4 Ways to Have Confidence in Your Writing
Hello. I love writing a lot but I always feel inferior and small compared to other people who can write better than me. I feel that I lack the excellent vocabulary to convey my thoughts into perfect sentences that are interesting and exciting to the reader. Currently, I’m trying to write on a topic I have never written before and seeing others who can attempt at it much better than me, I feel like quitting soon enough. Any advice on this?
I do have lots of advice on this! I feel this way a lot too (EVERY writer does!) but these are the things that I think about that help me when I get in a rut of self-doubt:
1. Vocabulary isn’t the only thing you need to be a good writer.
That’s sort of like saying that someone is a better painter than you because they have more paint colors. It’s not only about the vocab in your arsenal—it’s also about how you can take what you have and arrange it into something beautiful, cohesive, and pleasing to yourself and others.
That being said, the best way to learn to vocabulary, in my opinion, is to read read read!
2. Writing is like a muscle: It’s not going to get stronger if you don’t exercise.
I think that there’s this misconception about writing as a skill because we’re taught, when we’re little, how to read and put words to paper—so therefore we should just be able to write something great when we decide we want to, right? But we don’t expect a gymnast to do a flip on her first day at the gym. You’re just going to have to keep writing and writing and writing to get better, and accept that for a long time it’s going to be shitty.
I love this very encouraging Ira Glass quote on exactly this topic:
Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.
3. There’s always going to be someone better than you.
Do you think JK Rowling or John Green or Ernest Hemingway or any great writer read every other book in the world and think, “Nope, I’m better than these authors now”? Nope. (Okay, maybe Hemingway did, but he was nuts.) No matter what, there’s always going to be writers out there who you think are better. Don’t look at their work with envy or juxtapose the “badness” of your own—instead, look to those writers as motivation to better your own writing. Read their work and try to dissect why you think they’re such good writers, and then try to emanate them.
4. Self-doubt is part of the writer’s condition.
Similarly, do you think any famous, established author ever sits down to embark on their next book and thinks, “It’s cool, I’ve mastered this medium, I got this”? Probably not. I think writing is something that you can get really good at, but not something that you can master. The key for us, as artists, is to not let that doubt consume us so much that we ever stop creating. Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote Eat Pray Love, did a really good Ted Talk on this that I would highly recommend all writers watch—she really hits the nail on the head.
This article will be archived on our Writing Advice page, under the heading “The Writer’s Life”.
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