I don’t think I’m a good writer.
It has taken me a long time to get to a place where I felt comfortable admitting that after years of pursuing this profession, I still struggle with confidence in my ability to do my job(s) well.
I have a blog about writing, where I tell writers how to improve themselves as writers and encourage them to “write their best,” and I don’t even think I’m good at the subject matter of which I teach.
But here’s the important part: I’m still writing.
I don’t want your compliments. I’m not looking for positive affirmations that contradict the lies my imposter syndrome tells me about my skills or creative artistry. I am telling you the truth for a reason. I am here to help you, if you’ll let me.
Let’s get something important out of the way: I have worked very hard to accomplish many things my short time as an adult in this upside-down world. I would not have the jobs and clients I have if I didn’t have the skills required to do them well. Your friends and family can lie to you to your face about how good of a writer you are, but someone looking to employ a writer will not hire a bad writer just to avoid hurting their feelings.
So yes, I do understand that my feelings toward my own abilities are the result of false beliefs and not at all in truth. Am I the greatest writer who has ever lived? Why would I say that about myself even if it were true? I have a skill and I continuously work to improve it. I should not spend as much time as I do worrying about being deemed a fraud the second I publish something.
That’s how imposter syndrome works. Despite mounds of evidence to prove otherwise, there is a large part of you that still believes you are not as capable as the world says you are.
But this should not stop you from pursuing your passion, doing the work, and succeeding.
That is what I am here to tell you — that no matter how terrible you think you are at the very thing you aspire to excel at, you should keep doing it. You shouldn’t listen to the voice inside your head telling you that you can’t.
Doubting your abilities as an artist doesn’t always necessarily mean you lack confidence — from my experience, confidence seems to be more of a reserve resource that runs out and must be replenished.
Before I start writing an article, I gather up all the confidence I possess and go all in, pouring all of it into my work and often producing something decent. But then it’s gone. I publish the article and I often don’t even look at it again because I am so worried that people are going to say it’s terrible and affirm what I believe to be true — that I am not at all good at what I do and shouldn’t do it at all.
I often need to give myself time away from writing — even if it’s only a few hours or an evening — to allow the confidence I “burned” while writing to fill back up again. Once that happens, I can return to my work believing, even if only temporarily, that I can do it and do it well.
Maybe this isn’t your experience at all and you can’t write because you lack the confidence to make it happen. Understandable. The beautiful thing about being creative human beings is that we are all different, have different experiences, and look at things from different perspectives.
But I have found, in all my years as a writer (I suppose there aren’t as many as that phrasing makes it sound), that it doesn’t matter how much I hate my own work or how afraid I am that someone is going to judge me and my writing. I don’t write because I’m looking for someone to praise me. I don’t publish articles to get attention. I do it because at the end of it all, writing is something I like to do. It is something that makes me feel fulfilled, and when I do it, I feel as though I am serving my greater purpose in this world.
If I write something and it ends up being good, that makes me happy. Even though we don’t write so that people will say good things about us, it still feels good to hear people say nice things about us. Let’s be real about that.
And if I write something that’s terrible and everyone hates it and all my readers unsubscribe and I die alone, at least I’ll have died doing something that brings me joy.
No, a bad piece of writing won’t kill you. But sometimes it feels like it might.
You know what? So many of us are afraid we’re not going to live up to our own expectations of ourselves. But we’re the ones setting those expectations. It’s silly that we spend so much time thinking we can’t be writers because we don’t like our own writing. Some of the worst things I’ve thought I’ve written have turned out to be my best, according to audiences.
Your opinion of your own writing, in many contexts, apparently doesn’t matter! Even if you’re not sure you’re ready to, you should publish that story anyway. Write that blog post anyway. Pitch to that editor anyway. Because you never know what could happen.
There are many reasons writers lack self-confidence. I’m not here to call you names for struggling. I struggle too. I’ve spent most of my life wrestling with the belief that every nice thing anyone has ever said to me has been a lie to save my feelings. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over that.
But look what I can do with that. I can take my imposter syndrome and my fear of people secretly hating me and admit I am not actually as confident as it may appear and I can turn it all into a blog post that might help someone come to terms with their own struggles with something similar.
Take your pain and make a story out of it. That’s my favorite piece of writing advice. No experience is unworthy of a narrative.
If you don’t think you’re a good writer, don’t worry. What matters more than anything is that you continue doing what you feel called to do, in any capacity you can. If writing doesn’t end up being the thing that fulfills you, then you don’t have to do it. But don’t let your wavering confidence stop you. You’re better than that. Believe you are, even for just a moment.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.