Confessions of a Writer

Whether I’d admit it or not, it takes a certain amount of confidence to be a writer. Whether that confidence is in the form of believing in your ability to write, the story you have inside, the ease with which you write, or the desire to write there’s something for every writer that pushes them forward. There’s also a spectrum of how writers feel about their writing, from uncertainty about their ability to those who may be overconfident and even pretentious.

To start, let me assure you that if you find your way to this blog, you will never have to justify your writing to me. In other words, you don’t need a certain set of qualifications for me to take you seriously as a writer or to participate in the conversations here. If you are a well-published author who enjoys reading about another writer’s struggles, or you enjoy learning about helpful writing tools, or you happen to enjoy the pieces of writing I sometimes share, welcome. If you’re someone who thinks about dabbling in writing, but you haven’t yet built up the courage, welcome. There’s a home for everyone here, even those who may not be interested in writing, but enjoy the community and writing you find here. You never have to be concerned about your level of writing, if you enjoy reading my work or enjoy writing I encourage you to join in on the conversations. I respond to all comments, and if you have questions I will do my best to answer. And who knows, it may even become the topic of a future blog post if I think it might help others as well.

Now that you can be confident that this community here that I’m building is right for you, let me return to my confidence as a writer. It wavers right up to the point where I share my work with others. Then I feel the compulsion to apologize for my piece. I want to explain that I can’t always identify the weaknesses in my writing because I’m too familiar with the story. But when I see other authors do this, I wish they’d let me form an impression about the story without apologizing. Let me enjoy it’s beauty without prejudicing me against it before I’ve even read or heard a word. Let me encourage you to take this advice with you. Never apologize for your writing. Let it speak for itself.

I try to apply that to my own work. No matter how much I want to explain that I’m not a poet, so don’t judge my poem too harshly, or explain why a piece might not work, I try to fight the urge and let the piece stand on its own. And by now, I’ve written so many poems and received such sweet kind words of praise that I need to adjust my thinking about whether I am worthy of calling myself a poet or not.

I find the distinction between a writer and an author is much the same. People are timid to claim the title author until they have published a novel, even though by definition an author is merely someone who writes or creates something.

When I started this site, I hesitated to use the word author. But I left my job to pursue writing full time, I paid to have this site for three years, and I committed to be an author and write until I’m old enough to retire. So I decided to claim the title and use it until I felt it belonged to me, until I achieved what I thought I needed to in order to deserve the title.

When I considered what it meant to be published, I avoided claiming any work that wasn’t fiction, even though I have hundreds of articles that were published when I worked as a journalist. To me, they were assignments to write stories about other people and I merely gave them a voice.

It’s easy to get swept away in self-doubt and to undermine your value as a writer, as an author. But don’t. I sometimes wonder if pretentious writers have drawn a line in the sand to state that they’ve finally made it past some arbitrary accomplishment that they feel finally makes them a true author. It makes it to where they constantly have to point out that other authors haven’t yet made it to that point.

In my journey thus far, I have realized my passion for writing grows every day, and my desire to help and encourage other writers inspires me to keep going.

 

What are your recent writing accomplishments? Do you have a story idea that you’re excited about? Have you written your first sentence or paragraph that’s not required for a class? Have you submitted your first story to a magazine or agent? Have you received your first rejection (hey, seriously, this means you’re putting your work out there and it’s worth celebrating!)? Are you about to publish your 55th novel (Stephen King, I’m looking at you and no, in case anyone is fact checking, I’m not sure if he’s only coming up on 55)? Tell me about it, and we’ll celebrate regardless of how big or small the accomplishment. Or feel free to share your own struggles as a writer or share any other thoughts that come to you. These are just some ideas to get you started.

22 Comments


  1. // Reply

    Mandie:

    I agree completely with your statement: “Never apologize for your writing. Let it speak for itself.” I, too, wish that my fellow writers would forgo the long introductions, the “what I’m trying to do here” comments–that sort of thing, and just share their words with me. When it’s my turn, I try to let my words go unadorned, and over time I get better at that. Practice helps ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks for the encouragement and for initiating this community.


    1. // Reply

      Thank you, Lynn. It’s so good to see you stop by. ๐Ÿ™‚ I find that if there’s something that I’m not sure if I’ve accomplished, I’ll ask my writing group after they’ve had a chance to soak in the piece. And for public readings, or postings here, I try to trust that the piece is good. I also trust that I’m growing as a writer, and my best work now won’t be my best work in six months from now.


  2. // Reply

    I remember it took me a long time before I dared say that I was a poet…. to some extent you are always an apprentice I think. There is always someone to learn from which is why I like blogging… it goes so fast.

    As for accomplishment we did publish our second book in the writing group I’m in. 15 stories connected though the common element of two people (husband and wife) dying in a traffic accident… I think I enjoyed the process of writing it the most, but it took quite some time… my story in there was written from a dog’s perspective which I thought was a fun thing to do.


