Why self-confidence is a vital tool every writer needs – And how to get it

vintage typewriter


Because one believes in oneself, one doesn't try to convince others.

Lau Tzu


Anyone who has ever put themselves out in the public arena in any artistic way knows that criticism will come. People might not like what you have created (No, really!) And because it is now out in the open, people can and will comment and criticise.

Think about your favourite sporting team. Have you ever gone to a game where, spurred on by the screaming crowd around you, you have begun yelling insults and criticisms to the players?

"Pass the ball!"

"Come on! You call that a pass?!"

"How did you miss that, you idiot?"

No matter that the players are professionals who train for hours a day. No matter that you can't even come close to performing as well as they do.

We still yell and criticise and try to give them advice. I call it "Bleacher Syndrome".

You know that those sports players have thick skins. They shut their ears, put their heads down and work hard. They take criticism and advice from their coaches who know what they're talking about, but they have learned to ignore the criticism of fans and media. They wouldn't survive if they didn't.

Most importantly, though, they are confident in their talent and they are prepared to work hard to get even better.


Self-confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings.

Samuel Johnson


The creative arts scene is full of critics, people who are certain they know better and people who just want to rubbish everything you do from the bleachers. Once you make your work public, you are opening the door to criticism and if you lack self-confidence, you won't make it. You will eventually cave to the negative comments, give up and wash your hands of the whole thing.


Fox in snow


And that would be a tragedy. We need more writers. We need more people to wield the weapon of the written word and make a difference in the world. We need to hear differing opinions and be challenged by the many varied voices that exist on this planet. We need to break away from this closed-minded, popular-voice-is-best, politically correct, don't-offend-anyone rubbish that has invaded our world and we need to be pushed and prodded and provoked by the many voices out there who aren't afraid to speak up - or write up!


Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.



The same can be said for reading and writing one-sided opinions and vegetating in one small corner of writing styles all one's lifetime.

However, if the writers are not confident enough to ignore the nay-sayers and write what is in their hearts to write then we will all be missing out. The writing world will be less colourful and the buffet table of reading materials out there will be as varied as only meat and potatoes. Who would want to dine at such a bland buffet?

Unfortunately there is now a 'Formula For Success' in the writing world which guarantees success if you follow the steps - and it's true. Many 'photocopy writers' have big followings and make a ton of money. They compromise their own voices to copy the formulated voices of the famous. They get richer and the world becomes poorer for it.

But to put yourself out there? To take a risk and write in a way that isn't foolproof and might flop? To swim against the current and quite possibly get caught up in a rip-tide of criticism and negative feedback? Who would do that?

I hope you will.

I hope you will put yourself out there and go against the tide. But in order to do so you will need a huge helping of self-confidence.

So how do I become self-confident?

It all begins with you.


Nothing holds you back more than your own insecurities.



Prison bars


If you don't accept yourself, you won't be surprised when others don't accept you - you'll be expecting it. You'll quickly and easily believe their negative comments because you already believe them yourself. It's a lost cause before you even begin.

  • "Your writing style is terrible." - Yeah, *sigh* I know.
  • "What are you thinking, pursuing a writing career. You should quit." - I really should quit.
  • "You're not good enough." - I really am not good enough. I give up.

By now you should realise that the first person you need to sell yourself to is yourself. If you don't believe in your abilities, nobody else will.

Have a look at these two examples of pitching to a prospective client:

  1. "I am interested in writing an article for your publication. I don't have much experience and I'm not sure if you will be happy with my work but I would really appreciate it if you would give me a chance. I'll change anything you don't like and try to write to your excellent standards. Please give me a chance."
  2. "I have been an avid reader of your publication for some time now and enjoy your articles immensely. As an experienced freelance writer with work featured in several publications, I would like to offer my services to you. I believe that my contributions will be exactly what you need and will tie in nicely with themes already presented. Your readers won't be able to help but share the articles I write for your publication. I look forward to hearing from you."

Which pitch would impress you more? Someone looking to hire a writer would want a person who is confident in their own abilities. You wouldn't hire someone who isn't even sure themselves that they can do what is required.

As a reader of articles, I wouldn't be impressed with a voice that is constantly apologetic either. If the writer makes no apology for their writing and ideas then even if I don't agree with it, I will still respect the writer and will be more inclined to read on and see if I can be convinced, if not at least to enjoy their writing style.

I believe in what I write. If you don't believe in what I have to say, that's fine. You're entitled to your opinion. But at least you can never say that I'm not sure of what I'm writing. You can criticise, and if it's constructive I will take it on board with a thank you. If it isn't constructive, I'll thank you, tell you to have a nice day and continue to have a nice day myself!

Without self-confidence, though, I would be swayed by others' opinions and might end up changing my own opinions in order to avoid criticism. My voice would then become lost in the sea of mediocrity and conformity and the world would become a little greyer for it. And that would be tragic.


Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.




If you are struggling with self-confidence, remember that it starts with you believing in yourself. Get out a journal and write down five positive things about yourself, about your writing style, about your choice of writing subjects. Be as detailed as you can.

Then write another list with some constructive criticism - areas you think you could improve - then brainstorm how you can go about improving them. Again, be as detailed as you can.

Be proactive. Don't get stuck in the victim mentality rut. "Woe is me! I'm not good enough." Pity parties can be fun for a few minutes, but soon enough it's time to pop those balloons, get off your backside and get to work.

Do some training, write some articles, tell youself in the mirror what your good qualities are (Talking to yourself doesn't make you quite as insane as some people would like to have you think. I hope. I do it a lot). Get moving.

Find your voice and share it with the world. Remember, if you're not writing at all, you'll never get better. Every word, every sentence, every article, every book you write will improve your technique and boost your confidence. You'll have flops, you'll write terrible articles that make no sense but you will improve. And we will all improve by hearing your unique voice. Be confident in that. Even if it is a flop it is just another opportunity to grow and improve.

Smile at the nay-sayers. Laugh at yourself. Never lose your sense of humour. Enjoy life. Write again.



You can always edit a bad page. You can't edit a blank page.

Jodi Picoult


I look forward to reading your work.

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27 thoughts on “Why self-confidence is a vital tool every writer needs – And how to get it

  1. I love the bleacher analogy because it’s so accurate. People are always going to criticize because they have nothing better to do or it helps to inflate their own self-esteem and most of the time they have no clue what they’re talking about. You can’t let that stop you from pursuing your passion.

  2. One of the first things I learned in ad school was to take my ego out of the work. It’s not always easy but it does help give you the self-confidence to throw every idea you have against the wall, good or bad. If you focus on what you are creating and not that you are the one creating it, you will feel more self-confident. There will always be critics, but it’s how you react to what they say that matters.

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    1. Hi there,
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  4. The bleacher analogy actually made a lot of sense to me. I hadn’t thought to compare writing to sports but they are the same in that they have to both take the criticism with dignity and they both have to have thick skins. This whole post made a lot of sense to me. Thanks for reminding me of this!

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