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Writing Confidence (2 Viewers)

Takeaway Junkie

Senior Member
I hope some of you guys can take the time to read this and offer some advice, it will be greatly appreciated and i will, as i have, take your words and wisdom.

I'm not sure about others but in my writing journey, it fluctuates wildly with my own life and since i don't have a 'strong' writing background, i really struggle.

I write as a release, yet i want to publish, not self publish but to spread my story to as many readers as possible and i know this is a far fetched and fanatical dream ... i will try and push to do the best i can to attain this. It is not 1 story but stories i safeguard in this jumbled up crazy mind that what it shouts out inside here never fully writes out on the blank page in front.

When i am not in a good frame of mind and life struggles takes over, my writing stalls, my want and need to go back into that world no longer exists and i look blankly at the thousands of words i have written thinking 'this is awful.'

I know you have to be thick skinned, that you have to have that inner belief, trusting your own abilities in creating something captivating for a reader is attainable but what happens when you lose all that belief you once had? You no longer believe that writing is a journey, that the road is tough... how do you get that confidence back?

Thank you for those who have read.
 

TheMightyAz

Senior Member
It fluctuates constantly. All you need to understand is it's the same for everyone, in varying degrees. I often have depression. I'm 63 and have had it since I was 14 (school and nightmares saw to that). I'm not a victim of it though. That's why I say 'I have depression' and not 'I suffer from depression'. I own it, it's mine. But, whenever it comes a calling, my writing takes on a whole different look. What I once thought was pretty good, looks ugly and badly written. What once spilled freely from my pen, now emerges one painstaking stab at a letter at a time. What lived in my head daily, disappears and is replaced with a fog and self doubt.

But the one thing I know for certain is these desperate times come and go and so I'm always ready to hit 'charge!' whenever that window of creativity opens. Just stick at it and don't worry. Banal, I know, but absolutely the only advice worth taking.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Board Moderator
I'm an ancient retired guy. When I was younger I always wanted to write, but between a very demanding job as an engineer in silicon valley (with an hour commute each way), a wife, and two kids, I barely had time to sleep. So writing was definitely on the back burner. Life changes though, time opens up and opportunities to write become available. In a way, I'm glad for that hectic time because it taught me a lot about life, which is now reflected in the stories I tell.

Like you, I don't have a strong educational background in writing - BUT - I've always read a lot. Reading taught me story and character arcs, and rhythm which I feel is critical to good writing.

I suggest you keep at it, perhaps not at the level of novels, but short stories for a blog instead. Do things that put you in a position to throw words down on paper. And remember to make time to read.
 

vranger

Staff member
Board Moderator
First, I think writing is something you should WANT to do, not need to do. And it's no character flaw to pursue trad publishing. Some people spin that wheel and come up a winner. I think, mentally, it's good to be able to write for ourselves with being published as a hope, but not an expectation, because sometimes great writers can't get an agent or editor's attention, while strangely, some poor writers get published anyway. LOL

A few things freed me up to write:

* As above, when I stopped requiring the end result of my writing to be a publishing contract, I didn't have to obsess over if what I wrote was commercial or had some mysterious pizzazz. So now I pick my next project at my whim, and I'm at the point where I make consistent progress until I complete it.

* Even though the first business I started paid me, and rather well, to write heroic fantasy and science fiction, it was an interactive fiction game ... so I was going straight to the reader. I wrote decent material, but it wasn't polished. Still it was 2.5 to 3 million words (I don't have an exact count) of good practice. What it gave me was confidence I could create ideas for new stories on demand ... stories my customers (readers) kept coming back for more of, and that's important.

* One barrier, and I've heard enough writers comment on this I believe it's common, was (something like) hero worship of great writers. How could I match up to that? Well, when I was younger, I probably could not have. Now, older and more experienced, my work matches up. One of the biggest shots of confidence that put me over the top was when a friend who I have complete confidence would say "This sucks" if that's what he thought, took the trouble to call me up on my vacation when he finished reading my first novel to tell me, "I was surprised. You don't expect to read something written by a friend and have it match up to books you read by popular authors". Somewhere along the line, if our skill reaches that level, we need that kind of reinforcement to understand it has.

