When you lose your confidence... by Liz Carter

Being a writer can be a bit like being on a rollercoaster at times, can't it. There are highs where we celebrate book deals and great reviews, and lows where everything seems like one great big slump. There are times we ride the writing wave and stride forward with confidence and assurance that we are doing pretty okay, that others like to read our stuff, that we can legitimately say that we are authors. And then there are times the wave crashes over us instead, leaving us dazed and bewildered.

The thing about writing is that it is inextricably bound up with our emotions, and so our circumstances to a large extent tend to dictate where we are with our writing. For some of us, the pandemic has been a time where we've struggled to write, and for others it's been a rich time resulting in a whole load of new inspiration and material. The fact is that we all respond differently to external factors, and there are times in our lives where we seem to lose confidence altogether.

I've had a pretty shocking year, with one thing and another - ill health, bereavement, lots of layers of other stuff that has sapped away my mojo and sucked away my confidence in writing. Lately as a result of this I've been suffering with a bout of comparisonitis - you know the one, don't you? You look at everyone else and think they are so much better at writing, far more productive, much more out there on social media. You look back on times when you were a bit like that, and can't imagine how you ever could be again, because your courage has leaked. You start to believe you have nothing to offer: you enter competitions and hear nothing, you submit to agents and hear nothing, you don't get asked to contribute to projects or blogs. Basically, everything becomes a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy as the more you hide away in the corner, the less these things happen anyway, and so re-iterate your narrative. It's not great, is it? But I want to be honest about it today, and take off my mask: sometimes, life throws curveballs, and you spiral into dark places, and, because your writing is so connected to the deep places of you, that gets thrown into the air too. And then your confidence takes a hit, and so on. I wonder if anyone today is feeling this way? Please do join in on the comments. I really believe that, as well as celebrating with one another when things go well, we need to authentically connect with one another when times are tough and when writing doesn't come so easily.

I had a little panic over it all the other day when I realised I'd not sent out a newsletter, updated my blog or even my author page in months. I wondered if this would mean I'd lost all the work I put into it all, and had to start again, and this made me feel even worse, alongside the comparisons I was putting far too much time and energy into cultivating. I realised then that something had to change. What really helped me - and set me on a new path, actually, was Ruth Leigh's post from a few days back. Ruth was really honest about how we as writers tend to present ourselves in our bios, versus what we should really write. 'I hate the idea of other writers reading what I write on social media and thinking, “It’s all very well for her” or similar', she wrote. I found this so refreshing to read - do check it out. After reading this and pondering on it for a while, I realised that we're all struggling, in our different ways, and that it's ok to have times where we break a little bit and to admit to that. It's ok to leave our socials aside and concentrate on just getting through the day. It's ok to be real about losing confidence.

So what can we do when this happens? I guess it's one of those questions that doesn't have answers that will work for everyone, because we are all so gloriously different. For me, it's about letting myself off and taking time to be - to be with God, and others, and also to intentionally celebrate other people's work, rather than waste time slipping into useless comparison. This is so much more liberating for the soul. This week, I'm celebrating with Amy Boucher Pye as she launches her wonderful new book, 7 Ways to Pray. This has been a book that has touched me and brought me hope in the midst of a dark year, and I'll be blogging for Amy soon with some thoughts about the area. Meanwhile, go buy it - you won't regret it.

It's amazing, isn't it, that celebrating can lift you out of despondency. It's one of the reasons I'm so grateful for ACW - there is always so much to celebrate, so much richness in writing. And I love the ethos of honesty about difficulty, too - let's keep sharing together when we're hurting. I've been a bit quiet lately, but I know for me that reaching out can transform things.

I've also found again and again over the years that going to God with our struggle is the best thing we can do (Amy's book has helped me with that, too!) God knows what we are going through and understands our hurting and our leaky confidence. I always go back to the Psalms of lament, where the writers pour out their sadness, anger and frustration, and then they say, 'And yet. Yet I will praise.' That is such a tiny phrase, but packed with a great big load of power. I'm always learning to yet praise, and I'm deciding to do that, once again, today.

How about you?

What do you do when your confidence is low and comparisonitis takes root? Do you curl up and hide, or do you get out there and keep powering through? What strategies work for you? I'd love to hear.

Liz Carter is an author, poet and editor from Shropshire. She loves to write about the difficult and painful times in life, and how we can find gold in the mess. Her books Catching Contentment and Treasure in Dark Places are available in online bookstores, and she may have some book news to share soon. You can find her at www.greatadventure.carterclan.me.uk 

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