From the Desk of the Editor: How To Build Creative Confidence In Your Writing

Filed in From the Desk of... by on January 12, 2016 35 Comments

I’ll let you in on a secret: writing is less about professional training, and more about creative confidence. Anyone can string together a few decent sentences. The difference is that those with creative confidence will share their decent sentences with anyone and everyone, while other writers hide their work away from the world—proclaiming it isn’t good enough for public consumption.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a difference between putting work out that hasn’t been revised, edited and proofread, and putting out work that you deem lesser than someone else’s work.

Each time you negatively compare your work to another, devalueing your skill set, your talent, or your entire creative existence, you are desecrating your creative confidence. If you do that one too many times, you could convince yourself of altogether abandoning the gift of storytelling that God placed in you.

The good thing is, you can never get too far down that road of negativity. It does take work, however, to get yourself back on a confidence-building path. That work lies solely within you—no one else can give you confidence, especially confidence in your own writing. You have to cultivate it deep within your soul. How do you build creative confidence? First, we have to look at the three most common forms of confidence-bashing we subject ourselves to.

3 Ways to Kill Creative Confidence

1. Don’t share your work with anyone—ever.

Have you ever played one of those team-building games where you write down one thing no one would know about you, and the team has to guess who wrote it? Well, you don’t want to be the person that puts, “I like to write,” on a piece of paper and no one can guess it’d be you. God gives us talents and gifts that we are to share within our communities. If no one knows you write because you’ve never told them or shared something you’ve written with them, are you sharing your gift? I’m not saying you need to run up the closest mountaintop and scream, “I’m a writer!” for all to hear. Instead, find little ways to share your writing: join a local writing group, offer your services to the church newsletter or local newspaper, share short stories in Facebook posts. The more you share, the more creative confidence you build each time.

2. Spend more time comparing your work to other people instead of honing your own craft.

We live in a world where anyone can shame us for something we said, did, or didn’t do. Trends like fat-shaming and mom-shaming are negative social behaviors that fuel the bullying society we live in. Don’t let negativity from outside sources—or yourself—infiltrate your creative space. Stop comparing your work to something you’ve read, stop devaluing your own work, and stop telling others your work is awful. The more you hear negativity or speak negativity into existence, the more damage you do to your creative confidence. Words are powerful; you must be careful how you use them.

3. Take all criticism as negative criticism instead of looking at it as a learning experience.

Maybe you’re not type one or two above; you’ve shared your work with others and you don’t speak about your own work negatively, which is great. However, as soon as you receive criticism that doesn’t fall in line with what you want to hear, you shut down.

First off, criticism is part of the creative process, but how you respond to it and what you do with the information is 100% up to you. Instead of taking the criticism too personally, remove yourself and your emotions from the equation. Then, examine the facts provided in the feedback and use it as a way to improve your craft even more.

Everyone, from Shakespeare to Hemingway to Thoreau, were told they didn’t have what it took to craft a well-written story at some point in their writing careers. All three writers’ works now serve as teaching elements in English classrooms across the country—and the world. If these literary greats had taken negative criticism to heart, I wouldn’t be able to quote lines from Shakespeare’s plays, I wouldn’t have fallen in love with The Sun Also Rises in my American Literature class, and I wouldn’t know that I could appreciate Thoreau’s descriptions of nature.

Now: how do you flip the script, find your creative confidence, and keep it?

Most importantly, hold this truth close to your heart: if God has placed a calling on your heart to write, you must obey and write.

Second, if you feel unsure about your writing skills from an educational standpoint, pick up a copy of The Elements of Style and get those nitty-gritty English rules in your writer’s toolbox. A builder can’t build a house without tools, and a you can’t write a book without your writing toolbox.

Third, you have to write—a lot. Not everything you write will be shareable with the public, but that’s not the point. Share the work you’ve poured your heart and soul into, the work you’ve revised, rewritten and edited to perfection. Then, ask people what they honestly think about it. Stow every compliment, every “I loved it” in the back of your head. When you’re having a particularly rough day (and they will come), roll back over those compliments, and believe them!

Once you start filling your creative energy with positive reinforcement, you’ll grow your creative confidence. And trust me—confidence is like gold in the creative world.

