Confidence and your writing practice is a give and take relationship. Some days you’re expressing with the greatest of ease, other days you struggle getting a word out. Regardless of how long you’ve been at getting confident with your writing practice, there are constant challenges. It forces you to push and not become complacent. The times where you struggle are the times where you are being asked to extend yourself, so you can do your best work.
When I was presented with my very first commissioned work, I was completely terrified. It was for a high profile online publication read by thousands. I had an insurmountable pressure on my shoulders that had me labouring over every single sentence of my 200-word café review.
Despite the fear and struggle, I wrote it. I sent it to my editor. He read it, praised it and sent me off to complete another job.
It was a defining moment for me because I had managed in that instant, to prove a huge point to both myself and to the voice of doubt that likes to hold us back for fear of failure and humiliation.
That experience didn’t rid me of my fear altogether, nor did it boost my confidence and have me ready to take on a million new writing projects. In fact the fear I felt the first time came to me tenfold on my very next commissioned piece. Feeling completely out of my depth on being offered to write a feature article, I came close to turning down the job. I panicked. The structure, word count and content were completely different. I had to instantly lift my efforts.
I had committed to the deadline and knew how poorly it would reflect if I were to give in. Not one to shy away from hard work, it was my pride and work ethic alone that pulled me through.
Again, I struggled, I laboured, I caught my critic judging and questioning each and every sentence. I compared and agonised. I sweated it out and I handed it in. I braced myself, expecting to hear the worst. The worst never came…
Here are a few things that my fear, judgment and terror have taught me about getting confident with your writing:
Just Start: Regardless of what you’re doing – whether it’s writing a blog or being commissioned for a job, just start. Once you start, things eventually flow and come out. It might feel like it’s taking forever, but the hardest step to take is just getting the first word out – regardless of whether or no you use it, put something – anything on the page.
Move: This is particularly great if you’ve already started but part way through, have lost your way. If I get anxious or are struggling to connect the next segment, I take myself on a good, brisk walk. Typically, I will have a sentence enter my mind within 20 minutes of walking. Changing your environment and being embraced by different stimuli can have the most transformative effect on you.
Relax: The greatest piece of advice a dear friend and fellow creative told me once is this: Paula, EVERYONE gets edited…the best writers get edited. The minute I heard this, I actually felt my entire body heave a huge sigh of relief. The finished product you hand in, will not be the end result that is printed. Your work gets tweaked, cut and re-structured. It’s a normal part of the process. The creative industry lends itself to giving you the opportunity to express yourself, but it is not your complete signature on the work by the time they go to print. So, don’t worry, there is no such thing as perfect.
Practice: Are you writing enough? It is a natural fact, the more you exercise something the stronger it gets. The same goes for getting confident at your writing practice. The more you engage with your work, the richer and more comfortable you will get with the process. Your confidence will naturally develop because you will begin to notice a shift in the way you approach your work. You’ll become more aware of your habits and patterns. You’ll begin to recognise what makes them surface and how to get rid of them. The more you write, the more you exercise that muscle. If you need some inspiration, start with some basic writing exercises. They will serve to loosen up and help you restart the flow.
Fear: Take a good hard look at exactly what your critic is telling you. Be honest and ask yourself where it’s coming from. Chances are, the critic stalling you from doing your work, is the same one stalling you from countless other areas of your life. The habits and patterns that stall our creative pursuits are also what impact all the other areas of our life. It can take a long time to recognise where these fears stem from, but once you start to bring them to the surface, you’ll quickly come to understand how much they are getting in the way of you moving forward.
Patience: By far the hardest area to develop. Understanding that things are a process, that you need to give yourself time in order for certain realities to be realised, is by far the hardest undertaking. If you’re anything like me, you expect instant results. It’s a frustrating process. However, instant results are not achievable if you aren’t putting in the work. Being compassionate and committing to your practice takes time, is an unhurried process and results in good work finally being executed.
Like any practice, the more comfortable you become in getting to know it, the more it reveals itself to you. Being flexible with understanding that there are good days and bad days helps to gradually overcome frustrations. The rest eventually catches up and follows through, resulting in some of the richest creative work you will ever produce…
Happy travels…Paula x