates mocking your writing or laughing at you for wanting to write
  • Colleagues telling you that “you have to be famous to get published anyway”
  • A teacher or tutor being unduly critical about your writing
  • An unsupportive spouse who rolls their eyes at your writing and clearly sees it as a bit pointless
  • Literary friends who clearly see your type of writing as hackery

This type of confidence might take some time to rebuild. Please rest assured though that your writing does matter. It’s an important, perhaps crucial, part of who you are … and you don’t yet know what effects it may have in the world.

To boost your confidence in this area:

  • Join a writing group or meet regularly with other writers. This is harder in person right now due to Covid, but you could try an online group or forum like my Writers’ Huddle site.
  • Subscribe to a writing magazine. Here in the UK, Writers Forum, Writing Magazine and Mslexia are all great ones. A magazine subscription is a fairly small financial commitment that brings you a steady stream of writing inspiration and handy tips.
  • Read writing-related blogs regularly. Blogs are free, so you’ve no excuse here! If you’re not already a regular here at Aliventures, don’t forget you can get posts direct to your inbox – click here to find out more.
  • Set aside some special time for your writing. This in itself can help you see your writing as important and worth doing. You might try a day-long or overnight retreat, or simply a two-hour “artist’s date”, as Julia Cameron recommends in The Artist’s Way.

Even Well-Established Writers Sometimes Struggle with Confidence

Please don’t think that a lack of confidence in any way suggests that you’re not a good enough writer. Lots of excellent writers still go through times of low confidence or even outright writers’ block.

In fact, worrying that you could (and should) be a better writer can actually be an indication that you’re already pretty darn good: this is part of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

It’s perfectly natural to feel a lack of confidence at times. Maybe you’re struggling to get a new technique to work for you, or something in your plot or your structure just isn’t quite coming together. Keep writing anyway: there’s no better way to learn.

Watch out, too, for how confidence shifts along with your mood and/or your energy levels. If you’re anything like me, you might have some days when you feel like you could tackle almost any challenge, before breakfast … and other days when you’re pretty much convinced that you’ve spent the whole of your writing life somehow fooling everyone, and you’re about to be exposed as a terrible writer.

Here are some practical things you can do:

  • Schedule time to write and use it. Try my Supercharge Your Writing guides for lots of practical tips and support with this.
  • Keep learning about the craft of writing, and put what you learn into practice. Try my self-study seminars to dig deep into the areas that interest you most.
  • Surround yourself with other writers – in person (if the Covid restrictions in your area allow it), online, through blogs and through magazines.
  • Remind yourself that your writing does matter and that it’s worth doing.

Don’t let a lack of confidence stop you. Keep writing, even when it feels tough … and you’ll soon find that you start to get your confidence back.


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.

My Novels

My contemporary fantasy trilogy is available from Amazon. The books follow on from one another, so read Lycopolis first.

You can buy them all from Amazon, or read them FREE in Kindle Unlimited.


  1. Victoria @ NatureImmerse

    I think self-confidence is extremely important in almost every aspect of our lives, yet so many people struggle to find it. Sadly, this can be a vicious circle: people who lack self-confidence can find it difficult to become successful.

    After all, most people are reluctant to back a project that’s being pitched by someone who was nervous, fumbling, and overly apologetic.

    On the other hand, you might be persuaded by someone who speaks clearly, who holds his or her head high, who answers questions assuredly, and who readily admits when he or she does not know something.

    Confident people inspire confidence in others: their audience, their peers, their bosses, their customers, and their friends. And gaining the confidence of others is one of the key ways in which a self-confident person finds success.

    The good news is that self-confidence really can be learned and built on. And, whether you’re working on your own confidence or building the confidence of people around you, it’s well-worth the effort!

    • Ali

      Yes, it’s a tricky thing as it can become a bit of a vicious circle: you lack confidence, so you don’t take on new projects (or as you say, other people don’t back them) … and then you feel even less confident!

      I absolutely agree with you that self-confidence is something we can all be proactive about building, though; little steps can really add up here.

  2. Keynikka

    I believe that I struggle with confidence in my writing. I think this is because I have just started writing and think others will not take my writing seriously. This article is helping me with that lack of confidence. These are great tips!

    • Ali

      Glad to help! It can be very difficult when you’re just starting out — there’s a lot to learn (with writing and with any new endeavour). The best thing you can do is to simply keep writing — and, if possible, find other writers who are fairly new to it, and support one another. Hope you have many wonderful years of writing ahead of you!

  3. Rebecca

    Last week I had a coaching session where I was encouraged by my coach to write down all the evidence I had that I could write. She got me to draw a table and write ‘I can write’ on the table top. I then wrote the evidence in the legs, so that in the picture the evidence was holding up the belief by the time I had finished. It was very empowering. Thanks for the link to the Dunning-Kruger effect. I had wondered about this before – how competent people can worry about how capable/incapable they are and vice versa. Great blog post, Ali. Thanks!
    Rebecca’s last blog post ..Spicy chocolate, truffles and change

    • Ali

      What a great exercise!

      One of my most memorable moments of the Dunning-Kruger effect in action … my younger sister showed me a painting she’d done (she’s very artistic, and paints as a hobby) and I admired it. She said she’d done some of the brush strokes badly and I honestly *could not* see what she meant (though she was pointing right at the bit she wasn’t happy with!)

      I suspect it’s like that for writers too: I might think that a sentence reads awkwardly or that I’ve phrased something poorly … but readers wouldn’t notice for a moment!


    I think that this article is great for people who are insecure about themselves and will definitely share this great article!

    • Ali

      Thanks Lisa!


  1. Do You Need to Take (Yet Another) Writing Course? Here’s Why it Might be a Bad Idea | Aliventures - […] understand how much of an issue self-confidence can be for many writers. It can be tempting to take course…

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