Geeks Vs Loneliness: finding (and keeping) confidence for writing

A few words for those of you who find yourselves stuck in a creative rut...

A friend of mine has always wanted to write. To even get them to the keys of a computer, with a blank word processing page right in front of them, has taken them a mental effort to get there. To then get words out of their head, onto the screen, in any kind of logical order that they’re then proud of? It felt and feels insurmountable.

But, even people who struggle with confidence, and giving things a go, occasionally have a day of light. And on that day, words spilled out. A page of text that they felt was theirs had been produced. All was going well. Then they showed it to someone.

They showed it to a friend, and asked for an honest opinion. Only, as it turned out, that wasn’t what they wanted. They wanted some encouragement. But they got what’d they’d asked for: some honest, constructive advice.

Several years later, my friend has never shown another person a word of their writing work. Every word of that feedback stung, and convinced them that they couldn’t do this. They couldn’t run back to their writing shell fast enough, and have remained there since. It’s a massive pity, as there’s clearly a good writer in there. It’s just locked in by doubt.

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I don’t have answers to that. But what I want to do, and hope it helps, is break down the appearance that those who write regularly don’t struggle. The problem is that you just don’t see what it’s sometimes taken to get 1000 words of text published, in front of your eyes.

Because confidence and self-belief are far more fragile things than many of us would ever care to admit, and even those who put themselves on the line day after day with something creative have an exact pressure spot. If that pressure spot is hit – and it may be by something innocuous – then it often hurts like hell. When you don’t have a massive bedrock of confidence to call upon, getting back up can feel almost impossible.

I’ve been through this lots of times personally. I have friends who are far, far more successful writers than me, and I’ve seen them drag themselves to a metaphorical hell and back to get their words on a page. If you’re struggling yourself, please don’t make the mistake of assuming everyone else finds it easy. Life is set up in a way whereby when we buy a book, watch a film, see a TV show or play a game, we see the end result. We don’t see the process.

As with most challenges we discuss in this series, the problem is that ultimately, you have to find a way through blocks that you have. But you don’t have to do this alone. Find someone else who writes, perhaps, and have a coffee with them, or send them a message. There’s no weakness in admitting you’re stuck, and what I’ve discovered – the hard way, naturally – is that it can take one little thing to unclog my writing brain. I never know what it is, I just know that I’ll never find it by staring at a screen in exasperation.

As for the feedback point my friend went through, I wish I could hand armour to you all to make stuff like that not hurt. All I can say, though, is if it hurts, you’re doing something right. You’re putting yourself into your work, and that’s something nobody else can do.

You all take care, and thanks, as always, for reading.

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