Learning to write well is like any other skill—it takes time and practice. But feeling like your writing isn’t where you want it to be can lead to intense feelings of self-doubt.
Unsurprisingly, those feelings do nothing to help your writing ability. Feeling uncertain or thinking you’re not good enough will be reflected in your writing—if you get started at all. Imposter syndrome can be paralyzing, leading to inaction or the temptation to agonize over every word and idea.
Feeling secure in your writing abilities may not happen overnight, but there are some clear steps you can take to move out of self-doubt and into writing with confidence. Here are seven practices to get you started.
1 Write First, Edit Later
When you sit down to write, does your brain start spinning in a loop of negative self-talk?
“This is total crap! Who am I kidding?! Why did I ever think I could write?”
According to brilliant author, Anne Lamott:
Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.
It’s okay (and normal) for that first draft to be dreadful. Agonizing over it will only slow you down and stunt your creativity.
There is a huge difference between your first draft and your completed, polished piece. Even experienced writers will tell you it’s necessary to write through challenging moments before you can get to the good stuff.
2 Do Your Research
Let’s say you’re writing a blog post for the first time. Doing something that’s completely new to you can feel intimidating and may bring up feelings of self-doubt and insecurity.
A great way to combat inaction and procrastination is to educate yourself. Whether you’re writing a blog post, essay, or short story, there are plenty of great articles on the internet with clear direction for how to tackle your project.
Just don’t use your research time as another excuse not to get started. Set a timer for a reasonable number of minutes you can spend researching, then get to work!
3 Create an Outline
Whether you need to research first, or you’re already familiar with a project, having an outline is key to writing with confidence.
A good outline is a roadmap for success. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a large project, such as a 20-page essay or 60,000-word novel, creating an outline will help you break your project into manageable pieces. It will also help you complete your project on time and stay focused on your goals.
4 Improve Your Spelling and Grammar
When spelling and grammar aren’t your strong points, putting your writing in front of an audience is especially nerve-wracking.
At Grammarly, our goal is to help you with your writing so you can feel greater confidence in putting your work out there. Our writing assistant removes the pressure for you to catch all those pesky errors, including grammar and spelling, and shows you the correct answers so you can continuously improve your skills.
You don’t have to guess whether you’re using certain words correctly or breaking grammar rules in your writing. Just copy and paste your writing to check your grammar and get instant feedback on grammar, spelling, punctuation, and other mistakes you might have missed.
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the best tool I have been using so far in 2018 is @Grammarly to help me with my writing. Great tool and I am actually writing better to start. Love the confidence it gives me.
— Chris “Woody” Woodruff (@cwoodruff) February 7, 2018
5 Read What You Want to Write
The primary way you can improve your writing is by writing regularly. The second is by reading regularly.
When we learn how to talk, we learn sentence structure by listening to how others speak. When we learn to write, we learn how to structure written sentences by reading what others have written.
Do you want to be a novelist? A thought leader? An A+ student? Read the work of successful authors, bloggers, and academics. Pay attention to how they structure their sentences, stories, arguments, and ideas. Learn from their example.
6 Take Advantage of Critique
Confident writers are secure in their skills while also knowing their writing will always have room for improvement. They know their skill has increased since they began writing, and with hard work will continue to grow over time.
Part of working to be better is being open to input from others. Asking for feedback might feel scary, embarrassing, and intimidating at first, but it’s an essential part of improving your writing.
Your ideas may be so clear in your head that you don’t realize they’re not clear on the page. Getting an outside perspective will help you see when the dots aren’t connecting like you thought they were.
7 Stop Worrying About “Perfection”
You’re not a “perfect” writer—no one is. All any of us can do is our best. Stop worrying that your work isn’t worthy of an audience. It’s time to get out there, take action, and yes, make mistakes.
…if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.
…Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it. – Neil Gaiman