Overcoming Self-doubt for the Beginner Writer

1/20/18

You know what makes me sad? Seeing people give up on their dreams/aspirations due to self-doubt or discouragement.



I sometimes work with younger writers through online book clubs, and I once had a girl in her early teens tell me that her parents didn’t approve of her writing, that she would never be good at it and that she would never amount to anything and to give up, and that broke my heart, because sadly, I’ve been there.

My own mother was anything but encouraging when it came to, well, anything I ever did, but she once scoffed when I told her I wanted to write saying “You? Write? You can’t even spell!” As if that’s something one can’t improve with practice or effort. I’m no stranger to discouragement, and frankly, any parent who says such cruel things to their child is a piece of shit. And, no, I’m not sorry for saying that. I don’t blame some parents for wanting the best for their kids; study in a STEM field, become a doctor, make big money, etc., but that doesn’t mean you have to crush your child’s dreams and stifle their creativity. Even if their interests can’t pay the bills, people should be allowed to explore their creative outlets because it enriches the lives we lead, and who knows, maybe with time, practice, and effort, they might just take those creative interests and make a name/career for themselves.

If you’re a young/new writer please please please don’t let anyone discourage you or tell you your writing will never amount to anything. Here’s the thing about writing; if you’re new to it, or if you’re young – it’s going to suck. At first. I know that sounds harsh, but take any artist who works in a visual medium, and they’ll tell you, they didn’t become good overnight. Being good at visual art takes lots and lots of practice practice practice. If you look at an artist’s earliest work vs. their work later in life, you’ll almost always see a massive improvement in skill, and it’s the same for writing. My first manuscript was GARBAGE. It was filled with typos, grammar, and spelling mistakes, flat, one-note characters, questionable motives, clichés, and plot holes through which you could drive a Mack truck. But I was young, and it was literally the first story I had ever written, of course, it was garbage. Being a good writer takes time and practice. For some people, it can take more time and practice than others, but if you keep working at it, someday, eventually, you’ll be able to look at your old work vs. your new work and see the massive improvements you’ve made and realize that your dedication made all the difference in your growth.

My advice is:

+Read as many books as you can. Being a voracious reader can significantly improve your writing.

+Study English or literature (or if your parents don’t approve of you taking a liberal arts major, take some English or literature courses as an elective). Look up guides on how to edit your own work. Read books or watch videos on how to write compelling characters and storylines. Learn as much as you can about grammar, spelling, and syntax.

+Travel. Whether it’s around the world or just in your local town, be curious about the world around you and all of your surroundings. Seeing new things and being curious will expand your worldview. Having a bigger worldview can allow you to write from a wider perspective.

+Meet new people. The world is filled with all kinds of people with different personalities, dreams, and lifestyles. If you want to write interesting and unique characters, take inspiration from real life people to breathe life and believability into your characters.

+Make friends who are also writers. Read each other’s work. Offer encouragement or look for ways to help each other improve. Nothing can be more encouraging than having peers who share your goals and dreams.

+Avoid negative people. If you know a parent/friend/peer who would have nothing good to say about your writing/interests, don’t go out of your way to share your work with them. Some people are inherently negative and don’t even realize how toxic their behavior is, in such cases, it’s best to avoid confrontation with those who do not have your best interests at heart.

+Learn to take criticism. Now, I know this is a hard pill to swallow, especially for very young or very new writers. Harsh criticism at a young age can literally cause some people to give up writing entirely. Young people can be particularly sensitive as they might take criticisms of their writing as a personal/direct attack instead of as an opportunity to learn or improve. Learn to accept suggestions and use criticism as an opportunity to make genuine improvements. Not everyone is out to get you, some people who offer criticism really do want to open your eyes to things in your writing that you can improve.

+Just keep writing. Even if it isn’t very good, even if others tell you your work is terrible – just keep writing. Give yourself time. The key is practice, lots of it. Don’t beat yourself up if the first thing you write (or the first dozen things you write) isn’t instantly literature gold. Practice is the key. Practice. Practice. Practice. If writing is truly a passion for you, the destination will be worth the long journey ahead. Don’t give up.

2 thoughts on “Overcoming Self-doubt for the Beginner Writer

  1. I think a big part of the problem is that writing is or can be such a solitary thing, and if you’ve never had any friendly or constructive feedback, you’ll tend to assume that people won’t like your work. Also, I don’t know if anyone else feels this way too, but I always feel desperately possessive about my writing! I want other people to read it, but also I don’t. Especially not my parents (well, my dad wouldn’t be interested but I’d be way too embarrassed to show my mum. Bedroom scenes and all that…).
    Sometimes I feel confident and think that I don’t care if others don’t like my work. If you felt so strongly enough about an idea that you just had to get it down on paper/computer, then it was important to you, and that’s what counts!
    Thank you for this post 🙂 I’m glad there are friendly souls out there, willing to give encouragement to others!

    • Very true. A lot of writers choose to write in vacuum for fear of criticism. I used to be guilty of that, but I discovered that even though I’m very possessive of my writing if I don’t put myself out there, I might be passing up on opportunities to learn and grow through feedback/criticism. Opening myself up and allowing others to read my work, while terrifying at times, provided me with the encouragement to pursue my writing with even more gusto than I would find by keeping my work to myself. But, whether or not to share one’s work is a very personal choice, and only the writer can decide when they’re ready. Thank you, and good luck with your writing!

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