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Apr 03

C is for Confidence

A writer without confidence is like a monkey without poo to fling. They just sit there, disheartened, empty, dead. Sure they can fling other stuff around – but what’s the point? As writers we need to have the confidence to fling poop around the page during first drafts. It’s easy to begin a new project, reread your work and exclaim what you’ve written is crap, poop, excrement, night soil, sewage, meadow muffins…

But as a writer you have to have confidence in your work. You have to understand that you can write and you’ve experienced these feelings of doubt before. No one starts off with a perfect first sentence or paragraph or first draft. It takes time and confidence and the willingness to fling poo around the page until you have enough novelist guano to start moulding a story from.

You must tell yourself each and ever day that you are a writer, what you write is worthwhile, and you will have a bloody good novel by the time you’ve finished wading through the number-two (and three and four) drafts that litter your desk.

Self-assurance is a hard talent to learn for a writer. We have to be our own worst critics in order to get the job done. If we like our work too much then we might not want to cut, edit and hack the hell out of it until it’s a better story for it. Confidence must straddle the line between cockiness and conviction. You can’t be so confident that you believe your first draft is perfect, spelling errors and all – but you can’t be so harsh a critic that you edit, and edit, and edit, until you go mad from the effort, your story constantly changing and evolving from the original concept until it bears no resemblance to your initial idea.

So you write, and write some more, then read, and read some more. You need to learn more about yourself than the process of storytelling. No doubt if you’ve been writing for a while and you love reading as much as I do then you already know how to tell a story…but that’s not the problem. The problem is believing you can write a story. You need to learn to trust yourself, and have faith in your own abilities.

First drafts require confidence.

Save your inner critic for the editing stage.

30 comments

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  1. SueH

    Hmmm – I have confidence I can write; it’s that other ‘C’ that gets me most of the time: Convincing people what I wrote is worth reading!

    Generally, I find agents/publishers have fairly low Capacity for being convinced!

    However, most of my blog-posts do at least inspire the reader to Comment……!

    1. Steven Chapman

      Certainly consider cracking citizens craniums if they question the certainty of your characters, copy, and commas!

  2. Vero

    “Confidence must straddle the line between cockiness and conviction.” This is quote material!
    Awesome advice, and very true. Writers need to allow themselves to suck while drafting, otherwise they’ll never get anywhere. Great post, Steven!

    1. Steven Chapman

      Thanks, V! Glad you liked it 🙂

  3. Stephanie

    What a great post! I love the words that you choose to deliver your message. My main problem as a writer is another C word: commitment. New follower here.

    1. Steven Chapman

      Commitment is always a problem for me, I get all excited about a project then commitment just dwindles day by day *bad writer!*

  4. Jaye Robin Brown

    Number two drafts – the analogy – oh the analogy – LOL.

    Confidence comes in waves. Some days I think, “Oh yeah, I am the bomb.” Other days I’m a groveling monkey in the dirty end of the cage. Thanks for the reminder to keep it real.

    1. Steven Chapman

      I was kinda proud of that one myself 😀

  5. Misha

    So true. If a writer lacks confidence, maybe they can cheat the system like me and write pen to paper without reading back until the book is finished. 🙂

    1. Steven Chapman

      Hell yeah, there’s a post coming up (F) which is all about blasting through the initial draft with confidence to get your novel finished.

  6. Emma Bragg

    I love this post and I think the analogy sums it up very well! Confidence is something often forgotten for the writer’s essential toolkit.

    1. Steven Chapman

      Cheers, EmBee! Confidence is also something I forget in real life never mind writing 😛

  7. L.M. Towton

    Confidence is something I certainly struggle with (can’t speak for the L.Tow half of the name) and always have really. Why the hell I choose to be a writer AND an artist is beyond me some days.

    It’s a great post, because you do need confidence in your work (and yourself) if you are pursuing the life of a creative. Clearly, someone needs to bottle confidence and sell it, they’d make a fortune!

    1. Steven Chapman

      You can be ‘Con’ and L.Tow can be ‘Fidence’, think what an amazing crime fighting team you’ll make!

  8. liz young

    I have lots of confidence – just not very often! When I get a compliment my con-score shoots up, when it’s a rejection it hits rock boottom. I expect we’re all the same, we writers.

    1. Steven Chapman

      I guess we have to learn to take compliments and ignore negativity. Although that’s not an excuse to ignore critisism, which can be very useful.

  9. Liz Brownlee

    ah… i didn’t have any confidence, but doing a uni course did give it to me. I’ve managed a whole load of things i would never have contemplated without doing it. And publication gave me the confidence to do the course. We need some sort of recognition I think before it comes to some of us!

    1. Steven Chapman

      Lack of confidence is still one of my biggest problems, what uni course was it, Liz?

  10. Cherie Reich

    Very true about confidence. Although personally first drafts for me are much easier. It’s harder to have the confidence to believe in that first draft and be able to turn it into a polished manuscript.

    1. Steven Chapman

      Yeah, it’s not such an issue with first drafts. I need the confidence to finish one though before I can worry about the confidence needed to polish 😀

  11. Tracy Brown

    Absolutely true. I will admit, during the last editing stage of my WIP I lost some confidence in myself. (Boo. Hiss.) I fell into the hole you mentioned in your post: “…so harsh a critic that you edit, and edit, and edit, until you go mad from the effort…”

    I had to walk away – but that was a good thing. Eventually I got a grip and I’m back to it with the confidence I had when writing the first draft.

    Thanks for your post!

    1. Steven Chapman

      It’s almost impossible to completely silence your inner editor, but you can keep them placated with plenty of coffee and chocolate biscuits 😀

  12. Nate Wilson

    Alas, I have confidence in my writing, but not confidence I’ll put aside enough time to finish it. Also, my current novel (barely touched these past two years) has poo-throwing monkeys in it. Invisible poo-throwing monkeys. Thus, I’m completely confident some of my writing is a bunch of crap. In more ways than one.

    1. Steven Chapman

      My god! Invisible poo-throwing monkeys…I need to read this book!

  13. Timothy Brannan

    Awesome and so true.

    You have to believe you can do this stuff or you will never get past the first page.

    Looking forward to seeing what you do all month!

    Tim
    The Other Side
    The Freedom of Nonbelief

    1. Steven Chapman

      Cheers, Tim! I just hope I dont’t run out of steam and have to do poop-themed posts for the rest of the month. For some strange reason they come a lot easier than intelligent, well thought out posts 😀

  14. Pearson Report

    I laughed at your opening paragraph. Great visual to prove a point. Yes…confidence in oneself is the key…once you have that key you can open all those doors that would have otherwise remained closed.

    Great “C” topic.

    Jenny @ Pearson Report
    Co-Host of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

    1. Steven Chapman

      Yeah, I probably went a bit overboard on the whole poop analogy :S

  15. Pamela Skjolsvik

    Having another person that you trust to evaluate your “poo” is good too:) That sounds really gross, but it helps. Cooperation!

    1. Steven Chapman

      A true friend is willing to sift for your poop and look for hidden gems 😀

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