Friday, February 10, 2012

Building Confidence

Nothing builds confidence in a freelance writer like money in the bank and words in print. Until these accumulate in sufficient amounts, you’ll be forced to rely on words of hope and encouragement from friends and colleagues.

Whatever kind of writing you do, you won't feel confident all the time. Some days you'll be very positive, able to take on any challenge. On other days, you'll feel like pulling the covers over your head and staying in bed. What you need, no matter whether you're a beginner or an experienced freelancer, are some steadying influences—things you can count on.

Establish a writing routine. One of these steadying influences is routine. Establish a good writing routine early on. If you feel like you know what you’re doing, you’ll have the confidence to continue. Too many beginning writers constantly have doubts about their abilities. Write something every day. And remember to look over pieces you’ve written a while back to see if you can improve them. On the other hand, read one or more of your published clips. Nothing builds confidence more than reading our published work and saying to yourself, “Wow! I wrote that.”

Take a writing course. In the very earliest phases of your career, you can build confidence by taking a writing course or two. Perhaps you need to start with a good foundation course like creative writing, then branch out to more specific courses like article, short story, or novel writing. The feedback you'll get from your instructors and fellow students will go a long way to building your confidence as a writer. But don’t’ go into a course with the idea of just getting patted on the back. That’s secondary. Take a course for what you can learn from it.

Publish some short articles. Once you've made it into print, you'll need to keep moving farther out on a limb, so to speak—but without falling. Perhaps you’ve published several short articles in your local paper. Your next step might be to query a regional magazine, suggesting to them that you write on a subject you know well. But don’t try to move up the publishing ladder too fast. The more pieces you write and publish on a particular subject, the more you’ll know about that subject and the more confident you’ll feel.

Take a survey. Talk about what you do with friends and colleagues. Try your ideas on them for their reactions. Discuss your ideas. The more feedback you can get at this stage, the more confident you’ll feel as you progress into the writing stage.

Do your homework. You’ll gain confidence by conscientiously doing your homework—studying the publications in which you hope to appear, perusing publisher’s book catalogs, scouting  possible clients among the businesses and ad agencies in your immediate vicinity.

Make a positive use of rejection. If the letters, notes, or E-mail messages you receive from editors contain any expressions that you can interpret as praise, study them. But be careful. You may put more stock in an editor’s words than he or she intended which will lead to even bigger disappointment. It's more professional to quickly submit the rejected manuscript to another possible market, or to revise and resubmit it. But if an editor's words indicate some interest in your topic, immediately send more ideas or manuscripts his or her way.

Compare your work to that of other writers in print. A big confidence builder is to compare your work to that of other writers in print. But be honest. Look at the stories and articles in your targeted periodicals. Is your writing superior in research, wording, organization, timeliness, and clarity? If you can give yourself good marks on all of these counts, you deserve to be confident. In fact, it may be just a short time before you join or replace your competitors in those magazines’ pages. If you discover that your work is deficient on two or more counts, then you should correct those problems. That, alone, will increase your confidence.

Take credit for your successes—no matter how small. Lastly, it's important to see that you get credit for whatever successes you have achieved, from good feedback in a writing class to rave reviews or an award for a first book. Nothing raises the confidence of a writer more than being recognized for writing excellence by his colleagues in the form of an award.


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