How to Become a More Confident Writer

Four Parts:Developing Good Writing HabitsWriting FrequentlyTrying New Writing TechniquesSharing Your Writing

Whether you are a student, an aspiring writer, or you already write for a living, it’s always possible to lose confidence in your work. It’s easy to feel like your writing is rubbish, especially if you rarely get positive feedback on it. Writing often, trying new methods, sharing your best work, and getting in the right mindset can help boost your confidence as a writer.

Part 1
Developing Good Writing Habits

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    Read. Read a lot! When you've finished a book or essay, you will sometimes get a spark of inspiration. It could be a new narrative mode, a new style you want to try out, or even a new character. [1]
    • Read a lot of writing in the genre you like to write in, but also think about expanding into other genres as well. You can borrow ideas from any style of writing.
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    Start small. Use small writing prompts to kickstart your creative juices and keep them flowing. You won’t sit down and write a novel the first time you try, and you may not even crank out a short story on the first attempt. Start with one page observations, journal entries, poems, or essays, and slowly build up. [2] Here are a few ideas to get you started:[3]
    • You’ve been chosen to compete in the Olympics.
    • You are the “alligator whisperer,” the only person on earth who can talk to alligators.
    • A mysterious package arrives on your doorstep and leads to unparalleled adventure.
    • You get hit in the head and begin hallucinating.
    • You are an explorer who (unbeknownst to the rest of the world) arrived in the Americas in 1491, just before Columbus’ famous voyage.
    • You and your friends have been abandoned in a haunted amusement park.
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    Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. At some point, every writer has sat staring at a blank page trying to figure out the perfect phrasing. Instead of wasting your time, get your thought down on paper and come back to it later. [4]
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    Sleep on it. If you have been struggling to perfect a passage or even a sentence, leave it alone for the day. Come back to it tomorrow. You might be surprised at how easily the words flow after your thoughts have had some time to gel in your brain. [5]
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    Save everything. Even a piece of terrible writing could have a brilliant line or two hidden somewhere in it. Develop a routine of saving each of your drafts, just in case you need to go back and borrow from an earlier draft.
    • You might also find that something you wrote on one topic could be helpful to you as you write about another topic. For example, maybe you wrote an essay about your memories of your first birthday party. Later, maybe you discover that this scene would work perfect in a short story.
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    Reread your own writing. One of two things will happen. Either you will be impressed by how good what you wrote six months ago was, or you will wonder what on earth you were thinking to have written something so dreadful. Even if it’s the latter, you will still learn from your mistakes or take inspiration from a few lines.

Part 2
Writing Frequently

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    Write every single day. Experts recommend setting aside no less than one hour per day to write. It would be very easy to let this slide as “more important” issues come up, but try hard not to let that happen. When you get out of the habit of writing, it’s hard to get back into it. [6] .
    • Try to block out a period of time every day that works well for you. If you write best in the morning, get up a little earlier than your roommates, kids, parents, or partner, and spend the first hour of your day writing. You’ll be surprised at how much you can write in a short amount of time this way.
    • Defend this writing time! Don’t let yourself make excuses not to write during this time.
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    Set an attainable goal for each day of writing. Keep track of your goals and whether or not you achieved them in a log. Sometimes it’s hard to look back and see your progress. Chances are, you have absolutely no idea how much you’ve written. Keeping a log can help you feel proud of your accomplishments. [7]
    • Some people find that a word or page count (easily tracked in Microsoft Word or Google Docs) works very well for this purpose. [8]
    • Keeping a log alongside other writer friends works well. Google Spreadsheets is great for this purpose. Record your own progress and see how much progress your colleagues make!
    • If this seems overwhelming at first, make your daily goal very small. 1 page is plenty at first. As you build up your endurance, you will be able write much more every day.
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    Keep a notebook or journal handy. Sometimes a burst of inspiration will occur then as you go along with your day and go home that inspiration may have escaped you. Avoid this by taking a notebook or journal around with you wherever you go.
    • However, don’t fall into the trap of only writing when you feel “inspired.” It’s important to write even when you’re not excited about it, in order to keep yourself in the habit.
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    Remember that writing requires training. Just as with any other skill that you want to perfect and feel good about, you have to build up your endurance as a writer. [9]

