A few weeks ago as I was perusing my G+ stream, I came across a post by a young writer who basically said her work was crap and that nothing she created was worth a damn. Of course I stopped, read the post through and then added my two cents worth of support to the others, hoping to help boost her spirits, if even temporarily. It’s important to reach out for support when our confidence is wavering, and I’m glad she did. Still, it’s not the first time I have seen posts like that, nor do I think it will be the last.
Probably the reason that post resonated with me is because maintaining a healthy level of self-confidence in regards to writing is something I regularly deal (struggle) with. I love to write and I love to share, but that doesn’t mean I never wonder if a new piece is as good as the last one. Thinking about not being able to meet people’s expectations in terms of quality or entertainment is a dirty specter that frequently lurks in my head.
So why am I writing this, then? I think anyone who reads my blog posts can see that I write them with my heart on my sleeve, and that I don’t shy away from talking about my mistakes and the tough lessons I’ve learned. I do this partly because sharing those experiences validates the challenges I have faced and reminds me of the strength/courage I developed as a result. When I feel less confident in my abilities, thinking about those things actually encourages me which helps rebuild my self-confidence.
Basically, one thing I’ve learned is that confidence is shaped and it is strengthened or weakened depending on how we handle the challenges that cross our paths. So how does this relate to riding the crazy emotional rollercoaster of ‘Damn! I’m the biggest, baddest writing SOB out there!’ to ‘I totally suck! Nothing I write means anything! Where are my sack-cloth and ashes??!!’ I’ve listed a few suggestions that might help anyone struggling with this issue:
1) Check your perceptions: It is so easy to count our mistakes, isn’t it? If I sat down with you over coffee and asked you to list me your faults, I’m sure within 1 minute I’d have 5 pages of scribbled notes to read. But if I asked you to write down 15 positive things? Sure it can be done, but it would likely take much longer to fill out the second list than the first. It’s important to learn to think positively about ourselves and to appreciate the good things we do. I’m a good mom. I’m a great dad. I work hard. I finish tasks I set my mind to accomplish. Think about these, write them down and post them on a mirror or fridge, if you have to. Once you can do that with relative ease in your everyday life, then apply them to writing: (start small) ‘I wrote 50 words of my manuscript today’, ‘I received a compliment from someone about my work without minimizing it’, ‘I wrote two pages today!’ and so on. How you think about yourself often affects how you feel about yourself, so why not try improving your self-perception?
2) Try not to compare. I was terrible at this. When I started on G+ and other writing sites, I was intimidated by people who had published books, had articles in magazines, had a gazillion people following their blogs, had friends up the wazoo…blah, blah. I’d look at myself and go, ‘There’s no way I can compete with that!’ I literally had to force myself to stop comparing myself to them. Those people probably worked their butts off to get where they are and so deserve their success. Instead, I decided to be happy for them and to support them when I could. That took care of the comparing and taught me to rejoice with others when they found success.
Also, I had to consider my own situation: I have a family, a fulltime emotionally taxing job, and so I write and blog when I can squeeze them in. I had to learn to appreciate what I was able to do with the time and resources I had and be satisfied with that.
3) Write for yourself first. This is the best suggestion I can make for anyone who is struggling with self-confidence in regards to their writing. Writing is personal and it comes from the core of who we are, so it should be meaningful to and resonate with us first before anyone else. I believe that when we do that, the piece is infused with a part of our soul anyway, and somewhere, someone is bound to connect with that. But even if they don’t, the point is to relish and cherish your creation simply because it came from you.
In sum, everyone has their own level of self-confidence which is based on different things, such as social, psychological and sometimes, mental health issues, amongst others. More specifically, life experience, successes and failures, what we’ve been told about ourselves and consequently, what we choose to believe about ourselves. But confidence is not static. It can fluctuate from day to day! The good news is that as much as confidence can be weakened, it can also be strengthened.
I may have opened a can of worms with this post but I’d still love to hear from you Readers. Thoughts? Comments?