By Joe Williams
An inner editor is that voice inside your head that seems to pop up whenever you’re writing just to tell you your writing sucks or you need to go back and change that paragraph or rewrite that entire chapter, etc.
In actuality, your inner editor is just you. And so what you say to yourself is entirely up to you.
When an inner editor reveals itself, uncertainty is present, and therefore you second-guess yourself. A lack of confidence–in your work and yourself–makes this self-defying subconscious appear.
Whatever weight you may be carrying on your shoulders, or the bothersome thoughts running through your head, ignore them and complete your writing piece with the assurance that you know what you’re doing, and that you’re doing it well.
Ideas flourish when minds think soundly, and confidence will enable your mind to think in that manner.
When writers get “stumped” on a word, or can’t finish a paragraph, they often get flustered, which causes the inner editor to appear. And then the writer doesn’t finish the piece with 100 percent confidence (and sometimes the writer doesn’t finish the piece at all).
Self-reliance is another key factor that needs to be present in order to dodge your inner editor.
Maybe you were counting on another person for an interview before you could write your article and now the person hasn’t called you back. Or maybe you were counting on your writing partner for some research, but they didn’t get it done.
No matter, if you go into any writing situation prepared to complete it, regardless of any obstacles, you’ll be better able to turn off your inner editor and get your writing done.
Push on when you think it may not be thorough enough or it’s beginning to ramble, because that’s not portraying confidence in your self and your work, and it will show in the writing.
Use your second draft to make changes.
For now, just get used to the fact that you are your own enemy and the moment you choose to remain confident, you’ll be able to turn off your inner editor and get your writing done.
Tips on How to Stay Confident
- Come up with a writing affirmation–such as “I am a great writer” or “This piece of fiction is the best I’ve ever written”–and then repeat it to yourself whenever your inner editor pops up.
- Post the affirmation by your writing area and refer to it whenever you feel your confidence shaking.
- Use the voice recorder on your cell phone (or a handheld recorder if your phone doesn’t have one) and record yourself a little pep talk. Play it back to yourself whenever you need a confidence boost.
- Close your eyes and imagine yourself reaching your writing goal (whatever it may be). Visualizing yourself attaining your dreams will help give you the confidence you need to continue writing.
- Ask your friends and/or family to make a list of all the great things about you. Refer back to the list often. (You can also make a list yourself.)
- Stay focused on the task at-hand. It’s easy to get distracted while writing (this is usually when the inner editor starts popping up), so try to keep focused on just getting the words down and not thinking about or doing anything else until you do.
About the Author: Joe Williams is a rock-n-roll singer/songwriter. He creates original writing daily, and believes it’s important for writers to find their own style.
By Devon Ellington
For years, many freelancers have bought into the myth of the need to have a “niche” and “branding.” And many of these same freelancers are struggling in the economy, because they’ve written themselves into boxes where opportunities have dried up.
You want to know how to make a living as a writer? Work at your craft so that you’re damned good; write whatever you’re passionate about, and market your butt off to find people to pay you for writing about your passions. It’s not easy. But it can be done.
You want easy money? Writing’s not for you.
If you’ve spent a lot of time writing in one particular area, how do you break out? How do you move out of writing something that’s comfortable into something else?
You treat it like on-the-job training. You avoid the content mills that pay crap at all costs, because if you get stuck in that hole, you won’t get out and you’ll be trapped in an even bleaker prison: The cheap labor prison.
What you do is approach it like taking a class or learning a language or taking up knitting. You put in the time and you learn from qualified people.
I’m going to give two examples of working out of one’s comfort zone.
Let’s say you wrote reports and newsletters while you were the administrative assistant in a big corporation, but you really want to write for non-profits.
- Put together your portfolio, using samples of the work you did for the big corporation.
- Look at non-profits and find one about whose mission you are passionate about.
- Learn everything there is to learn about them.
- Take the time and write one or two short pieces for your portfolio that are specific to their line of work.
