Building confidence

Bestselling author Stephen King said in his book On Writing: "The scariest moment is always just before you start."

But don't worry – here are our tips to help you conquer some of that fear.

Start small

Set yourself small, manageable aims – eg writing something once a week – so that you don't feel overwhelmed.

Don't worry

Don't worry about trying to make something perfect or making spelling or grammar mistakes. You can always come back to things and make edits at a later stage. Getting your ideas down on paper is the most important thing.

Try something new

If you always write poems, why not try prose? Or if you always write about romance, have a go at writing a thriller. Trying lots of different styles of writing can build your skills and increase your confidence in taking risks.

Do free writing

Free writing is a great way to get the creative juices flowing and explore different creative writing styles. It involves just writing whatever comes into your head for a limited time (eg 3-5 minutes), without worrying about meaning, spelling or grammar.

The aim is to keep the pen on the page and write without stopping. If you get stuck, just rewrite the last word or phrase you wrote until something new to write comes into your head.

Read books about writing

Thousands of books have been written about creative writing, containing tips and tricks to help boost your confidence in your writing. Here are some that have been recommended by our contributors:

  • The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.
  • The Five Minute Writer by Margret Geraghty.
  • The Creative Writing Coursebook: Forty Authors Share Advice and Exercises for Fiction and Poetry edited by Julia Bell and Paul Magrs.
  • The Writers' and Artists' Companions series, edited by Carole Angier and Sally Cline.

See the Writing resources section for more books about writing.

Learn from other writers

Often, writers and readers like to get together in annual festivals. These festivals are a great way to start networking with others, particularly if you're new to creative writing. Typically, festivals last several days and feature presentations, workshops and readings by authors.

Here's a few taking place in 2017:

Or follow @litfests on Twitter

There may also be smaller, local festivals where you can meet other writers in your area. Many libraries and bookshops also have visits from authors where they share their work and their writing process.

Be proud of yourself

Constantly comparing yourself to other writers might not be the best way to boost your confidence. Instead you should be proud that your own background, experiences and writing style will mean that your work is unique.

And remember – always celebrate your achievements, however big or small.

Share your work

Lots of people find that their confidence grows as they share their writing and get feedback from others.

Find out more about this in the section on Sharing your writing.

Try our activity

Banish negative thoughts

One of the things that could have the most impact on your confidence in your writing is building your confidence overall.

Here are some steps to help you banish any negative thoughts that can stop you writing. Try to do these regularly to train your brain into thinking in a more positive way:

  1. Do a simple breathing exercise to relax your whole body. Try breathing in for 2 counts, and breathing out for 6. Focusing on your breathing will mean you don’t have the space to think about any negativity.     
  2. Set aside 5 minutes and write down all of the negative thoughts in your mind. When the time is up, screw up the piece of paper and throw it in the bin. This symbolises throwing away all of these negative thoughts and moving on.
  3. Every time you have a negative thought, visualise yourself screwing it up and throwing it away. Immediately replace the thought with something positive that makes you feel good about yourself.
  4. Think about what you would say to a loved one or a friend if they were having these negative thoughts. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to others!

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