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About the Author ()

Erika Bennett, Editorial Manager for Xulon Press, has been a freelance editor for nearly half a decade. Before joining the Xulon team in 2010, she worked with several first time authors who wanted to test the waters of self-publishing. Her aim is to make sure great books find their way into readers’ hands.

Comments (35)

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  1. avatar Annette says:

    Thank you. It is like you read my mail. I needed to see this today.

  2. Thanks for the good information . I need to cut about 40,000 words out of my 90,000 words of testimonies of miracles in my life. Pray I can get motivated to dive in and cut!

    • Carolyn,

      Cutting words can be hard, but can be necessary. Look for ways to say the same thing, more concise and with less words. That’s a great way to cut words without cutting content. Also, look to delete filler words and passive verb tense: “we were driving” to “we drove”.

      Good luck and know we’re here if you need us!

      Blessings,
      Erika

  3. avatar Dion P Crown says:

    I, Dion Phillips Crown, to am also an Author. I strongly agree with what you said about creative confidence.

  4. avatar Martha Butler de Lister says:

    Thanks Erika!! You have nudged me forward to obey the calling!
    I will follow your advise and have the premonition it will pay off.
    Shalom,

    Martha

  5. avatar Mary Taylor says:

    I’m writing want I think is a short story. Can you speak on want comprises a short story?

    Thank you,
    Mary T.

  6. avatar Alice j cooper says:

    Thank you so much this has helped me in many ways,thank you
    Alice j cooper

  7. avatar Sonja Hall says:

    I’m glad to have read this. God has given his people gifts, some many some one. Thank you very much for sayin what you did, if God has given us a gift of writing we must write. I never used to like writing at all, I hated it. Well:) the Lord gave me a love for writing when I gave my life to Him. I thank Him so much.

    • Sonja,

      Writing is such an amazing gift from God! I’m so glad you’ve been able to identify that as your gift, and love it as well. Thank you so much for sharing!

      Blessings,
      Erika

  8. avatar Peter Ibrahim from Kaduna, Nigeria. says:

    I must say am blessed by this piece. I have many short stories and articles am unable to share for several reasons, some mentioned here.
    Thanks for that encouragement.

  9. avatar Alexa says:

    Thank you!!! I was struggling trying to complete my book and this just helped me out a lot.

  10. avatar LORON THOMAS says:

    Thank you so much for this great article you wrote. It is extremely helpful to me and encouraging. You also gave me a few goals for me to include in this years goal writing. I am a beginning writer. I wrote a couple of stories when I was about 11 and then I stopped because I didn’t believe in myself, at all.Though a few dreams were shot down back then, they are still alive in me today. I decided to not let my hopes die, but to dream again. This last year, I had put all of my dreams on the shelf of my mind because I thought God had forgotten me when He was handing out gifts to those that love Him. What complete nonsense that all is. So, even before sharing you this little letter to you, I started writing out weekly and monthly goals. Daily, I will write for 30 minutes no matter how seemingly unimportant it is. Even this one small goal gave me hope. I decided that I will save, print this article to remind and inspire me daily. Thank you for writing your article to help us, not so motivated writers. I believe I can do this now. I am set free to write forever. Oh, also thank you for all the positive insights you gave in your writing the article. Much blessings to you. – Loron Thomas – (future, “put a book on a shelf writer”).

    • Lorna,

      I’m so sorry you’ve struggled with confidence in your writing. It can be one of the hardest personal struggles for writers. I love your new routine of writing 30 minutes a day! Sometimes that’s all it takes to allow confidence to slowly creep back in. You never know where those small 30 minute windows will take you. I think that’s why I love books; you never know where you’ll be transported to—if only for a few minutes. Know that we’re here if you need us!

      Keep writing, and keep praying!
      Erika

  11. avatar Joni Jones says:

    I am in the process of writing and publishing three books with Xulon. This information was a God-send as I am rethinking and over analyzing my work.

    Blessings!

    • Hi Joni,

      Sometimes it’s best to step away from your writing for a bit, then go back and read it with fresh eyes. Over-analyzing can get the best of all of us “creative types”. Keep writing and keep praying! We’re here for anything you need.