- Take them on as a pro-bono client.
- Write up a contract, the same way you would if they were a paying client. In my experience, you often have to set firmer boundaries for a pro bono client than for a paying client.
- Decide how long a period of time you are willing to work with them and what you’re willing to do for them.
- Do it.
The clips you get from working with them, even as a pro-bono client, will give you the skills, the quality of clip, and the legitimacy to vault you into the paid arena.
In the meantime, while you work with them:
- Attend every networking event and meet as many people in the non-profit world as possible.
- Go to conferences and lectures.
- Maybe even give a few talks yourself.
- Network, network, network.
- Find discussion groups and message boards and loops.
- Start scouring the job listings for paying work—not a percentage of a grant “someday,” but paid work.
- Use the pro-bono work you’ve done as part of your portfolio package.
- Take on freelance assignments from a variety of non-profits—these paid—until you land the job you want.
What about your original pro-bono client? In the best of all possible worlds, a paid position will open in the organization and they’ll hire you.
Unfortunately, an organization who receives pro bono work from someone sometimes doesn’t see the person as a viable hire. If you develop a clear relationship, you should be able to communicate your wish to move into a paid position. After working with them for six months, you may be ready to move on for a variety of reasons.
You’ve published a handful of romance novels, but you have the hankering to be a sports writer. Maybe you’ll even write a mystery series set in the sports world.
- Pick your sport.
- If you don’t know about it, immerse yourself in it. Go to games. Write up articles about the games as an observer. Maybe even start a blog—but only if you’re willing to commit regular content.If you love a sport that happens to have a minor league team in your town, such as a minor league baseball team or a minor league hockey team, see if you can cover it for a local newspaper or community website. The money won’t be great, but it will be better than a content-mill site or a $1/post blog-mill site; and the clips, again, will be of a better quality and give you a legitimacy to gain better paid work.
- Talk to fans. There are some unique fans with unusual views of the world out there. They make great human interest stories.
- Attend charity events for the team. Better yet, work them.
- Attend press events. Ask questions.
- Get to know the staff of the team. Let them know you’d like to write about the team. If they like what you wrote for a local paper, you’ve already got a leg up if an internal marketing position opens up. Find a reason the team can’t live without you, and convince the staff.
I write both fiction and non-fiction about ice hockey. I spent a lot of time with several minor league teams a few years ago, and everyone was lovely. They were delighted to talk about the ins and outs of what they do.
They knew I wouldn’t burn them by misrepresenting them in my articles, they also knew if I disagreed with them about something I’d be upfront with them.
I’d been a hockey fan since I was a little kid, but it wasn’t until I started writing about it that I really learned the game intimately. I grew even more passionate about a sport I loved.
On the flip side of that, I pitched an idea to a publication for which I write regularly to cover the America’s Cup. I can’t even swim and knew nothing about sailing. I had two weeks to learn.
I tracked down some former racing yachts, got my hands on them, and learned the basics.
Part of my angle for the articles was the outsider perspective—an unusual sport, along with a sense of “come learn with me” communicated to the readers. The articles got a great response.
If you love it enough, you find a way to make it work.
My approach to freelance writing has always been to follow whatever interests me and convince someone to pay me for it. I’ve put in the work on my craft, so I’m a good writer. I’m also passionate about my interests. That communicates to both editors and readers, and helps land assignments.
If you move out of your comfort zone in a purely mercenary sense, chances are you’ll just build yourself another prison. You don’t want your work or your time disrespected.
Any dues paid without physical money changing hands has to be worth it for you—not something a content site will resell and make money from indefinitely. Pick your pro bono slots carefully and use them to work—quickly—into reasonably paid work.
If you move out of your comfort and into your passion, chances are the quality of the work will be superior, and, after the first one or two articles, so will the pay.
