“What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s the question that every child is asked all throughout their growing up years. However, once a person enters college, that question changes to two questions... “What are you majoring in?” I majored in English, and I can’t even begin to count the number of times I was told the degree was useless and a waste of time and money. But what I dreaded even more than hearing the word “useless” again, was the inevitable follow-up question. “What do you want to do with that? Teach English?” No, I would say in the kindest manner possible. I wanted to be a writer and editor. Usually I could detect a slight wince or cringe whenever I said that. Really encouraging. Writers live in a fast-paced world where the goal is often to be rich and famous. Unless you’re a repeat best-selling author, that probably will not be the case for most writers. With our society’s mindset, it’s hard for others to understand why someone would want to be a writer, and the lack of enthusiasm and encouragement quickly becomes discouraging. How then can we be confident in our writing abilities if we’re often being put down? I’ve found a few things that help me when I need a writing confidence boost.
1. Study the Writing Craft
Whenever a person starts a new job, no one expects them to be perfect at it right away. Instead, the new employee is expected to work hard to study the position by going through periods of training. Even long-time employees are often given training to help them keep up on their skills. And remember all those CLEP and DSST exams you took for your degree? You didn’t feel confident about those until you’d studied, right? Writing is the same way. Writers won’t feel confident in their ability unless they’ve studied the craft and have a working knowledge of how to write. So whether you’re a well-seasoned author or a newbie writer, nonfiction writing craft books can be quite the boost to your confidence if you study and employ new techniques.
2. Surround Yourself with Encouragement
While a lot of my friends and extended family don’t understand my passion for writing, my immediate family and closest friends greatly support me. Find those people in your life that are excited for you and what you’re doing. Talk to them if you’re feeling down—I’m sure they’ll have some wonderful advice and be able to lift your spirits. I would also suggest surrounding yourself with inspiration. I write in a corner of my room at my antique desk. On that desk are two candles that I love to burn when I’m writing, and above the desk are pictures of my story’s characters that dear friends of mine have drawn for me. I usually have a mug of tea close by when I am writing as well. All these aspects of my writing space I have chosen because they put my brain into a creative mood. You could print out encouraging emails or quotes, inspirational pictures, story photos, etc., and surround yourself with encouraging inspiration to remind yourself why you love to write.
Honestly, one of the best ways to gain confidence as a writer is to simply write. To practice. Writing is an art, and just like other art forms such as painting or playing an instrument, writing requires practice to really gain your confidence in it. You wouldn’t go to a piano recital and play a song that you’d never practiced before—my goodness would that be a terrifying experience! In the same way, don’t go into writing expecting it to go really well if you haven’t practiced. Stories and essays almost always take multiple drafts before you’re able to really feel confident about them. So if you’re discouraged about a story or just about your writing in general, go practice. Write a short story for fun or play around with your favorite characters or try to give your story a new twist. Getting words down on paper despite discouragement may be difficult at first, but if you keep working hard and practicing, the words will soon be flowing! You may never make a lot of money writing, but if God has called you to write, write for Him—not for other people. Writing is an amazing gift, and God will greatly use you in it, if you let Him! So study your craft, surround yourself with encouragement, and write like no one is watching you. Written by Megan Shupp