* While I was writing that first novel, and in revisions after I finished it, I wondered if I was blundering into a host of technical mistakes. I studied deeply, and the more I learned, the more I was able to identify to add to my list to study. It turns out I wasn't making a "host of mistakes", but there were a few things I needed to iron out, so I did. Now, I'm able to apply those lessons learned to everything I write. I most often know when I've just typed something which could be better, and fix it as I go. That builds confidence. Of course, I still fix sentences on one of my three revision passes, and make minor corrections to plot, but the important thing is knowing what I have to fix, why I have to fix it, and knowing HOW to fix it. You get that with study and practice. Lots of both.

Yes, if someone is concerned they're writing crap, they just might be. Actually, they probably are. So I think casting the net of study widely is extremely important. There are dozens of things both large and small a writer needs to master to become a truly effective writer. That sounds intimidating, but it need not be. Basically, you're looking at how to craft an effective plot and write effective sentences as the bricks of that Wall of Plot. All those little skills go into those two major elements of authorship.

* Finally, we all have to get to the point where we can finish. That started as a tough hurdle for me, and I started new stories before I finished the last one, precisely because I was stuck on something in the last one. I had to learn how to think my way through sticking points in the plot, and keep doing that, until I finally wrote a sentence and said, "That's it. That's the book." :)
 

ritudimrinautiyal

Senior Member
I had ten short stories in my mind before I stepped in poetry. I didn't pen down those, for the reason of research in context : locations and usage required for each individual story. Then I analysed myself and found even in poetry I try to use minimum words and try to take it to the finishing point as soon as possible. I am really finding it hard to trespass those mind barriers, which are not letting me pen those down and my instinct knocking my mind every night before I sleep telling me " Hey! this work is still undone ".

Ritu
 

Takeaway Junkie

Senior Member
Thank you for the replies. I am useless at this quotes thing but thank you Indianroads ... i will read more ... it is not a race to finish, it is not even a target, i know i will publish because i have great faith in my creations just the words up there doesn't come out how i want it on that screen.

I know reading is vital and i will heed your good advice.

To vranger - thank you for your words. To reply to your first question i write because i want not need. I have set aims, short and long term, have ambitions i want to attain, how to do it ... I'm not sure which is why i always call writing as a journey because i won't stop because it gets tough, i write with little to no time because it enriches me and you know no idea how much it means to me, to read words of advice from anyone to a no one. I have researched more than enough to know practice makes perfect. I always believe if you open your eyes and ears, have the mind that you are not the best, you open yourself to wisdom and learning to become better.

To ritu ... thank you too ... stories in the mind are just that, whether it is poetry, shorts, novels ... thank you for your words ... it is useless up here.

To AZ. Thank you for being open and honest, your words means a lot probably more than you will realise.

I have this one character who is very close to my protagonist... he is a 200AD Chinese war General ... he would be proud to tell the MC to 'charge!' I will sir don't worry
 

SueC

Staff member
Senior Mentor
Hi Takeaway - I'm late to this discussion, but thought I would jump in. A while ago, I realized that my style of writing is not extremely popular right now, and when that hit me I felt like "why bother?" But I soon discovered that I can't not write. I find excitement in the mundane, in the small things, the looks, the gestures, the deeper meaning of life. It's not always exciting or an exciting read, but it can be memorable on some levels, there can be recognition in what the words are saying and that means the world to me. The two things I have to give in life are something hand-knitted :) or something written. I have no other natural talents. I can put to words the vision of two women eating lunch, comforting each other that may touch a reader or two, but in those times it does more for me than anyone else. I see being able to accurately portray that picture as a gift, that I will continue to use probably long after I should.

So, here's what I say to you Takeaway. Find your voice. Figure out what it is you want to share with others. You may be wildly popular or you may touch only a few. Regardless, only you can put your words down in just the exact way you do. Cherish that. Realize how unique and special your voice is and continue to write, continue to put your words down in just that way only you know how to do.