About the Author Devon Ellington publishes under a half a dozen names in both fiction and non-fiction. Her work appears in publications as varied as New Myths, Books for Monsters, Espresso Fiction, The Rose and Thorn, Femme Fan, The Crafty Traveler, Hampton Family Life, The Armchair Detective and ELLE. She writes “The Literary Athlete” for The Scruffy Dog Review. Her Jain Lazarus Adventures are published by FireDrakes Weyr Publishing and the YA horse racing mystery Dixie Dust Rumors will be published under the Jenny Storm name by eTreasures, summer 2008. Her plays are produced in New York, London, Edinburgh, and Australia. Visit her blog on the writing life, Ink in My Coffee, the site for the Jain Lazarus Adventures and her websites www.devonellingtonwork.com and www.fearlessink.com.
By Donald E. W. Quist
“There can be no great courage where there is no confidence or assurance, and half the battle is in the conviction that we can do what we undertake,” Orison Swett Marden
So you rush out to the mailbox only to discover you’ve received your umpteenth rejection letter. Now then, rather than cursing the literary world for not recognizing your genius and swearing off writing forever, this is the part where you need to renew your resolve.
When pursuing a career in writing it is crucial to maintain one’s confidence. Besides talent, confidence is the single most important component of getting your work read. If you don’t believe in what you do then why should anyone else?
It seems so simple and cliché—Believe in yourself. However, it is something we too often forget when reading over an elegantly worded NO. I decided to get a professional opinion from Sarah Pekkanen, former features writer for the Baltimore Sun and author of The Opposite of Me—a novel soon to be released by Atria, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. As Pekkanen put it, “It’s incredibly important to maintain one’s confidence when trying to get published. So much of this is luck and timing and perseverance, not just talent.”
We shouldn’t allow ourselves to get discouraged by rejection and remember it comes with the territory. As Pekkanen reminded me, “Think of all the big-name writers who were turned down at first—including J.K Rowling and John Grisham. Rejection is part of the process; it’s not personal.”
In regards to the relationship between self-belief and procrastination, it is only natural a lack of confidence lead to a lack of productivity. Your query letter gets shot down after an agent asks to see a partial and suddenly you’re spinning excuses for not writing. You tell yourself you have to do more research before you continue with a particular passage, or you spend hours surfing the internet while a blank Microsoft Word document sits unmodified from its last save.
I know this cause I’ve been there. I’m currently finishing up a novel I once let sit untouched for over 6 months after I received my first batch of rejection letters for a short story I was working on. It’s easy to think that no one will ever be interested, but as my e-mail-pal, Young Adult Fiction writer Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson, helped me realize—for every reason I feared my writing wouldn’t find a home there is an example of an author overcoming a similar obstacle.
You’re scared you’re too young—S.E. Hinton was 16 when The Outsiders was published. You’re scared you’re too old—Gabriel Garcia Marquez didn’t hit his stride until 40 with One Hundred Years of Solitude, and at 82 years old shows no signs of stopping.
And neither should you. Keep at it. Keep writing and stay positive.
By now most of us have heard the name Susan Boyle breeze past the lips of friends and co-workers enamored by the operatic timbre of this pudgy, Scottish, church volunteer-turned-viral video phenomenon. (I mean seriously, the lady’s already got her own Wikipedia entry.) Though I hate to dedicate yet another blog entry to Boyle and risk being dated, she best embodies what it takes to succeed in any type of arts industry—the confidence to put oneself out there and the strength to withstand rejection. She stands as a model for all of us. If you enjoy doing what you love then do it and continue to seek out opportunities to show the world your talent.
About the Author: A freelancer for Media General, Inc., Donald E.W. Quist has written several special interest features for the Florence Morning News, the Hartsville Messenger and InnerViews Magazine. He is the recipient of the 2005 Coker College Write-On Award, and his creative work has appeared in Xcursions Magazine and ERGO magazine. Currently he is shopping for a home for his first novel—Young Folks.
He hopes to launch a website this summer. He invites you to follow him on Twitter: @DonaldEWQuist.