In your writing, and your ability to write. That happened to me over the last few years.
While I blog regularly and widely, most of my paid work has been in the corporate sphere. There’s not as much room for creativity or originality when doing corporate writing as some people will lead you to believe. Often, you’re pigeonholed into a niche.
Over the last few years, I lost a lot of my confidence in producing work that I considered meaningful. In this case, writing essays. Not the academic kind, but the sort I penned at the start of my career — opinion pieces and expository work.
I fell into the traps that I tell the writers I coach or advise to avoid. Traps like getting overwhelmed — not by the scope of the project but by the questions and doubts about my ability. Traps like second guessing myself and asking whether what I’m writing is worth reading.
I’ve been making a concerted effort over the last few months to regain the confidence I once had. It’s been a long road, and progress has been slow.
That’s one of the reasons I started my email newsletter last June: to work on my essay writing, to share my thoughts and my ideas and my experiences with others. It helps that I’m getting some positive feedback, too. One subscriber, for example, tweeted this:
Loved the article about ad blocking in your latest newsletter Scott (I use ad blocking all the time). Thanks!
It was a small bit of validation, but one that did a lot to shore up my confidence.
So, what can you do if you lose confidence in your abilities? Try:
Writing through the problem. Keep working, keep learning, keep refining. Your skills will improve. Just take the time to practice and look at what you’ve written with a critical (but not brutal) eye.
Putting your work out there for others to see and to read. I’m doing that with my newsletter, but you can set up a blog or just email what you’ve written to people and ask for their opinions.
Repeating the process. Don’t expect your confidence to increase overnight. It will take weeks or even months. It’s a long, slow, sometimes painful journey. The time and effort you put in, though, will help make you a better writer.
In the end, just keep writing. Keep pushing your boundaries. Keep experimenting. Keep improving. View your doubts as an impetus to improve, not as a barrier.
(A quick plug: If you haven’t already, think about subscribing to my bi-weekly email newsletter. It’s free and I won’t use your information to spam you. Promise!)