So, one of my favorite writers is Jodi Helmer. She’s prolific (she finished writing book 4 this fall and is wrapping book 5 right now– all while having a steady freelance and coaching business). She gets paid to do some interesting things (she just returned from Bermuda!). And she really knows the writing business. Because I know a lot of writers visit this site to get some ideas, I asked Jodi if she would guest post. She graciously agreed. Read on for some great tips…
I can spend an entire afternoon writing, deleting and rewriting a single paragraph. While I stare at the blank page, my inner critic tosses out insults like, “You have nothing important to say so just give up!”
When I write longhand, I amass the proverbial pile of wadded up papers surrounding the trashcan; on the computer, sentences, paragraphs and entire pages are deleted with the click of a button. But I never give up.
Struggling to get the words right is part of my job as a freelance writer and I’ve come to realize that the blank page is just a starting point for an article or a book. We all start with a blank page.
When you leave your heart on the page, it can be hard to feel confident sending it out into the world as a blog post, an article or a book proposal. A previous mentor told me writing was like getting “naked on the page” and she was right.
Here are a few things I’ve learned about feeling confident baring my words.
Find your voice: Remember when your mom said, “Practice makes perfect?” Writing is no exception. Keeping a journal or publishing a blog can help you get more comfortable with your writing. You’ll start to “hear” yourself on the page. Rereading old entries and marking the places that make you think, “I rocked that sentence!” will build your confidence.
Focus on the message: There are a million ways to write about a topic. Instead of obsessing over getting each word exactly right, think about story you want to tell: Why does it matter? Who is going to benefit from reading it? What impact will it have? I’ve come to realize that I might not arrange the words in the same way as other writers but I’m still writing blog posts, articles and books that have the power to inspire others and that makes me feel empowered.
Walk away: There is a great sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing an article. But I never hit “send” when I’m still on a writing high. Instead, I step away from the computer (for at least 24 hours if a deadline allows). I need time to think about the piece – and NOT think about the piece – so that I can look at it with fresh eyes after a bit of time has passed. Often, I’ll walk away from the computer thinking a piece needs a lot of work and, after rereading it, think, “That sounds pretty great.”
Ask for feedback: Writing is a solitary pursuit and it can be hard to be objective about your own work. A creative friend, critique group or writing coach can point out the areas where your work is really strong (and who doesn’t feel great after getting kudos for a job well done) and offer suggestions for fixing rough spots. It’s important to ask the right people for feedback: You want someone who cheers you on while challenging you to improve.
Writers, tell me: What do you do to boost your confidence?
Good news for you if you are interested in writing. Jodi isn’t just a prolific writer. She teaches and coaches writers of all experiences.
In fact, she is teaching a comprehensive Travel Writing class (you, too, can go to Bermuda for work!) on May 3 at Triple Play Farm in Davidson. Details.
And no worries if you aren’t near Charlotte, Jodi also coaches and mentors over the phone. If you want to freelance or write a book, it is absolutely worth learning more about what she does. Details.