Looking forward to reading your work! :)
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
Hey, TJ, believe it or not I think that your feelings about your writing, though unpleasant to feel, mean something good. I just watched "Are you a good writer" as I'm working my way through some of Alexa Donne's videos and would direct your attention to when she discusses the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Essentially, if you're blithely sure that you're the best writer on the planet that's very unlikely to be true. But if you become aware of how much you don't know and work to learn the craft then, for a time, your feelings and your abilities might be a lot lower than you like. However, as you improve your skills your confidence also increases so now when you 'feel better about your writing' it's backed up by actual ability.

Life surely does get in the way. It's been stepping on my tail in a very active way since Friday morning and kept me extremely busy until late last night. It can be easy to feel like there's no room for creativity in my life when I have days like that. But one thing I know is that 7 am Monday morning will arrive and if I can get my son onto the bus I will have one whole uninterrupted hour with just myself and my coffee and the page. Since I've been working on my ability to sit down and work at the appointed time I know I can make that hour count for something. Other than that time I know that there will be moments throughout the day that I can use to write in 15 minute increments. Not many but now I can get a targeted effort pushed forward in that time rather than wondering what I should be working on for that 15 minutes.

At least if I can deny the forces of procrastination and distraction (even WF!).

Believe me, if I can progress to even this modest improvement, anyone can! And if you're thoughtful enough to know you don't rule the world by your pen then I think you've got a shot.

Just get in there and work. That's all any of us can do.
 

bazz cargo

Retired Supervisor
Wotcha TJ

First of all, any job I do starts out crap and as I practice gets better.
Second, I do not crit my own writing until I get to editing stage.
Third, try reading a Star Trek novel, you will see there can be a very low bar to being published.
Fourth, take pleasure in your story telling.
Good luck
BC
 

Takeaway Junkie

Senior Member
*Am very touched by everyone's support ... seriously thank you.

@Bazz ... I do three out of the four things you have posted, I don't think I will delve into Star Trek, I used to watch The Next Generation but that genre isn't for me and I totally trust you when you say it is at quite a low bar! I love writing, love the weird things i create, yet all feels like a stab in the dark.

Having read so many threads, going through advice, debates, practices ... a lot match and cross over, yet a lot contradict. Things can be so technical, a line with the same words, rearranged can sound better, yet it can be deemed as personal preference? Hero worshiping your favourite author has been an interesting thought. I have read up that you should read authors of your genre to see how they develop the story, to pick up traits and pacing etc ... I don't read enough, but reading my favourite book many years after I last touched it was so different. It was so boring yet I carried on reading. Small details, minor actions, exactly as SueC put it, was interesting in how the author got from point A to point A.5 ... the story crawled yet it was fascinating.

@Foxee I know of that principle :) if you view yourself at the bottom of the well, you can only look up to pick your way out, the bad thing is being at the bottom, there is so much that hasn't been learnt and if life becomes rather tough, confidence drains and then in comes self doubt, the mistakes that stares back at you from the page and the real world you left, you quickly return.

Does anyone have advice on how to regain confidence? Is just leave the project you are on for a while? Read? Start a new piece of work? Write a blog? Vent to friends? Or is it jump online and blast it in public? :)
 
My suggestion for regaining confidence would be to try a very short project. Just finishing something, even if it's small, can be very confidence-building. Try shortform poetry, or flash fiction. I personally find the Literary Maneuvers flash contest on this forum very motivating. Having the ideation --> completion --> feedback cycle every month builds my confidence, even if I don't have time or energy for making big steps in my larger projects.

ETA: Additionally, when you have worlds and novel-sized ideas you're really in love with, writing short stories or poetry within those worlds can help you feel them out. Sometimes I like to write poetry in a character's voice. Or write a short story that supplants a larger idea I'm working on.
 

