So, you’re in the shower (your best writing ideas always appear suddenly when you’re in the shower). You’ve been in there 15 minutes but haven’t even touched the bottle of Original Source raspberry shower gel yet because you’ve just had your best writing idea yet.
You lather up quickly, grapple for a towel, almost trip over the edge of the bath and dry off as quickly as you can to go and get your ideas down on paper.
You arrive at that blank piece of paper.
A shadow falls across your desk. It sounded better in your head.
As a writer, you’ll likely have experienced a rollercoaster of emotions and felt the peaks and troughs of your own self-confidence shift and change with every writing project you embark on. You’ve been enthused by great ideas, then intimidated by the blank page.
You’ll have felt the high of the halfway point and the despair of writing yourself into a dead end three pages later.
I promise you you’re not the only one. Here’s how I found my confidence changed when writing my books – see if you can relate.
1. The big idea – writing confidence grows
You’re on a run. You’re cooking. You’re in the shower. You’re driving. You’re dancing wildly to Shakira in a nightclub.
Then it hits you.
The best ever idea.
You can already imagine the glowing reviews from literary critics, you just know it’s completely original and you’re certain it’s going to work. You think about it constantly, bordering on obsession.
2. The blank page – writing confidence plummets
Translating those thoughts into the very first words seems impossible. It sounded amazing in your head, but how can you encapsulate that in the all-important first line of a book?
You write a line, then delete it again. You write a whole paragraph and cringe.
Why did no one remind you that writing is hard?
3. You’ve written 50% of your book – writing confidence grows again
You know your characters well now. You can describe the setting as though you were brought up there. You know the plot twists and events that will happen, or the themes you’ll work into it along the way.
It’s fine. It’s all going well. You don’t mind people asking you at parties how your writing is going because you can confidently reply, “Great, thanks!”
3. You’ve written 51% of your book – writing confidence drops
Your characters have minds of their own. The themes start jarring. Everything feels brittle. You’ve written yourself into a dead end and there are at least two pointless threads interwoven in this book.
You do mind people asking you at parties how your writing is going.
You fake laugh and try and forget about it with tequila.
4. You’ve written 80% of your book – writing confidence is at an all-time low
Why did you even start this? How many hours of your life will you never get back? Why do bestselling, prolific writers make it look so easy? What is a plot? Why did you decide to become a writer?
This is the crossroads: do you file it into the ‘Archive’ folder or keep going anyway?
4. You’ve finished writing your book – you’re a writing genius
You know you should put it away before the arduous task of editing but first you need to tell your whole family, your cat and the postman that you have finished writing a book. You also need to tell all of the internet.
Then you treat yourself to an overpriced box of cupcakes and a glass of fizz and practice signing your autograph in a blank notebook.
5. You’re editing your book – you’re a total idiot
Editing is awful. You now doubt every single word on every single page.
Why did no one stop you? Why did no one tell you it was hopeless?
You consider sending an apologetic email to the two agents/publishers you sent it to in your post-writing haze of euphoria to tell them your six-year-old sent it by accident.
You don’t even have a six-year-old.
5. You’re snowed with rejections – you consider quitting writing forever
“We’re very sorry, we received a high number of submissions…”
You close the email before reading the rest. It’s the same story over and over. Even though you’re pretty familiar with rejections by now, your skin isn’t getting any thicker.
You wonder if you should have taken up paddleboarding instead.
6. You’ve been accepted by a publisher – your writing confidence soars
Finally! Unexpectedly amongst the stacks of rejections, a publisher wants to publish your work.
You don’t really know what to do so you just scream and then buy a bottle of champagne.
7. The final edits – your writing confidence wobbles again
Editing, editing, editing. Why were you not prepared for so much editing?
The final deadline is approaching and everything just seems wrong. This is hard. You regret buying the champagne. You’ve done as much as you can and now you’re half-expecting your editor to turn around with an exasperated sigh and tell you: “You know what? We made a mistake.”
8. The book launch – you’re the most confident writer in the world
Nothing beats the feeling of signing books and reading to the crowd at your own book launch.
This is everything you ever dreamed of. For one night, you’re a celebrity. You imagine your ten-year-old self beaming at you now.
9. Post-launch – hello again, self-doubt
There is nothing worse than the silence following a book launch. You know people bought your books because you signed them, or they tagged you in a lovely Instagram post with your book beside their smashed avocados on toast.
Yet you’ve had no feedback. No reviews. You hang around a bit in Waterstones and eye anyone who gets within four feet of your book.
They walk past with a copy of the next Sally Rooney book. You hate Sally Rooney.
What a wasted effort. Everyone must simply think your work was abysmal and moved on with their lives.
10. One year later – neutrality
You don’t really feel that rollercoaster of emotions around your book anymore. You wrote what you needed to at the time that you needed to write it. It still sits, face-outwards on your bookshelf, as proof you did it despite everything.
You learned lessons on what worked and what didn’t. If you’re lucky, maybe you had some reviews in respected publications (and they weren’t scathing).
You start the car up on your commute to work. You hit a red light.
The next writing idea flashes out of nowhere as the light shifts to green, but you’ve no time to grab a pen.
You get into work and scribble on a post-it note. The whole cycle starts again.
A final note…
Your confidence as a writer doesn’t grow in a linear fashion. No matter how many projects you start, finish or give up on, your mind can switch from your loudest, most supportive friend to your worst enemy from one sentence to the next.
You’re not alone in this. Every writer grapples with the highs and lows of the process daily. Sometimes we feel like giving up. Most of the time though, we don’t. Because when you have a true passion for something, not even the worst thoughts can kill it completely.
If you can keep writing despite that, then you’re doing the right thing. Keep going.