“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
It’s the question posed to every growing child. However, once you enter college, the question morphs into two questions: “What are you majoring in?” and “What do you want to do with that?”
I majored in English, and I can’t even begin to count the number of times I was told the degree was useless and a waste of time and money. But what I dreaded even more than hearing the word “useless” again, was the inevitable follow-up question.
“Oh, so you want to teach English?”
No, I would say in the kindest manner possible, I wanted to be a writer and editor.
Usually I could detect a slight wince or cringe in my interrogator whenever I said that.
Writers live in a fast-paced world where the goal is so often to be rich and famous, and unless you’re a repeat best-selling author, you probably won’t live up to that standard. Publishing is a difficult industry to break into, much less to make a living off of, and many people don’t understand the discouragement writers face.
How then can we be confident in our writing abilities if our love of writing is given a fake, cringing smile?
I’ve found a few things that help me when I need a confidence boost.
1. Study the Writing Craft
Whenever someone starts a new job, no one expects them to be perfect at it right away. The new employee is expected to work hard to study the position by going through periods of training. Even long-time employees are often given training to help them keep up on their skills.
Writing is the same way. Writers won’t feel confident in their ability unless they’ve studied the craft and have a working knowledge of how to write. So whether you’re a well-seasoned author or a newbie writer, nonfiction writing craft books and blog posts on the craft of writing can boost your confidence in writing as you learn and try new techniques.
2. Surround Yourself with Encouragement
While a lot of my friends and extended family don’t understand my passion for writing, my immediate family and closest friends greatly support me. Find those people in your life that are excited for you and what you’re doing. Talk to them if you’re feeling down—I’m sure they’ll have some wonderful advice and be able to lift your spirits.
I also would suggest surrounding yourself with inspiration. I write in a corner of my living room at an antique desk. Above the desk are pictures of my story’s characters that dear friends of mine have drawn for me, and when I sit down to write, I usually have a mug of tea close by and a candle of inspiration burning. Every photo, every candle, and every quote around my desk were chosen because they kickstart my creativity.
You could print out encouraging emails or quotes, inspirational pictures, story photos, etc. Anything that reminds you why you love to write.
One of the best ways to gain confidence as a writer is to simply write. To practice.
Writing is an art, and just like other art forms such as painting or playing an instrument, writing requires practice to grow your confidence. You wouldn’t go to a piano recital and play a song that you’d never practiced before—that’d be quite the terrifying experience! In that same way, don’t go into writing expecting it to go really well if you haven’t practiced. Stories and characters take time to grow and develop.
If you’re discouraged about a story or just about your writing in general, go practice. Write a short story for fun or play around with your favorite characters or give your story a new twist that may or may not be relevant to the actual story. Getting words down on paper despite discouragement may be difficult at first, but if you keep working hard and practicing, the words will soon be flowing!
Writing may never make you a lot of money, but writing is an amazing gift! And if God has called you to write, write for Him—not for other people. God will greatly use you in it, if you let Him! So study your craft, surround yourself with encouragement, and write like no one is watching.
Megan Gerig has been known as the hermit in Spare Oom to her family. She prefers reading to socializing, and by middle school, even the librarian had difficulty recommending a book she hadn’t read. Besides reading and writing, Megan enjoys baking muffins (and licking the spatula), gardening, and evening walks. She lives in a cottage in the midst of a busy city with her librarian husband and book-devouring son. You can contact her at her editing website http://www.mgliteraryservices.com or find her on Instagram @librarianswife.