5 Tips to Boost Your Confidence as a Writer

Writing fiction is a wonderful but delicate thing. We need a certain amount of confidence in order to be able to spend time putting what is in our heads down onto the page or screen. When this is high, we feel more resilient, we're less vulnerable to anxiety and rejection; we are ‘in the zone’ and the focus is on the work.

But what if our confidence is low?

A poll of would-be writers usually reveals two central anxieties that they share: one is a lack of time, which is understandable - but even this is undercut by the second concern: a feeling that, even if they get the time to write, what they write will not be ‘good enough’.

It’s that worry - that the product of our own fiction will simply not be successful with readers - that hinders us from making the time we need to write. If we were totally confident that what we had to say was valuable and would reach readers, we would much more easily rearrange our lives to make sure that we got the stuff out of our heads.

Improving a writer’s confidence can be challenging, especially if that writer has experienced setbacks in the past. Self-esteem is rather unstable anyway, and can fluctuate daily, even hourly. Another complication is that we perceive the writing of fiction as central to our own worth as people. A bricklayer or dentist under critical attack for their products is one thing, but bricks and teeth are physical items, one step away from the person: our own fiction comes, at its best, from our hearts. People criticising that feels much more personal, and it is.

Here are five distinct things we can do to address our confidence as writers:

1. Positively affirm yourself as a writer.

You can do this by saying to yourself several times a day ‘My writing is worthwhile’ but that might clash with any criticism you have received for it in the past. You might instead want to try ‘I will learn to better my writing in every way’. This is pretty impervious to critical remarks and encourages you to reach out and seek real mastery of your art.

2. Identify your strengths.

Critical remarks feed our lack of confidence. They might even be valid, which of course makes it worse. You have to know what your strengths are. What are you good at? There are five basic levels to creative writing and in each one you can be strong. They are:

i) planning and ideas - how organised are you? How strongly do you believe in something that communicates itself through your fiction? Think of Graham Greene or J.R.R. Tolkien and their Catholicism, or J. B. Priestley’s socialism: these world-dominating authors were driven by powerful ideas which they held close to their hearts.

ii) the Bigger Picture in your stories - how do the above beliefs translate into what is at the heart of your plot? For examp