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A lack of confidence in your own writing can be quite common when you first start writing professionally, and can still occasionally hit even the most hardened pro. As with writer’s block, writing confidently is as much to do with your state of mind as your ability; there are techniques that can help relax your writing anxiety and help you compose words in a flowing, lucid manner.
In continuation of my series of posts on why copywriting shouldn’t be rushed, being more creative and beating writer’s block, I’m now going to assess ways of learning to write more confidently because it should be a pleasure, and not just a profession:
1) Read a lot. Read widely in new genres and formats, and not just within your own area of expertise. Seeing how other authors formulate their paragraphs and project meaning will help formulate structures in your own mind. The more widely you can read the more expansive your points of reference and the influences you can draw on when you sit down to put pen to paper.
2) Write a lot. The more you write the more you’ll relax, and agonize less over every sentence. Write even if your not getting paid for it. Start a blog, write articles for free distribution or write for a charity. Rekindle the feeling of writing for pleasure and remind yourself why you choose to do it in the first place.
3) Overcome your fear of people reading your work. If you’re not yet yet writing professionally, share your writing with friends or post it on writing community websites. Stage fright at the thought of exposing your words to others can often hold back many from taking the jump into the professional arena. The fear of criticism of what you’ve poured out onto the page has to be conquered if you want your talent to be appreciated.
4) Understand why you want to be a writer or why you became one. Was it from friends enjoying your short stories, work colleagues commenting on your writing or just your self belief in your own ability? What was the spark that made you realize you had the talent to write professionally?
5) If you’re writing professionally, appreciate what it has taken to get you to where you are. It takes confidence and bravery to start relying on your brain and word processor to produce the words that will keep a roof over your head and stop you going hungry. Appreciate your successes in getting work, and that you’re earning a living from your talent; which would otherwise be just a hobby.
6) Learn to accept criticism as feedback. Writing is a personal experience and as such writers are supposed to react badly to criticism. You’ll need to break out of this stereotype if you want to grow. Sometimes it takes a fresh pair of eyes to identify room for improvement, to which you’d otherwise be blind.
7) Learn to accept praise. The temptation is to be modest as you knew all along that your latest work was a masterpiece, but take pleasure and satisfaction in the fact that your writing is appreciated and that you’ve yet again delivered. Keep a portfolio of your best work and testimonials to revisit on days when you’re wrestling with self-doubt.
8) Always approach every project with maximum effort and treat it as part of a long-term business relationship. You’ll then get the satisfaction of knowing you did the best job you could and given yourself the best chance of repeat business and referrals, where most of your work will probably come from.
9) Take note of Chris Garret’s warning on avoiding the ‘Copywriter’s Curse’: if you worry too much about achieving perfection then the anxiety can grind your writing to a halt. Don’t confuse the writing stage with the editing process. As with beating writer’s block, just get words onto the page and then shape and mould them to your heart’s content afterwards. Perfection is something you can always aspire to, but will rarely reach in the first draft, if ever. Even Shakespeare would probably tear up a few of his manuscripts if he were to revisit them today.
10) Appreciate that the occasional doubt in your own writing is part of the creative process and is what keeps you striving for higher standards. Use it as motivation to improve and to learn how to become a better writer, which is a lifetime pursuit in itself.
Follow these steps, work hard and remember that even Stephen King had to go through having his work marked in black marker pen at some stage.