Part 3
Trying New Writing Techniques

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    Experiment with different styles of writing. If you think of yourself as a fiction writer, take a step outside of your comfort zone occasionally, and write an op-ed or a nonfiction essay. You may learn new techniques by trying a new new style, or you may find a new way of writing that you prefer. [10]
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    Try following a writing formula. Writing is both art and science. There is plenty of room to be creative, but there are loose rules for how to structure some types of writing. If you’re stuck or feeling unsure, try looking at a formula. [11]
    • For example, a 5-paragraph essay formula often looks something like this, and you can expand it to apply to other types of nonfiction essays:
      • Intro with hook and thesis that gives a “road map” of the paper
      • Body paragraph 1 with topic sentence and 3-4 pieces of evidence
      • Body paragraph 2 with topic sentence and 3-4 pieces of evidence
      • Body paragraph 3 with topic sentence and 3-4 pieces of evidence
      • Concluding paragraph summing up body paragraphs and restating thesis
    • Don’t try to follow a formula every time you write. You will likely get stuck trying to make your story or essay fit instead of letting it flow naturally. Try this technique when others aren’t working.
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    Try a speed-writing exercise. Sometimes your thoughts get in the way of writing what you really want to say. You second guess yourself before you get the words on paper. Speed writing can help you avoid this problem.
    • Spend about 5 minutes pre-writing. Brainstorm if you want. Create an outline if that helps you. Or just sit there and think.
    • Set a 15 minute timer.
    • Write without stopping for the entire 15 minutes. You can use a laptop or a piece of paper. If you get stuck, write down absolutely anything, including, for example, “I’m stuck. I’m stuck. I’m stuck.” You won’t be stuck for long!
    • It’s okay to use abbreviations and incomplete sentences when you try exercises like this one. [12]
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    Use dictation. If you find that your thoughts are coming faster than you can type, try recording them and transcribing them later. Most smartphones have dictation capabilities, as do microphone-enabled computers.
    • Apps such as Dragon Dictation and Olympus Dictation work well if you aren’t happy with your built-in smartphone dictation.
    • Some websites, such as VoiceBase, offer free transcription.
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    Write the truth. Even if your goal is to write fiction, start by writing observations of the real world. This will not only give you practice with creative phrasing, it will also build your confidence. [13]
    • Try writing about the memory of your favorite birthday to start.
    • Or write the story of the best (or worst) day you’ve spent in the last month.

Part 4
Sharing Your Writing

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    Share your work with friends and family. Part of growing your confidence as a writer is about getting compliments. Don’t let publishers and reviewers be the only people who see your writing. It’s their job to critique it. Instead, seek out people who want to pay you compliments on your writing.
    • Show it to your dad, your grandma, your husband, your cousin - anyone who will tell you how proud they are of you.
    • Participate in coffee shop readings and open mics - anywhere the audience will give you applause or snaps.
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    Submit your writing to low-pressure publications. School newspapers and online blogs, which usually don’t have a rigorous screening process, are a great way to gain confidence publishing your writing without the fear of rejection.
    • Be careful about which online venues you choose. Some have a culture of caring, careful critique and praise, while others can be a venue for vitriol and trolling. Take time to read through the comments on other people’s blog posts, and consider only publishing for a closed group. .
    • Choose wisely when you publish your best material. If you are considering having a story or essay published in a professional publication, that publication may not be willing to print a piece that has appeared elsewhere.
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    Enter low-key writing competitions. Start small, with local or obscure competitions. Winning will give your confidence a boost, and you might be inspired to enter more serious competitions. [14]
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    Submit your writing for publication in serious periodicals. You will definitely get some rejection letters, which could be detrimental to your confidence. On the other hand, especially if you try to publish in peer-reviewed publications, you will also get valuable feedback, advice, and even compliments about what you’ve done well.
    • If you have a full-length piece (like a novel manuscript), submit to both print and digital publishers. You may have better luck with ebooks, because the screening process sometimes isn’t as rigorous (depending on the publisher). [15]

Sources and Citations

  2. Anne Lamont, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, (New York: Anchor Books, 1994).
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Categories: Better Writing