Unorthodox Writing Tips 23: Confidence
There is something that no one can give you, but anyone can take away. It’s difficult to build or define, easy to destroy and demean. Any writer I’ve ever talked to suffers from one main thing that you, if you’re a writer, likely share. An issue with confidence.
It doesn’t matter if it’s just a matter of “I wonder if anyone will like this?” or “Is this any good?” even the “I got a bad review, everyone hates me.”
You’re never as good as your best review, you’re never as bad as your worst review. I know some authors that are really good. I mean, I LOVE their work. It’s amazing that so many suffer from confidence issues. It’s no wonder the writing community is filled with support groups and beta readers and communities of morale boosters. Writers are creative types and doing something creative makes you always question if you got something right, or if you think you got it right, could it be better? Maybe if there was just this one more change it would have had a better impact with the reader. If the ending wasn’t so weak and just sort of trailed off…
It’s very easy to second guess what you’re working on. Heck, it’s even easier to find anything better to do with your time that’s easier like sitting down and watching re-runs of Star Trek or FarScape or Dr. Who, go to the movies, take a nap. Writing is very hard. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s a lonely, painful endeavor that has you pouring your heart and soul on the page and when you finally put something out there people will rip it to shreds right before your eyes.
Alright, enough sulking. Pick yourself up and think about what you started writing for in the first place. Yes, writing is hard. There are a lot of rules of grammar, sentence structure, plot, dialog, the list is nearly endless. And if you’re going to self-publish (go Indie) there’s the matter of where to go, formatting, distribution, etc. Writing requires you to be well educated. That’s not a negative. This is a plus. Why?
Those who take the time to educate themselves will persevere. If you can take the time to write something, you can figure out how to get it into readers hands.
But let’s start with writing first. You’ll hear a lot of advice like your first 1,000,000 words will be crap so write them, get them out of the way, and then get down to the business of writing. I don’t agree with this. Everyone has their own learning curve. You may be able to get it right the first time, though that is unlikely. I wrote four books and a LOT of short stories before I really found a writing style that works for me. I wrote for years before I found any success. I had many stops and starts, but I’ve finally found something that works for me.
I tell my favorite daughter all the time, in order to get better at anything you need to practice on a regular schedule. She loves her volleyball and she’s committed to practicing three sometimes four times a week. I write every day now. Every day. Not just sit down one time per day and write something, but I might get up and come back three, four, even fives times in a day to get the words out. Sometimes there isn’t much time and I squeeze in all the writing I can into one session. Again, your results may vary, but you need a schedule. You need to pick a day/time/place and sit and write. Free yourself of distractions because the longer you write during a session, the longer you may want to write. It’s funny how once you get going it’s hard to stop.
Don’t let anyone read your first draft. Please. I’ve done it. I still get a hard time from my friends when they read something and they’ll know quickly if it’s a first draft. Yes, I’ve written a lot of books and short stories (I’m working on getting up to 15 novels and I don’t even want to go back and try to count the short stories) and not to mention the daily blog posts I started, this weekly writing blog. Just this year I’ve put in 120,000 words and will likely surpass my 450,000 word goal on the year. I STILL have first draft issues. Plot holes. Dialog issues. Misspellings. Wrong word usage. It happens. This is how you know you’re passionate about writing is when your fingers are flying and just typing as fast as your brain can output the ideas.
Once you’ve gone through your work at least once, pass it on to some trusted friends that’ll treat you with kid gloves. Nothing hurts more than someone giving you harsh criticism. It’ll stop you in your tracks, make you question what you’re doing, blah blah blah. Friends will usually tell it to you in a way that won’t hurt your feelings or they’ll listen to you rationalize. If you need to explain what you wrote, it needs to be re-written.
Even if you do get harsh criticism, press on. You’ll get a lot worse when you put something out there for the general public to consume so if you can’t handle what your friends have to say, you really need to toughen up, grow a thick skin, let if flow like water off a ducks back, learn from it and move on. There are some harsh critics out there just waiting to beat you down and they’ve beaten down the best (and the worst). You’re not special. You will get bad reviews. You will see a scathing critic. Prepare for them so they glance off and you keep going.
I’ll say it again, “WRITING IS HARD!” Writing a story is the easiest part. Standing behind your work, showing it off in all its glory, being proud of what you’ve done, getting it into the hands of readers and fending off all the negative feedback. That’s not always so easy. Oh, there will be times when you realize that you did a good job on a story and people will love it and that will boost you up, but just make sure that you don’t get it in your head that everything you write will be gold. There will be ups and downs. The trick isn’t to ‘ride the wave’. The trick is to prepare for the roller coaster. Once you’ve prepared yourself, the ups and downs won’t seem so scary and your confidence won’t take such a beating.
Sit down. Write. Prepare. Get yourself out there. You can do it. You should do it. It gets easier each time.
Until next time!