The blog of author Harper Alexander

The Confidence to Keep Writing – Bestowed or Self-Generated?

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I ran across a Tweet on Twitter today, posted by one of the writers I follow, that posed this challenge: ‘The hardest part is that you NEED confidence to keep writing. So how do you do that?’

It’s a very good point, and a very good question, and it got me thinking. There are many things in this field that will discourage us. Bad reviews. Low sales. No one noticing your book to begin with. Any number of things, really, and we can count on one or all of them happening to us, and getting us down. Completely shattering our confidence.

And confidence is one thing that is necessary to keep writing. If you lose confidence in yourself, you lose heart. You stare at the blinking cursor, and read skeptically back over the last sentence you managed to force out, and you sulkily start to believe that you really are delusional, because despite you yourself liking what you wrote, it’s apparent that not everyone else shares that opinion. When the validation stops, and you start questioning the value of the words you’re writing, they lose their steam very quickly.

So, how do you get back on track, and reclaim the fire that once prompted you to listen to the voices to begin with? Once, you were infused with the cause, knowing without a doubt that these visions were transcendent, that these stories needed to be told. It felt amazing to do it, and you couldn’t wait to do it again and again.

I think the answer is right there, in the fact that it started in us to begin with. It’s hard when you don’t receive outside validation, and harder still when you receive the opposite of that. But the fact of the matter is you can never please everyone, and negative feedback is something you can expect. It shouldn’t ruin our confidence in what we believe in, because it’s what we believe in. We should never have been ‘confident’ that we were going to please everyone to begin with.

The discouragement is a reality, of course, and we do have to learn how to cope with that, and get past it. So, how do you do that? How do I do that? Once again, for me, the answer is in the fact that it started in us to begin with. I simply let it rest, give myself some time to get past the initial sting of the outside discouragement, and then I daydream about the project until it returns to a state of being ‘good enough’ FOR ME. I daydream about it until I myself get excited about it again, just because I can’t help it. Because it’s the story I want to be able to read back to myself. That is indeed the main piece of advice I’ve taken to heart as a writer – ‘write the book you want to read’.

If we don’t write for ourselves, because we love what we’re doing, it isn’t going to have much heart or meaning anyway.

There is a second side to this, of course. While we should write because we love it, and should write what we love, I know there are many of us who are trying to write as a career, which means you do have to write for an audience as well, to some degree. But from this stance, I look at the negative reviews as pointers for how I can grow as a writer, how my next book can show more polish, or flow better, or be arranged for better impact. You have to stop taking the criticism as an attack on the heart of your story itself, and take it in a technical sense. You have to take it as something that can hopefully help you craft the next book so that the heart of your story merely gets translated to the reader better, in a way they’re more receptive to.

This won’t completely cancel all the discouragement, because there will still be those that hate your guts, and your heart, no matter what. Even bestsellers have haters. So you have to simply keep that in mind, and trudge forth.

So, the moral of the story – get back to the basics, back into yourself, where the daydreaming allows you to fall in love with what you’re doing. Be open to technical improvement. And learn to ignore the haters that hate other bestsellers.


One thought on “The Confidence to Keep Writing – Bestowed or Self-Generated?

  1. Thanks for the reminder that the source of my confidence is inside of me and not somewhere else.

    Confidence is a big topic for me today. I had to take a break from my blog and my novel and getting back to work this week has been painfully hard. Also, I have reached a point where I am not sure what is next, and am terrified I won’t have anything to write about (or that it will be awful). So my doubt is all self-generated, and I am working on a self-generated solution.

    I remind myself that discipline is remembering what I really want and acting accordingly. And then I get back to work.

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