Some conversations you never forget.
When I told my mom of my plans to leave the nursing profession and become a writer, she laughed.
Sitting at her living room table, skimming through a nursing magazine (it runs in the family), she didn’t look up at me. She just kept laughing. Maybe she was afraid that if she looked at me, it would give weight and cement to the preposterous words flying out of my mouth.
I don’t believe my caring, supportive mom was laughing at me and my dream. At that moment, I believe she thought I was joking.
And in many ways, the idea was fantastical, even to me.
That was over eight years ago. It doesn’t matter how many classes I’ve taken, how many clients I’ve had or books I’ve written, I still hear that laugh.
It’s not as loud anymore. But there are days when it jangles around in my mind getting louder and louder, desperately demanding attention and acknowledgment.
Those are the days when insidious questions poke their heads up from buried corners of my mind.
How can I be a writer?
What makes me worthy?
Am I qualified?
I don’t have a degree in writing or literature or English. There is not one person in my family (immediate or extended) who is a writer. Little black girls from broken homes rarely grow up to be writers. It’s just not the norm.
How dare I feel like a confident writer?
I battle against these thoughts.
What about you? Maybe you come from a literary family or you have a degree or other validation. Does any of that make it easier to show up consistently and write? I’d wager not.
Here’s What It Really Takes to Become a Confident Writer
It takes courage.
It takes courage because the only way you’ll ever feel more confident is if you write…a lot.
And doing so takes courage.
It takes gobs of courage to scale the mountain of fear that casts shadows of self-doubt over every one of your writing ideas and projects.
It takes an abundance of courage to put your words out there, consistently, knowing you’ll be criticized, disputed, rejected. (Because all work is eventually criticized and rejected. By someone. Somewhere.)
And it takes courage to dig deep, connect with your true voice, and write from the heart. To write about what’s really bothering you, what you passionately believe in, what’s keeping you up at night, what you love, what you fear, and how you feel underneath the sugary social-media-branded surface.
And for all these reasons, you often come to the page ready to write but are greeted by a silent emptiness. The hollow sound of a vacuous container, rather than the sound of words arranging themselves in sequence and falling to the page.
Or sometimes you don’t come to the page at all. You know you need to write, but your mind is raided with reasons to avoid sitting and getting it done. And they all seem like good reasons: maybe I need to read one more book about creative living or re-work my outline for the 16,000th time or call one of my writerly friends and chat about how hard the writing life is.
Or you write in sporadic, inconsistent bursts. A scene here, a chapter there, but nothing steady enough to build a body of work or fulfill your big writing goals. You feel inspired and courageous one week and doubtful the next. I’ve been there.
And I want you to know a few things.
I want you to know it’s not too late. Ever. As long as you’re reading this, it’s possible to start tackling your writing projects without all the drama, avoidance, procrastination, and fear.
I also want you to know there’s no magic pill or formula to build courage and confidence. Just simple steps, one after the other.
And that you can show up to write, write deeper, and write consistently, lighting a fire under the discipline and commitment needed to finally take on your big, dreamy writing projects.
Courage and confidence are built one tiny step at a time.
There is no other way. Reading books and blogs and taking writing classes are all helpful. But…
You Have to Write
When you feel like it. And when you don’t.
When self-doubt is high and inspiration low.
Even if it’s a crappy first draft (that’s normal) or second draft (that happens, too) or even a third draft.
In Anne Lamott’s brilliant book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (2007), she reassures us that we needn’t expect our first drafts to be anywhere near good:
The more you write, the more you hone your craft. All the books and classes in the world can’t do the actual honing for you. They give you some guidance and tools. But doing the writing, especially when it feels hard, is how you start feeling more confident, day by day.
Take one step.
Maybe write one page. Or one paragraph if that’s all you can muster.
Then set a date and time (and an alarm on your phone/email) to repeat that action again.
Put What These Concepts Into Practice
(a few related resources that may help)
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life – This book is a classic! Funny, inspiring, a must-read for every writer, no matter what genre you write.
Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer – This book helped me up my writing game. I still reference it at times.Writing Courage Challenge – One of my free resources. It helps you build your writing courage and connect with your true voice.
Writer’s Journal – My writing journal I use to plan projects. It’s also a safe space I use to journal about my writing progress, doubts, wins, and anything else that’s on my mind.