Things I Tell Myself When My Confidence Is Low

Trying to write in your spare time is hard. Really, very hard. I deeply envy people who can write streams day after day, whereas my spurts of writing are now brief and short lived. When I was in Australia for 9 months, I astounded myself by easily writing over 100,000 words and almost completing a novel but since then I have languished and the real world is awfully demanding. I have mentioned my 10-year-old-self before and I need to ignore her a lot of the time these days.

Don’t let her fool you, she’s evil

10-year-old-self: You’re 23? You’re practically dead and you haven’t written anything! That’s so silly!
Me: Well, I need to study for my job and there are some really good books I want to read.
10-year-old-self: I was going to be the youngest writer in the world and you wrecked it!
Me: To be fair that was never going to-
10-year-old-self: I write loads! I write loads and loads and you don’t do anything because you don’t care about my dream anymore! 

And so it continues. She doesn’t mean to make me feel bad, this leftover piece of my childhood ambition. I desperately wanted to get published as early as possible but I now realise that my writing style is never going to lean towards a book being ready to be published anytime soon. The best thing I can do is try to sooth her (and myself) with a few inarguable truths about writers:

1. Many Truly Great Writers Had Lives Before They Started Writing
John Keats had already written some of the most faultlessly beautiful poems in the English language by the time he died at the age of 22. He’d had little formal training and his poetry was incredibly good even as a novice. THIS IS NOT THE NORM! Writers like George Orwell usually set the standard, attempting to lead a more practical life before truly setting themselves up as writers. Most of the writers I truly admire didn’t even start writing until their late 20’s or early 30’s with any goal of getting published. Sure people are getting published all the time but it’s not a race! I need to develop and grow, not pressure myself to be something I’m not.

2. People Write Differently
I had a friend at university who wrote ridiculously slowly but what came out of him was gold. His stories had pacing, great tone and interesting dialogue right from the first draft and whilst I never felt he worked hard enough to improve his writing even further it’s safe to say I was very jealous. My stories bubble up in my head and a first draft is like me painfully vomiting up the story. Some parts will be to slow, plenty will be too fast, I’ll rush out dialogue and stall the plot without noticing. But none of that matters so long as I keep writing and keep improving. I shouldn’t try to take up how others write because that’s not me. I write terrible first drafts but people always commend my interesting ideas, so I just need to get those two on the same level!

3. Books Get Rejected, Even Fantastic Ones
I’m jumping the gun a bit with this one, as I have yet to finish any of my stories but I repeat this to myself a lot. There is no point my worrying about whether my book will be accepted by the publishing gods because they are fickle and often foolish creatures. Alice in Wonderland was rejected for publication hundreds of times and Animal Farm nearly a thousand because publishers were certain that the public wouldn’t get it. The lesson? Send off as many manuscripts as possible and take every rejection as being one step towards the greatness of Lewis Carol and George Orwell!

4. Letting Work Take First Place Does Not Make Me Less Passionate
When I was a little girl, writing was the one skill I truly had. It was mine and I was certain that I would become a published author and make plenty of money to get by without any trouble. The real workings of the world got in the way of that a bit and I’ve reached 23 with a degree and am finally on the path to a career. So do I study up and pursue financial stability or carry on writing in every spare moment that I have? I’m sure you can guess what my answer is and I shouldn’t feel like I’m neglecting my writing because of my choice. My goal will always be to someday support myself with my writing and I’m working to attain a good job so I’ll have the time to continue along towards that! Some people want a career for the sake of a career, I want a good job so I can continue working towards my dream.

Those are the few tit bits I have to make my younger self stop being so impatient every once in a while. She’ll never be silent, I don’t think I want her to be, but I want my ideas about writing to be based in reality more than my fantasies as a young girl.


One thought on “Things I Tell Myself When My Confidence Is Low

  1. Very familiar. I was crushed when I self-published my first novel at 18 and found out that S.E. Hinton was published at 17. For some reason, being a young writer was hugely important to me. I had to let that go (and remove the self-published book, it was not so good). I spent ten years writing the next book. I published it when I was 28 years old. I felt old, I felt like I had wasted some of my promise. I've finished a collection of short stories and have a sequel to the novel coming out next year and I'm now 29. I have to stop and remind myself that it's still crazy young! How many people at your ten year reunion will have completed their dreams already? I'm guessing zero. You still have lots of time to be a young writer, and it is true that taking the time to learn craft something really good is the more important thing. Your dreams will be there waiting for you.

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