It can come from a number of things: destructive (instead of constructive) criticism in your critique group, months and years of rejections (from editors and/or agents), poor reviews or sales when you finally get published, and put-downs from family or friends about your “little hobby.”
A friend of mine who is a published writer, teacher, and writing coach, sent me a quote once. It said, “Courage and confidence come from knowledge and skills–the more you develop knowledge and skills, the more courage and confidence you’ll have.”
Want more writing confidence? This is exactly what happens to us when we buckle down and work on our writing craft.
Several years ago I embarked on my own self study program when I couldn’t afford to enroll in an MFA program. The study time included a lot more writing and critiquing, plus analyzing successful middle grade novels. I also studied a lot of craft books, tracking the number of hours per week.
I didn’t meet my goal of 25 study hours per week. In fact, I only logged about 65 hours for a whole month. But that was a lot more study than I had been doing since I started writing many years ago. I am still studying writing craft books, but it’s more like 5-10 hours per week now.
The result? I know my writing is better, which I expected. But the knowledge gave me more courage, more confidence, so when I had a chance to write some adult mysteries for a traditional publisher, I grabbed it. (I just signed a third contract.) Without the studying I’ve done over the last few years, I don’t think I would have even pursued the chance.
Several years ago, I was privileged to attend Jane Yolen’s master novel writing retreat. I still remember her words to us after she’d read and critiqued our manuscripts. She looked around the circle of a dozen writers and said, “Some of you in here are better writers than I am.” She paused while we choked, then added, “But I can guarantee you that none of you write as much as I do.”
At the time, I thought she was telling us that she was much published because she wrote a lot of hours every week. Made sense! Now I wonder if she wasn’t also telling us that writing so many hours was what had honed her skills and knowledge of the language and gave her the courage and confidence to keep submitting things.
Don’t Major on the Minors
If you lack courage and confidence in your writing, try coming at it through the back door. Instead of daily affirmations saying “I’m a GREAT writer,” trying studying your craft to improve your skills.
Sometimes I think we spend too much time analyzing our fears as a way to bolster our courage. Maybe–just maybe–the problem would take care of itself if we planted our seats in our seats and worked harder.