You're out there, on your own, doing all the right things.
- You've carved out time for a reading habit worthy of a writer,
- You're working on a writing habit too--whether it's chatting in our Book Club on Facebook, writing reviews on Goodreads, keeping a journal, writing stories or blog posts.
- And you're creative with your writing and learning. Connecting your writing and your reading to your life.
These are the first steps--the steps you must take to finding your voice and your confidence as a writer.
No one else can take them for you.
Writing on your own is not always enough.
First of all, I don't want to downplay the importance of all of those independent habits. On the contrary--they are essential!
I have an independent reading and writing habit too, and I've seen my writing transform itself over the months... years... decades.
And I've seen other writers--real people like you and I, reinvent their own writing through their own independent practice of reading and consistent writing.
But know this: individual struggle and transformation is not the whole story.
And I'd be lying to you if I told you I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, that I found my confidence and my voice by working entirely on my own.
I've had help...
My story, my struggles with writing.
I want to share this part of my story with you. Because maybe it's your story too.
I always knew I wanted to write. I've always loved writing.
But I wasn't always a confident writer.
In fact, during my university days
- I spent 2-3 times longer than many of my friends on writing assignments--organizing my ideas mostly.
- And I was often plagued by something people like to call 'careless errors.'
For me, the 'careless errors' came in the form of forgotten punctuation, run-on sentences.
By the way I've never liked that term: 'careless errors.'
I cared a lot about my writing. I worked very hard on my own and in my classes.
And it wasn't enough.
When something is missing and you don't know how to fix it...
Like I said, we all have our struggles with writing. And many of those challenges can be addressed simply by showing up each day to write.
But not all of them.
I was out there, working on my writing every day. Doing all the right things. Following the advice of my professors.
And still I felt like some aspects of my writing were stagnating.
I wondered how I'd be able to use my writing in the world of work...
And then I did two writing internships back to back. And it changed my writing--and my relationship to writing--forever.
The writing experiences that helped me find my confidence and control my voice.
I did two internships:
- I wrote press releases for a local dance company and sent them off to local and national papers.
- And then, I interned for a Senator and wrote letters to constituents.
I know, I know, it sounds random. But just wait--you'll see what those two experiences had in common.
The key to confidence in your writing
You see, the founder of the dance company didn't just tell me 'how to' and then tell me if I'd failed or succeeded.
- She read every. single. press release. Explained my errors, any weak moments in my writing.
- And sent me off to revise and perfect my writing. Every time. For three months.
By the end of that internship, I was consistently getting articles published in local and national publications.
At the Senator's office it was a staffer who took me under her wing.
- She pointed out every flaw in my tone, my voice, caught all my pet mistakes,
- And sent me off to polish each letter until it was right.
Then the day came when I really didn't need the feedback anymore. And it was really nice to have someone else notice that too.
What does feeling confident in your writing look like?
After those two experiences I never wrote another press release about a dance performance...or a letter from a senator.
But my writing was ready for all of the challenges life threw my way.
And I knew it.
To me, Confidence in my writing is this:
- Knowing your writing can take you anywhere.
- Knowing that you'll find the right voice for the situation. (Professional, conversational)
- Knowing your best and most original ideas will come through unfettered.
So here's my whole story as a writer:
I've spent long years working independently. And those years have been punctuated by short periods of collaboration with other writers--in internships, writer's groups, in the academic setting...
Particularly in moments where I had to reinvent myself as a writer--starting out with fiction, a blog, finding a new voice--I've turned to someone I can trust with my writing.
Do you need feedback on your writing?
Here's what I think.
Finding reliable and consistent feedback on your writing can catapult you forward--and change the way you write and practice on your own afterward.
Sharing your work consistently with someone else can be demanding. Especially when you're busy.
And guess what? It can also be a little uncomfortable...scary to ask someone to tell you what could make your writing better.
But setting some time aside for collaboration can help send you and your writing in a new direction.
Especially when it feels like you're stuck in a rut.
What about your memorable writing moments?
Have you ever had a great collaborative writing experience?
- Feedback on your writing?
- The chance to work with someone you trusted?
- Joined in a writer's group?
Have you ever seen yourself...or someone else leap ahead in their writing?
Was it after a period of independent work? A little team work?
Share your experience in the comments below. Or join the conversation at the Vagabond English Book Club on Facebook.