    1. // Reply

      I really love that perspective about enjoying blogging because it goes fast, Bjรถrn. I truly believe that too, that you’re always learning about writing. I don’t think that means you shouldn’t share what you’ve written now just because you know you’re still growing. I feel you should share all along the way, because the sharing part helps you grow too. Plus, you can find encouragement to keep going in there too. You can learn from positive feedback just as well as from criticism, maybe even better.
      I think it is so fantastic that you’re writing group publishes books together. My writing group has discussed putting together an anthology, so it’s inspiring to hear about another group doing something like that.
      Congratulations, I love hearing about your recent accomplishment and feel so excited and inspired by it!!


  3. // Reply

    Great piece, Mandy. I would further add that a lot of people need to drop this “aspiring” tag that follows them through artistic pursuit. They might only mean to leave it there while they seek to make money, publish a book or a song, or sell the first work of art, but that adjective is crippling and self-defeating. When I was first getting into freelance writing, a friend of my brothers told me to drop the word “Freelancer” too, for the same reason. So now, when people ask, I’m a professional content creator, not an aspiring freelance writer ๐Ÿ˜‰


    1. // Reply

      Yes! I’m so glad you added this, Marty. You are exactly right. I see why they use these titles as they try not to overstate what they have accomplished, but it holds them back. If you just claim the title that you are pursuing with your whole heart, it pushes you to work harder. If you take a weaker title, you’re telling people not to take your work seriously. I want to take the work seriously, my own and other authors’ work. And unconsciously I think it allows people to not work as hard because they are still just “aspiring.” If people would think about the corporate world, when you are hired, your position holds a title before you ever perform the work for that job. The same holds true for writing. I now use the words writer and author interchangeably. They hold the same meaning to me, but I can tell when other authors use them to mean one as lesser than the other, and I think it holds them back.
      Great comment! Again, thanks for adding this.


  4. // Reply

    Thoughtful welcomes to all of us, Mandie. I think your statements are well thought out and helpful. Thank you! I think it is important to share and publish your work regardless of how long you have been writing. At some point all creative individuals find themselves in a rut, filled with self doubt, and even worse a dry spell. At these times older works can help us remember that we can write, and the effort is worth it. Of course, groups help with these difficult times, but sometimes even the best group might not be what an ailing creative person needs, and the previous work we have finished might be the salve required. It is always interesting to look at our own progress and see who we were and who we are becoming. Keep up the blog. You have created a garden for words to grow.


    1. // Reply

      Awe, thank you, Christy. Your words are so encouraging. You really hit on an important point too. I frequently focus on how I have blind spots that I have with my writing. I know different writing rules and guidelines, and yet errors will inevitably find their way into my writing.
      But the blind spot that I should start addressing more, is the blind spot where our piece is better than we realize. Sometimes, our self-doubt rules and prevents us from seeing the gem that we’ve created. If we don’t put those pieces out there despite our insecurities, they will never have the chance to touch someone else’s life.
      To recognize that we’re growing as writers is an invaluable gift as well. I hope to always learn something new about writing and continue to improve my craft.
      I also like your idea about revisiting older pieces to rebuild our confidence and realize or remember that we have the ability to create something good. When it comes to giving our confidence a boost and pull ourselves out of a rut, we need a basket full of different ways to get ourselves out of that spot, so I’m glad you added this.


  5. // Reply

    I guess the whole writer vs author thing comes down to personal choice. I prefer to call myself a writer…it’s to do with living in the present moment for me.

    I’m an author because I have written and published things in the past. But I’m a writer because I write things here and now, in the present. I know, it’s a silly distinction, but that’s how my brain works ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’ve said it before, Mandie, but I love your poetry and your flash fiction pieces, and you’re worthy of whatever title you choose to claim!

    My biggest struggle as a writer is getting into the right frame of mind for fiction. I write non-fiction for a living and spend all day thinking rationally – it’s hard to switch to fiction (un-rational) mode at the end of the day…which is why, when I’m working on a big non-fiction project, I don’t post much fiction on here. Then self-doubt kicks in because I’m not working on the fiction, and I start thinking I’m rubbish/should just give up, etc. It’s a frustrating battle, but I’ll figure out how to win it one day.

    Great post!


    1. // Reply

      Thank you for the sweet compliment, Scarlett.
      Leave it to writers to quibble over semantics. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I say use whatever makes you feel good about your writing, and if the title you use is somehow holding you back, think about changing it. I so enjoy your writing, and as I believe I mentioned in a comment above, I use writer and author interchangeably, I just don’t want writers to feel any less by using one title over another.
      I totally get that problem of changing over from non-fiction to fiction. They truly are different forms of writing that require different mindsets. But let me ring in your ear when your self-doubt kicks in about writing fiction by saying, your writing is worthwhile and you’re fantastic at your craft. Let me be your cheerleader and say don’t ever let that other voice win.