      Erika

  12. avatar Diane Rohlinger says:

    Erika, wonderful article! Really gives me confidence to try giving my work to people and see what they honestly think about it. Also I’m going to see if the writer’s group is still going in this very small town and rejoin it and this time actually contribute stuff. Thanks for the boost.

    • Hi Diane,

      I’m so glad you found some inspiration in this article. Writing groups are a great way to come together. If there isn’t one, maybe think about creating one! There are plenty of writers out there looking for a place to connect.

      Blessings,
      Erika

  13. avatar John Lee says:

    This gets me interested again. 2 years ago Xulon published my book Marriage Reconsidered. A friend warned me ahead of time, “this will be a tough sell,” and it has been.

    With all the work it took writing it – which did have its rewards – I’d love to think that I could actually get people to buy what I write. But I can’t get out on the road and promote my stuff for various reasons. If there were some encouragement as to solving this problem I’d like to hear it.

    My wife helped me edit my book and was a good critic. Having said that, I’m open to more input there, but wonder about other things too: What subjects catch peoples’ attention? How can I help marketing without shelling out a lot of cash that may or may not make a difference? What about writing things that people would rather not grapple with (marriage changes and Biblical thoughts)? I’m quite interested in writing about Reasons for Faith – why Christian faith makes good common sense. (Our world says it believes in common sense but really doesn’t think critically very much!) Could there be more of an audience for this?

    • HI John,

      Are you on social media at all? It’s a great avenue, when used correctly, to market and sell your book, or at least let people know you wrote a book. You can also call in and speak to your Marketing Consultant for more marketing ideas on a budget.

      We have a saying around the Xulon office, “one book can change 10,000 lives or one book can change one life, which will then change 10,000 lives.” Never hesitate to share because you don’t know who may pick up your message and take it further for you.

  14. avatar Cynthia in OC says:

    Great advice for a new start and a new year!

  15. Hallo,
    Thank you very much for this wound full words of encouragement .
    May God bless you and please continue to encourage the people of
    to go ahead and to continue to pro-clam the richest of the kingdom
    of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  16. God bless you the wound full words of encouragement.

  17. avatar Tiffany says:

    I am so glad you started doing this for the new year! Thank you for this because it is exactly what I needed to read!

  18. avatar Sally M. Chetwynd says:

    DEFINITELY!: In focusing on the negative, you abdicate your power to the enemy, whose job is to get you to belittle yourself. You also give him more attention (any attention is too much) than he deserves. Remember that only YOU can tell your story. And definitely build your toolbox. (Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style” has been in my possession since high school.) I’ve written ever since I could hold a pencil (almost 60 years now), and I am still building my toolbox – I just ordered three related books about different aspects of developing one’s characters, which I plan to devour as soon as they get here.

    Even if you don’t have the best command of the English language, write anyway. Writing will improve it, and reading voraciously will improve it. A friend of mine teaches ESL (English as a Second Language) and she has her students write something for every time they meet – it can be a journal entry, a poem, a short story – whatever they want to write. She has found that because their English vocabulary is so limited, their work comes out sounding like poetry. So there is beauty to be found in the simplest written works, because that’s where one’s heart is. The heart speaks truest.

    • Sally,

      Oh my gosh, I love your response! You are so right about the toolbox, there are always new tools to learn how to use and work into your writing. Can I ask which books you purchased on developing character? I’m always looking for great books on writing as well, so I’m definitely curious which ones you have and love.

      I also love your point on reading and writing voraciously. You are so right! I love sitting at a coffee shop to people watch, and writing the interactions I see. They read like soundbites in my notebook, but that doesn’t matter. It helps me shape dialogue later.

      Thank you so much for sharing your love of writing; I can see the passion in your reponse.

      Blessings,
      Erika

  19. avatar Rachel says:

    I am also a beginner writer at least in this arena. The writing class I took promoted reading books written to the audience I want to invoke. However, I have a brewing family issue of more than past 30 years. Writing it would be a documentary that would impact people with mental challenges. I need to know the legal aspect of this type of writing.

    Lovingly,

    Rachel

    • Hi Rachel,

      Reading books like the one you want to write is definitely a great suggestion. Unfortunately, we can’t offer legal advice on your material, but there are lawyers suited to this exact type of situation that can offer guidance. We’ll be praying you’re able to find your voice and share your message for good.

      Sincerely,
      Erika

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