Phil Istine

Staff member
Global Moderator
I went for relatively short poetry and learned a few things about putting words together in a way that flowed (or not!) and how to convey feelings in a way that isn't necessarily produced from the actual words but with how they fit together (or don't!) It's partly about an acceptance that not everything you try will work, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's fine to hit a dead end and realise that something is unworkable, because you know what to avoid or try differently another time. I reckon many well-known authors have junked as much writing as they've allowed through, possibly more. Knowing that even the greats have done this might be some help.
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
Does anyone have advice on how to regain confidence?
Set an appointment-time preferably every day. Sit down and turn on a timer (I use an hourglass because it doesn't interrupt me when I'm done if I'm on a roll) and write steadily about anything for the time you've set. 10 or 15 minutes is good. I have a document simply called 'timed writings' that I use for this. Get up, walk around, get a drink or something, sit back down, set your timer, do it again.

Don't expect anything. Just write. If all you can think of are your own thoughts, write them. Or give yourself a prompt. Or, like I did this morning, write a bunch of different types of conflict on slips of paper and put them into a hat to draw randomly at intervals and add to the story. So far this morning I'm up to 1400 words on a little random story about a friend who visits a friend on a street she doesn't like because friend number two has more or less dropped off the face of the earth. Thanks to my little slips of paper I'm getting ready to find out what the friend has been afraid of: aliens, gremlins, or demons.

Don't quit.

There is more to forcing yourself to write for a while this way than just putting words down. What this does is gets your mind going with ideas and putting words together. You're exercising. And you might even come up with a story you like.

I felt paralyzed much like you do when I was reading Story by Robert McKee. Just finding out how much I didn't know and trying to figure out how to learn it was kind of like getting a whack over the head that stunned me. I wondered if I should stop writing altogether. But I didn't.

Read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It's an awesome bum-kicking good for anyone pursuing creative expression.

Don't quit.

Sub a story to the next LM competition. You're guaranteed readership and feedback. The judging and rankings are just for fun, the critiques are the value.

Did I mention, don't quit?
 

bazz cargo

Retired Supervisor
quote_icon.png
Originally Posted by Takeaway Junkie

Does anyone have advice on how to regain confidence?
I third the idea of entering the LM comp. Do it for three goes in a row and you will find your perspective changing.
It is a tough but excellent learning tool.
 

JBF

Senior Member
I'm not sure about others but in my writing journey, it fluctuates wildly with my own life and since i don't have a 'strong' writing background, i really struggle.

Yup. I tried the write-every-day thing when I was younger. I won't say it didn't have any value, but mostly what it got me was hundreds of pages of unreadable tripe. It was pedal-to-the-medal without seeing the road. Exhilarating maybe, but mostly just cutting circles out in the desert and going nowhere. Eventually I got to the point where the scenic route held more appeal and backed it off some.

I don't write every day anymore. Usually I'll settle on the idea for something and let it sit for a week or two to figure out the broad strokes, then fill in the details as I go. When I've got it 60-70% I'll sit down and start hammering.

I write as a release, yet i want to publish, not self publish but to spread my story to as many readers as possible and i know this is a far fetched and fanatical dream ...

Not so rare, I'd think. I enjoy writing. I also do it on my terms, knowing that my market may not exist. If I ever get together something I think a publisher might want, I'll send it. And if they decline...I've still got a day job and a regular paycheck.

i look blankly at the thousands of words i have written thinking 'this is awful.'

Your membership card is in the mail.

I know you have to be thick skinned, that you have to have that inner belief, trusting your own abilities in creating something captivating for a reader is attainable but what happens when you lose all that belief you once had?

One of my favorite writers used to have a whole series of advice articles on his website, now sadly removed. When I was starting out and not sure how to do most of the stuff real writers probably take for granted those were invaluable. Incidentally, one that stood out was the maxim that you don't get to believe in yourself at first.

Belief in yourself in your abilities is something that has to be earned. It sucks, and it's usually a slog, but that's the cost of doing business.

You no longer believe that writing is a journey, that the road is tough... how do you get that confidence back?