  6. // Reply

    I always tell fellow writers to never apologize for their writing.This is a wonderful piece, Mandie. As writers, we all have self doubts, but I write for me so there is no pressure to please an audience. I enjoy your writing. They always bring a smile to my face so keep up the wonderful work here.


    1. // Reply

      Thanks, EM! Your words of encouragement always make me happy. I like your attitude about writing for yourself too.
      This is probably another exercise in semantics, but I write the stories I want to write, but in the end I hope that they are enjoyed by others. With some stories or poems, I hope that they move and resonate with other people. With horror and psychological thrillers, I hope they alarm the reader and fill them with the excitement of needing to turn page after page until they reach the end of the story. I don’t think that is a need or goal of all writers, it’s just mine. I need to trust that if it’s a piece that I felt compelled to write, then it will be of interest to other people. Which in a way, is very much in line with your thinking. You write it for yourself, and then put it out there for others to enjoy if they wish.


      1. // Reply

        You’re welcome Mandie and thank you as well.

        Yes, I enjoy writing for myself. Whenever I think of audience, I think of me first. I know it’s probably selfish, but if I can’t enjoy my writing, why would I put it out there for people hoping that they enjoy it? You’re on the right path, Mandie. You nurture your writing and it shows.


        1. // Reply

          I don’t think that I’ve thought of it in exactly those terms, but you’re right, I find the same pleasure in my writing. I get tickled about parts in my horror stories that I didn’t see coming until I was writing the scene, and I delight in the moments where I reread a section and feel pulled by the story. And I don’t think that is selfish at all, EM. You’re target audience will include a pool of people like you or with similar taste, so if you like your story, you know it will be genuine to your readers and they’ll enjoy it too.


          1. //

            I just love writing! I hope to read your books someday. I love that you’re passionate about your craft and this is what I love most in a writer.


  7. // Reply

    I feel like a writer when I’m writing. When I finish something, I feel like I’m the author. ๐Ÿ˜€


  8. // Reply

    I’m always amused when a piece I don’t think much of is well received and one I’m rather proud of produces yawns and sighs. My favorite part of writing is when the characters take over the scene and things happen that surprise and delight me. It doesn’t happen all that frequently, but when it does, I’m on cloud nine. That’s what makes writing fun and keeps me shoving my butt in the chair.


    1. // Reply

      I have a similar issue. I can’t seem to anticipate how a post topic or story will be received. I think for the most part, I still anticipate that I’m the only one who pays attention to my blog, so any response is probably more favorable than I anticipated. I’ll have to shift my thinking on that now that I have a number of people who engage in the conversation on this site.
      And I too enjoy when something I didn’t anticipate happens in my stories. It is my favorite part about reading and about writing. When I don’t see the next part in a story coming, I find I giggle in delight. Even in horror stories. I love not seeing a scary part coming.


  9. // Reply

    Confidence can be a strange thing. I can feel completely, utterly confident (or maybe joyful is a more appropriate word?) in what I’m writing while I’m in the throes of it. Then when it’s time to share it with other people, I panic. It doesn’t prevent me from sharing or submitting, but it’s within that moment that I think, “Is it good enough? Are they going to like it?” And that’s where, I think, the crux of my confidence issues resides: I rely too much on other people’s approval or opinions of my writing to recognize its quality or worth. It’s a mindset I need to learn to change – not necessarily to ignore others’ comments or feedback, but to teach myself to be better able to recognize my own value as a writer, to remember to look at my strengths as well as my weaknesses. I’m not sure how I’m going to achieve this… but I know I need to try.

    I hope I wasn’t rambling too much there… It’s just that confidence in my craft is something I’ve still been struggling with lately, and reading your honest, thoughtful, and compassionate article on the subject made consider my own experience. And judging from the other comments, this conversation has come at the right time for a few other writers, too.

    Thank you for this, Mandie. ๐Ÿ™‚


    1. // Reply

      Yes, Sara! I totally get what you are saying. I’m in the same boat. I think for me there is that initial bit of confidence and joy. Then, when I’m editing, I’ll read something and think “Oy vey, this sounds like a fifth grader wrote this.” Then other parts I won’t remember writing, and think “Oooo, this is good.” I haven’t figured out the magic formula yet either. I think you hit on part of it though, recognizing your own value as a writer. I’m torn because I want other people to enjoy it, so I’m waiting to hear that it was a success. But there has to be a level of trust that if you’re giving it all you have, it will be good enough for others.
      I am happy this topic resonates with other writers, and that it sparked this conversation. And your kind words are much appreciated.
      The interesting thing about the journey of writers is that they’re all flowing in the same direction, but each one is a little different. The closeness of our paths form this bond between us though.

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