Monday Motivation: How to become a confident writer
It’s a common cause that writers almost always doubt their own abilities. Perhaps some of the greats are exempt. Did Shakespeare ever wake in the morning and think: Oh, my God, do I have the talent to write another immortal drama?
But those rare examples aside, imposter syndrome is one that most of us have encountered more often than is comfortable.
Another way of saying this is: we suffer crises of confidence in our abilities and talents.
Fortunately, one of the talks I attended at the London Book Fair last week addressed this problem head on, and the writers on the stage offered three simple pieces of advice to tackle a failure of confidence.
First up was Kate Rhodes, an English poet and novelist. “What you need to do,” she advised, “is put yourself out there. Join a writer’s group, enter writing competitions.” In short, share your work. And she reminded the two hundred writers in her audience about something “really important: if you have finished the first draft of a novel, that in itself is an achievement and well worth celebrating.”
Alwyn Hamilton, Canadian author of Young Adult novels, added that confidence springs from enjoying the writing process, and the best way to ensure that is to “Make sure that you love what you’re writing.”
Hemingway might have been right when he said that there’s nothing to writing: “All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” But actually, while bloodshed might indeed be involved, it’s more, I think, a matter of the heart. If you’re passionately attached to the story you’re telling, then lack of confidence simply isn’t an issue.
And finally, Orna Ross, the legendary co-founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors (that is, writers who publish their own work – an increasingly important sector of the publishing market), gave this simple advice: “If it’s at all possible, write every day.”
I’d add that it doesn’t matter how much you write; in fact, it’s not even necessary to strike the keys of your laptop at all: planning, building characters, researching locations, thinking about your story in a disciplined way, all of these are also part of the writing process.
So, are you a real writer or a sham? Well, if you write, you’re a writer, and should relish that fact. You’re part of an intrepid band of individuals scattered across the world who are turning the stuff of dreams into stories that can amuse, delight and inspire readers.