It's still a journey, and if you stick with it you'll still get where you're heading. It's just that most new writers believe the trip is New York to Los Angeles by private LearJet when the truth is it's more a Chevy Astro pinballing its way from Florida to Oregon.

Which isn't bad. It's not as fast, and God knows '80s-vintage passenger vans suck gas, but you see more of the country. You meet people. You can reroute to southern Louisiana for cajun food. See Dollywood, if that's your thing. Try the ribs in Memphis. Sure, you might get waylaid and sidetracked now and again, but you'll get a feel for the world. Crossing the Rockies at thirty thousand's got nothing on coming through Raton Pass. From the air, Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons are just rocks and trees. Take a dumb tourist picture in front of Mount Rushmore. Feel the air change when you break out of the western Rockies into the high desert country. Then you hit the Pacific Northwest and it's another world altogether.

Writing is an adventure. Adventure shares a root with adverse. It's not fun when you're in the middle of things, trying to hold it all together when it wants to come apart. So like the rest of us misguided fools you keep at it. Eventually you hit the other side and find that somewhere in the headache you did something worth mentioning. You picked up memories and details and funny stories you'll tell for years - all stuff you would have missed had any of this been easy or fast.

Yeah, you didn't get the private jet and the fancy hotel and the red-carpet Hollywood treatment. In time, you'll realize what you got was better, anyway.

The only way to miss it is to quit.
 
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Takeaway Junkie

Senior Member
Quitting won't happen, when you crossed that line you will never go back, knowing the hardships and struggles, the utter joy in creating, the time alone building that world, the beautiful, strange and antagonistic characters is a pleasure no one can take away.

Confidence is a permanent issue, something I know I need to work on. I will read more, create the short stories I have stuck in my held as I amend my second draft.

It's interesting reading other's views, I doubt I will enter any competition, my life growing up has been a constant comparison between family as which sons were the best and even in this self absorbed self catering world ... what does it matter what car i drive or how big my house is? What does any of these have to do with how I am as a person?

A good read is a good read ... it can be one that puts you on edge or you marvel at the flowing lines and ease of transition.

Thanks all
 

Sir-KP

Senior Member
Unless you're god-tier that always make instant perfection in your work, you'll struggle with it. I mean, this applies to everything, even those work in their own field of expertise.

You struggle and frustrated because you have a target to reach. Even if this was a hobby, you will still get frustrated when you're aiming for something.
 

Serendipity

Senior Member
Just keep writing. No writer has a totally thick skin. Rejections hurt. Going back to what you have read and thinking it is awful is an everyday experience for a writer. Soldier on. A writer is a person who writes. He may have a MFA in Creative Writing; he may have an Eighth Grade education. It makes no difference. You learn to write by reading good books, learning writing rules as you go, bucking up and receiving criticism (including your own) and by patting yourself on the back for every little accomplishment and victory. I have never studied writing and, in the beginning, my writing wasn’t very good. But I practiced and practiced. I’ve been published in an anthology, in literary magazines and in a magazine (AIM Magazine) published by the son of Martin Luther King. When an editor reads your writing, he doesn’t know anything about you except for what is on the page. Keep writing, friend! You are off to a great start!
 

indianroads

Staff member
Board Moderator
Just keep writing. No writer has a totally thick skin. Rejections hurt. Going back to what you have read and thinking it is awful is an everyday experience for a writer. Soldier on. A writer is a person who writes. He may have a MFA in Creative Writing; he may have an Eighth Grade education. It makes no difference. You learn to write by reading good books, learning writing rules as you go, bucking up and receiving criticism (including your own) and by patting yourself on the back for every little accomplishment and victory. I have never studied writing and, in the beginning, my writing wasn’t very good. But I practiced and practiced. I’ve been published in an anthology, in literary magazines and in a magazine (AIM Magazine) published by the son of Martin Luther King. When an editor reads your writing, he doesn’t know anything about you except for what is on the page. Keep writing, friend! You are off to a great start!

Nailed it.

I'll add - love the story and the characters you write. That affection serves as motivation and keeps us moving forward.
 

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