Like a lot of creative pastimes, writing can be a drain on your confidence. All it takes is one knock, or disappointment, to make you feel inferior, or even worthless.
For new and aspiring writers, it can be hard to find appropriate feedback and so we end up stuck in a vacuum, unable to accurately assess our own work. Some days, when things are going well, we’re convinced our manuscript is full of promise. On other days, it’s the worst thing ever written.
So how do you stay positive about writing when a crisis of confidence is threatening to bring you down?
Comparison is the thief of joy
The most obvious thing is not to compare yourself to others. There will always be people who are better writers than you, who can craft mind-blowingly beautiful prose that makes you seethe with envy or those who can plot an intricate, original story that has the reviewers raving.
Much as you might envy them and wish you could write something just as powerful, chances are that amazing and talented writer has been through exactly the same struggles as you. They probably still go through them on a regular basis.
And just because you’re seeing them at their most successful, doesn’t mean that they had a smooth journey to publication. They probably went through all kinds of rejections and disappointments before they secured that publishing contract.
It can be very easy to become bogged down with all the problems in your manuscript, or the feeling that you might never get anywhere.
The best way to combat this is to keep working.
It might sound obvious, but you’ll never get anywhere if you don’t work on your manuscript. No one wants to publish a half-finished novel.
And it’s surprising how spending some time on your manuscript can turn your mood around. Even fixing a small detail is enough to make you feel a sense of accomplishment, or that your writing might be on track after all.
Talk to others
The best people to talk to about writing are other writers. Sure your loved ones can offer you support and advice, but unless they have the writing bug, they’ll never fully understand the emotions you go through, or your desire to write.
But anyone who writes will understand all too well how you feel. Knowing that you’re not the only one to experience these days of self-doubt is guaranteed to lift your spirits.
Listen to your uncertainties
Sometimes, you shouldn’t try to ignore the feelings of doubt you might have about your writing. Sometimes, those feelings can alert you to the problems in your manuscript that you might be unsure of. The key is to learn the difference.
But that’s not an easy thing to do.
One trick is to identify what the source of your negative feelings was. If it came from reading an article about the success of the latest acclaimed author years younger than you, or from your aspiring writer friend’s latest tweet, announcing their book deal, then there’s a strong chance your feelings are rooted in jealousy and frustration at your own progress.
If you’ve been struggling to fix a particular problem with your work, but you can’t seem to get it to your liking, then it might be an indicator of a bigger problem. On those days, it’s helpful to ask someone else to read your work; if they come back with the same niggling concerns that you have, then you can feel confident that you’ve found a genuine issue.
Ultimately, down days and bouts of low self-esteem are a part of life for writers, or anyone pursuing a creative project or career. They can be useful, but don’t allow them to seep too deeply into your heart, where they might fester and cause you to give up.