Is Writing Getting You Down? 5 Ways to Increase Your Writerly Confidence
If you keep losing your energy, or you’re sapped because of high expectations, don’t worry—you’re not alone. Though critiques can be most helpful, too many of them can leave us depleted, as can the sense that you’ll “never” complete your project or tap the readership you desire. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to give you and your work a pep. Here are just a few of them.
Write something smaller or lighter, as well. When I teach flash fiction courses at Grub Street, I often hear writers saying that even though they don’t identify as a “flash fiction” writer, they love writing something very short. Just by writing a 500-word story each week (or poem? or journal entry) many writers feel a sense of achievement and closure. Besides, you don’t even have to take a course to try your hand at tiny pieces. Just give yourself a word limit, and see how you fly. By doing so, you might find that you bring a renewed energy back to your larger project(s). Also, don’t be afraid of writing something that feels “lighter” in energy too, such as a humorous essay or post, or a piece that you write for your blog or for friends. Perhaps take a Grub Street course or seminar in an area you’re unfamiliar with. It could be the shot of energy you need to get you back to enjoying your work.
Remind yourself why you write. As famous psychologist Victor Frankyl showed when he found meaning and purpose in his imprisonment at Nazi concentration camps, holding onto our meaning and purpose can powerfully change our lives. So, why do you write? It is easy to say, “I want to be published with Random House,” or “I’m going to write a book-length memoir,” but surely you hold a purpose that is deeper than that—a wish to reach people, perhaps, or to make the world more aware or content, or to spread the passion you feel about language. Once you know why you write—or if you already know—ask yourself what writing means for you. Is it your place of inspiration? Does it affect your happiness or calm? Does it mean connecting with others? Does it make beauty out of suffering? When you have your answers, try writing them somewhere obvious—on a large piece of paper that you tack to the wall in your writing room perhaps. And every time you enter that space, take a moment to acknowledge your meaning and purpose as a writer. You can even work with your unconcious mind by creating ‘meaning and purpose’ affirmations to repeat throughout your day.
Publish yourself, maybe just a little: I often meet writers who are upset because they keep trying to get their work published by presses they admire and are usually rejected. Now, if this sounds like you, here’s a thought. Even if you've decided not to self-publish your larger or more central manuscripts, that doesn’t mean you can’t create a small e-book of your own. I co-run an indie publishing press myself, and we often work with writers who want to create mini e-books. (In fact we have a contest running at the moment for just that.) Whether it’s a free 2000-word story that you’re proud of, or a chapbook of flash fiction, or an excerpt from a longer work, having an e-book of your own that you can share with others can do wonders for your self-esteem. You can even sell it as a Kindle Single on Amazon and make a few bucks or host a free giveaway.
Change Your Form: Fed up of writing? Well, even if it is your raison d’etre, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. If you do feel that way about writing, then a break is what you need. “But I want to maintain my focus!” you might cry. Then why not stay with your project and change your form? Using magazines and newspapers, you can make a collage that represents a character you know and love—or a character you’d like to know better. Or you might get together with friends and have a salon where you each share an excerpt from a project you are working on. Or perhaps you’ll start writing a journal about the process of writing—this, after all, can lend power and depths to your other work, as well as bringing a helpful understanding of your process.
Surround Yourself with Positive Reminders. Many of us have writing heroes. And those heroes have often shared amazing advice about writing and creativity. If you have a writing hero (or a writer you love) who has shared her/his/hir wisdom about art, craft and life, it can be inspiring to write out a few quotes from their work and place them around your writing space/home. One of my own favorites? Anais Nin wrote, “Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what they will bring back—a new life, a new love, a new country.” This quote reminds me that writing isn’t only about craft and publishing. It is also about igniting our lives by sharing our dreams with others, and waiting to see what kind of beauty those dreams will bring back to us. For Anais Nin those dreams brought her community, and eventually her own printing press, and after that, fame. But fame wasn’t what her work was about. Her work was about connecting.
Of course, you must go with your own instincts in terms of what will help your energy and confidence. So how do you lift yourself up when your feel down about your work? I’d love to hear what works for you, and why.
Photo credit: By Bruce Fritz [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Sue Williams runs Grub Street Boosts and is a co-founder of the indie publishing shop, Here Booky Booky, where beautiful manuscripts become beautiful books. She has been an editor at Narrative Magazine, runs an indie press under her pen name, and her work has appeared in numerous journals, magazines and anthologies. She has been honored with awards from Glimmer Train and Narrative, among others. Check her out at www.suewilliams.co.uk.
Sue Williams is co-founder of Here Booky Booky (herebookybooky.com) where authors' works are made into beautiful books. With a background in psychology, education, and online marketing, she is an instructor and confidence coach at Grub Street and has published her short stories at a variety of magazines and journals including Narrative (where she also worked as an editor), Salamander, the Yalobusha Review, and elsewhere. Under her pen name, Sue is agented, has published a novel and several collections, writes columns on sexuality and spirituality, and also runs an indie press. As Sue, she works as a marketing assistant for branding and marketing expert Dorie Clark, and also coaches writers who are looking to build their confidence and platforms. Find out more at www.herebookybooky.com and www.suewilliams.co.ukSee other articles by Susan Williams