Over the past five years, I’ve found it easier than ever to write. Most days I can sit down and write what I set my mind to, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction for myself or an assignment for a freelance client.
I don’t mean to say I always write my best or never need to edit my work. Rather, it’s less of a struggle to sit down and make progress on a piece. Some days I write more, some I write less, but I almost always come away with something written down.
It wasn’t always like this.
Years ago, more often than not, I stared at a blank page for hours, wanting to write but not being able to. I was so irrationally fearful of being judged, of making typos, of being considered dumb or immature, that I would freeze mentally. Self-doubt plagued my writing to the extreme, even with writing I never planned to let anyone else see.
So what has changed?
A big part of my evolution as a writer has been gaining confidence not only in my writing but also myself as a person. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned that my confidence levels have impacted my ability to write the way I want to write. In a strange turn of events, the more I’ve written, the more my confidence to write has grown, as well as my ability to live my life “authentically.”
Sometimes, it seems like a which-came-first situation: the confidence or the writing? But there’s no doubt that putting myself out there as a writer has improved my confidence.
How exactly has writing changed my confidence?
I express my thoughts the way I want to.
I’ve never been great at communicating through talking. I was a quiet kid and was embarrassed when I was put on the spot and asked for my opinion. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized that I’d much rather write down my thoughts than speak them. I still stumble over my words or blush when I say something that didn’t come out right.
When I write, though, I have greater control over expressing myself the way I intend. As I type an email, compose a text, or write a blog post, I can edit my words to make sure I’m saying what I actually mean to say. I don’t get this option when talking. If something comes out wrong when I speak, my anxiety tells me that “the damage is done” and no amount of backtracking can fix the situation. Of course, this isn’t really true, but it’s something I’ve struggled with.
Writing my thoughts gives me confidence to state my opinion the way I want to. Realizing I have a meaningful form of communication at my fingertips has been empowering.
I’ve connected with other writers.
Meeting other writers in adulthood has also helped me grow as a person. Writing used to be an incredibly private part of my life, in large part because I didn’t have anyone to share it with. Growing up, it was rare to meet anyone who enjoyed the writing process.
There were plenty of kids interested in baseball, painting, horses, fashion, or those tiny little 3-inch skateboards from the ’90s, but it was almost impossible for me to find other people interested in writing.
It wasn’t until I was older that I began to connect with other writers. In fact, I was in my late twenties before I was really able to break into the outside writing world. Moving to Asheville, NC was a tremendous step for my writing life because I was surrounded by so many people interested in pursuing their creative passions.
Suddenly, I found that I wasn’t the only one that loved creating imaginary worlds and characters. I wasn’t the only one that fixated on finding the perfect way to write a piece of dialogue or describe a setting. I wasn’t the only one who envisioned a career full to the brim of writing
When I did find a supportive network of writers, I felt validated for the first time in my life. I had people to encourage my efforts and who knew what the heck I was talking about when I described difficulties with plotting or confusion about the publishing sphere. It was like living on a deserted island your whole life and then a party boat of writers invites you on board. Woohoo!
I complete projects (!).
If you’re like me and love making to-do lists, you especially love checking off those completed tasks. As a writer, it’s hard to find a better buzz than the one you get from finishing a project.
When I was in my writing lull, I started on dozens of pieces that never seemed to get finished. What was the problem? That lovely self-doubt, of course. I’d get inspired and start scribbling out a draft, and then get interrupted by thoughts like Who would even read this? Remember that time you missed a point on that essay in the 6th grade? That’s because you were a terrible, young writer and now you’re just a terrible, old one!
Needless to say, I had to tame these thoughts before I was able to feel confident enough to finish my projects. Being okay with a messy first draft was a difficult lesson to learn. I had to accept that it was unlikely I’d write “the worst book ever written,” but even if I did, at least I could say I finished it!
The more projects I’ve completed, the less scary it is for people to read them.. Writing is still hard work, but I at least don’t have to deal with that debilitating anxiety anymore.
I feel more like myself.
Of course, I’ve saved the best point for last. When I’m writing freely, I feel more like myself than just about any other time. Wanting to write out an idea but not being able to is an incredibly uncomfortable feeling. And especially in my younger days, I would automatically attach unhelpful feelings of laziness, guilt, anxiety, etc. to the situation, which obviously made it worse.
Now, I remember to have fun with writing! I didn’t want to become a writer because I wanted to win a prize or become famous or earn someone’s approval.
I wanted to become a writer because I love writing. I love stringing together funny sounding words, creating cozy mystery plots about murder and chocolate, editing ruthlessly, rewording awkward sentences, secretly turning real friends and family into larger-than-life characters in my stories, and so on.
And I’m grateful that’s exactly what I get to do today!
How has your confidence level affected your writing? Have you noticed your confidence has changed over the years? Leave a comment and let me know!