There is something that I have realized lately from the number of emails and conversations I have had with teenage writers. And that is that a large majority of teens interested in writing don’t think that they are good writers.
They have doubts. They question and second guess themselves. Someone gives them a criticism and they feel discouraged and disheartened, and wonder if they should write at all. As both a teenager and a writer, I can definitely relate to this. I think that the teenage years make dealing with self-doubt especially difficult, because our minds are programmed to be alert to criticisms and insecurities. You all know that this is true!
Your best friend tries on a dress that looks fantastic and the first thing you think is, “Man, I wish I hadn’t eaten that cheeseburger for supper last night. Then maybe I might look as good as her.” And when we hear someone say something even a little bit negative about our writing, we freak out and start saying to ourselves, “I knew I shouldn’t try to be a writer. Who am I kidding?”
I’ve also seen this work in the opposite way. Teenagers will walk up to me and plead with me to talk to their friend and tell them that their writing is good. “I’m always telling her that she should be an author!” the best friend will bemoan, “But she just doesn’t think she’s good enough!” I’ve been there before. This may come as, like, a giant newsflash for you guys, but I have insecurities, too! I’m not some type of super-writer, who’s just constantly inspired and motivated and flawless 24/7. No one is. I have never met an author who didn’t struggle with insecurities.
But, despite my fears, I still write. I still publish books. I still try to move forward. And my goal is to help you do that, too! So here is my three step plan. This is how we are going to combat those voices in your head telling you that you aren’t good enough. It’s interactive, so we all have to work together, okay? It’s like motivation bootcamp, minus the blood, sweat, and tears. I present to you…
RACHEL COKER'S THREE STEP PLAN TO GAINING CONFIDENCE AS A WRITER
Step Number One: Make Mistakes, and Be Okay With it
Everyone makes mistakes. That’s not just a line from a corny Hannah Montana song, it’s the truth. Your writing is always going to have flaws. It is never going to be perfect. It may even have historical inaccuracies or—gasp!—typos. You know what? Get over it! Move on! It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to be bad sometimes. There are days that I literally stare at my laptop, read over what I’ve just written, and pound my head on my computer keys moaning, “Why did anyone ever publish my writing? I’m the worst writer in the history of the world!”
We’re all going to have those days. First drafts can be rough, second drafts can be spotty, and sometimes even eighteenth drafts are going to be necessary. That’s okay. Every writer sees the flaws in his or her work. Every. Single. One. I’ve heard of authors who won’t even read their published works because it is so embarrassing to them to look through pages of imperfect writing. Great, fabulous authors who have published outstanding pieces of literature who honestly don’t think of themselves as very good. See? You’re not alone. It’s normal! What you have to remember is this:
Step Number Two: You Have Amazing Potential
I’ve never even read your writing and I know that you have potential. Want to know how? Because you’re motivated. Because you’re passionate. Because you love to write and you’re not afraid to just to do it, even if you feel insecure sometimes. You have something that is so rare and valuable. Even if your writing is sloppy, even if you make mistakes or typos, you still have the potential to create something really meaningful. When you are passionate about something, there is always potential to be good at it. Great at it, even!
I’ve always believed that success is 10% talent and 90% motivation. The only problem is that so many teen writers don’t tap into that potential. They don’t pursue it. They forget that even Olympic athletes started out with knee pads and Lance Armstrong started out with training wheels and Pulitzer prize-winning authors started out with terrible first drafts. Everyone has to start somewhere. You’re not going to bowl a strike without first hitting the bumper a few (or gazillion!) times. And you’re not going to end up with an amazing book without putting in a lot of work.
So if you’re insecure, maybe the problem isn’t that you’re not talented or not good enough to be a writer. Maybe it’s just that you don’t work at it hard enough. It’s not a bad thing to have big dreams. To want to be a fantastic author who publishes dozens of books and never has to scrub a toilet. (That is a lie, by the way. I happen to know that authors scrub toilets all the time.)
Having dreams isn’t bad. You shouldn’t be discouraged by the fact that your fantasies seem so big and out of reach and you don’t think you have what it takes to live up to it. Work at it. Tap into your potential. Take your passion for writing and really give it your best. Even if nothing ever comes of it and you create nothing but terrible, unpublishable mush---it will have been worth it. Because you will have spent a lifetime doing something you love. And what could possibly give you more confidence than that?
And finally, we move on to:
Step Number Three: Tell that Voice in Your Head to Just Shush Up
You know, in a really nice way. The next time that voice in your head is telling you that you’re not good enough or that you’ll never be as good an author as xyz, just don’t listen. Just don’t do it! Think instead of voices like mine and Stephanie’s and Jill’s and all these other wonderful women cheering you on. Encouraging you to just try a different angle and give it another go.
Listen to your friends when they tell you that they like something. Trust their opinions and don’t doubt them. Listen to them when they tell you to fix something. They wouldn’t tell you that if they didn’t love you and want to help make your writing even better! The biggest thing standing in the way of your self-confidence is just that: Yourself. You have so many amazing tools, resources, and encouragement that are just waiting for you if you reach out and take it. So there is no reason to second-guess or doubt yourself!
Remember that if you love what you do, and you give it your all, you are never going to be anything but successful. Because your idea of success shouldn’t hinge on whether or not you get published, or whether or not you write an amazing scene, or whether or not your evil villain is scary enough. I think that every author’s idea of success should be based on whether or not their writing is making them happy. If you love what you do, and you’re passionate about it, then the self-confidence will be there. Trust me. :)
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I really hope it helped in some way! For those of you who are interested, I always have more tips and advice on my blog! And, big news here, I recently announced the title and cover for my second book (due to be released in December) on my blog and Facebook. Check it out!