How to Become a More Confident Writer

There’s one thing I hear from writers more than anything else.

Know what it is?

It’s that they don’t feel confident in their writing abilities.

When they do write something:

  • They second guess every sentence and spend hours on what should take minutes.
  • They run it through every writing optimization tool known to man but still aren’t happy with the end result.
  • They hover over the ‘Publish’ button but don’t end up sharing what they’ve written.

The reason? “It’s just not good enough,” they say.

I get it. I really do.

In fact, here’s a post I wrote and published over on Medium back on January 14, 2014 (four years ago). I cringe a little when I read this today. It feels...glib. Flowery. Naive.

But you know what? I’m glad I shared it.

It allows me to see how my writing has evolved, and it gives me a benchmark to reference around the improvement of my writing skills. It’s also a snapshot of my internal dialogue at that point in my life--and if it weren’t documented, I’d probably have forgotten that I ever even had this thought by now. Even though it’s not on par with the writing I share today, it was good practice.

And here’s what this means: It’s pretty easy to become a better writer if you put in the work.

No one gets a permanent “bad writer” stamp on the forehead. I know that if you’ve been told you’re not a great writer (or even that your writing could use some work)--it doesn’t always feel that way.

But the good news is: I’ve seen firsthand how a few new habits can make a world of difference in the writing department.

Growing Your Writing Confidence

What can you do to become a more confident writer (and shirk Imposter Syndrome?)

1. Commit to a 30-day challenge.

Practice makes perfect, so challenging yourself to practice writing every day for 30 days (even if it’s just for five minutes!) can be a good way to introduce a new habit that sticks.

This can be journaling, writing a short story every day, recalling a memory, free writing--just get words onto a page. You don’t even have to share the finished product--just put it on your daily to-do list and commit to making it a priority.

2. Read more: Try a book per month minimum.

In last week’s post, you may have seen that one of the pieces of writing advice from Stephen King was to have a solid reading habit. Reading gets you more familiar with words, different syntax ideas for sentence structure, unique metaphors--you name it.

That’s why having a healthy reading habit (of at least a book per month, I’d say) can help you become a better writer. If you have 15-20 spare minutes a day (you know you do), devote that to reading.

3. Keep a swipe file.

Sometimes you see writing that just really “does it” for you. Maybe the writing voice connects with you on a personal level or there’s a turn of phrase that makes you pause and think, “Wow, what a great way to describe that.”

Make notes on what you like about those pieces of writing and keep a running list of reference material (a swipe file, of sorts) that you can refer back to on days when you need writing inspiration. This will help you better understand what makes certain pieces of writing better than others--and can inform your own writing moving forward.

4. Be open to feedback (and ask for it).

It’s easy to be sensitive about your writing--I know I am. It’s so personal, right?

The thing is: Closing yourself off to constructive criticism only holds you back from improving your writing skills.

I’ve turned in what I thought were excellent first drafts to editors, only to have them sent back with lots of notes and suggestions for edits. My first reaction is to take it personally...but when I get into their comments, I often realize they’ve spotted holes I missed, they have suggestions for better reading comprehension, etc.

We both want the same thing: To produce the best possible piece of writing we can. Being open to that feedback helps us accomplish that goal.

Accepting feedback--and asking for it from writers you trust and respect--is an easy way to get external perspective on where/how/what you can improve in your writing.

Writing Confidence Comes With Practice

Are you going to become a better writer overnight? Nope, definitely not.

There’s a lot of work to be done, but if you can dedicate yourself to improving, I think you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can make strides.

This article originally appeared in my newsletter, A Cup of Copy. Sign up and get these free tips sent right to your inbox every other Wednesday.