10 Tips To Help Boost Your Confidence


“Ollin, I want to be a writer, but I don’t think I’m any good at it. Do you think I should still pursue writing, or should I just give up?”

“Ollin, I want to be a writer, but how do I know for sure if this is what I’m meant to do, or whether I’m just wasting my time?”

So, you’re asking me whether or not you’re a good writer? Okay. You want the truth?

Maybe, maybe not. We’ll see.

You’re also asking me whether or not writing is what you’re meant to do? Okay. You want the truth?

Maybe, maybe not. We’ll see.

Maybe, Maybe Not. We’ll See.

There’s a great Chinese proverb that tells the story of a farmer and his son:

One day, the farmer’s beloved horse ran off, and all the townspeople heard what had happened.

“What terrible luck you have!” the townspeople told the farmer.

“Maybe, maybe not,” the farmer replied. “We’ll see.”

The next day, the farmer’s horse returned home. But the horse did not come back home alone: he brought with him several wild mares.

“Your horse is back and has brought several wild mares with him,” the townspeople cried. “What wonderful luck you have!”

“Maybe, maybe not,” the farmer replied. “We’ll see.”

The next day the farmer’s son was trying to break in one of the mares, when the horse threw him down. When he fell, the son broke his leg.

All the townspeople pitied the farmer.

“Your son’s leg is broken,” they told the farmer. “What terrible luck you have!”

“Maybe, maybe not.” the farmer replied. “We’ll see.”

Then, the next day, the national army came to take all the sons of every family in the town. Fortunately, because his leg was broken, the farmer’s son was not among the sons that were taken.

The townspeople were amazed.

“Your son’s broken leg has saved him from a cruel and bloody war!” they cried. “You have the greatest luck in all of China!”

The farmer raised his finger and all the townspeople grew quiet. Finally, he spoke.

“Maybe, maybe not,” he said. “We’ll see.”

This proverb is often shared as a lesson in perception. An unfortunate event could lead to something fortunate tomorrow, you never really know. But I also think that this proverb teaches us many more lessons. And one of those lessons is tied to the most important lesson about confidence that I can share with you today.

10 Tips To Help Boost Your Confidence As A Writer

1. Realize That The Only Certainty In Life Is Uncertainty

What this ancient Chinese proverb teaches us is that the only certainty in life is uncertainty. And so we do little to feed our confidence if we constantly believe that all the conditions of life must be CERTAIN in order for us to move forward with whatever it is we would like to do.

For instance:

“At this moment, are the conditions “right” in order for me to be a good writer?”

Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll see.

“Will the conditions be right tomorrow for me to be a good writer?”

Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll see.

“Am I going to waste my time if I pursue a writing career (or pursue whatever passion I wish to pursue)?”

Maaaaaaaaybe. Maybe not. We’ll see.

I know. It’s not the absolute answer you were searching for, but it’s the only answer life is ever going to give you.

However, if you become more certain about life’s uncertainty (like the wise farmer in the proverb) you may find yourself becoming more confident in your endeavours. The farmer was always certain about uncertainty, and since nothing turned out to be certain, the farmer’s confidence never wavered.

2. Make A Decision. (Remember: “Decision = Action”)

The easiest way to become more confident right now is just to make a decision. Make a decision to write. Make a decision to create art. Make a decision to do wherever it is you want to do.

During a theater class (while I was still in college) one of my theater instructors wrote the following on a white board:

“Decision = Action”

It’s simple but powerful, and truly transformational once you grasp the concept. Because once you make the decision to be a writer, no matter what bad or good things might happen to you because of this decision, you can now start living in a world of action. And action is where true confidence starts to blossom.

3. Take Action (Follow Through On Your Decision)

You want to be a novelist? Write a novel. You want to be a screenplay writer? Write a screenplay. You want to be a playwright? Write a play. You want to be a poet? Write some poetry. Stop with all the questioning of yourself and your worth (whether it’s in the present or in some distant future). You know you want to do it, so do it. Move. Then watch as your confidence starts to grow.

4. Study Your Craft

As you take action, you may find that you feel a bit lost. You may have several questions. Questions not about how “good” you are, but questions like: what makes a great character? What makes a great story? How does one set the right mood for a scene?

Unlike questions of worth, questions of craft are what writers should spend most of their time on.

In order to help find answers to these more practical questions, seek out teachers who have accomplished what you would like to accomplish. That’s what I did. I studied with my writing mentor, Cherrie Moraga, for four years. Her guidance as a writing mentor was ESSENTIAL to my confidence as a writer.

To help build your confidence as a writer, you’ll need a great teacher. Seek one out. Once you find this teacher, take her classes, take her workshops, take her seminars and webinars.

If you can’t afford to go to college and study with a mentor at the moment, there are tons of books that can guide you in the meantime. I recommend starting with the following books:

Story Engineering by Larry Brooks (Read my review of Larry’s book by going here.)

The Art and Craft of Fiction by Victoria Mixon (Read my review of Victoria’s book by going here.)

My readers have also recommended their favorite books for writers. That list of Books On Writing can be found at the end of this post.

A special word of caution: you can use the internet to help study your craft as well, but be careful. There are plenty of scammers and fake experts out there who are looking to cheat you in order to turn a buck. (If you are taking this route, make sure to read my interview with Jane Friedman–in this interview the former editor of Writer’s Digest helps writers sort out who you can trust online and who you can’t.)

5. Gather Feedback

Gathering feedback is an invaluable experience. Find people who you trust and who have enough skill and experience to be able to give you the kind of constructive, helpful feedback you need.

(But beware of Bad Critics. Bad Critics make you feel terrible about your work and don’t give you any constructive feedback that is useful. Bad critics will crush your confidence in no time. So try to avoid them at all costs. To tell whether you’ve encountered a Bad Critic, and for tips on how to deal with Bad Critics, read my post: Bad Critic, Bad!)

6. Teach What You Want To Master

You can tutor English after work, or on the weekends, to help you master the English language. Trust me, you will become very confident as a writer when you have to learn the English language well enough to teach it to a group of people whose first real encounter with the fundamental rules of English begins with you.

7. Get To Know Your Roots

I can’t tell you how much more confident you’ll be as a writer when you can break down an English word and understand its Latin or Greek origins. If you want to make your diction (a.k.a. word choice) impeccable, get yourself a dictionary of Latin and Greek Roots, and then study that thing like crazy. This will help you become more confident with English words and phrases (and increase your English vocabulary) in no time.

8. Read A Whole Lot

In fact, read lot more than you currently do. Read all genres, styles, types, and forms of writing. Read writing from as many different authors, countries, and fields as you can. It’s essential.

9. Don’t Just Seek To Understand, Seek To “Internalize”

Become a critical reader by writing copious notes in the margins of the books you read. Ask questions of the text, write down what you’re thinking as you read the text, and make predictions about what you think is going to happen next. (Example: “Why is the author describing Anna Karenina’s features in so much detail?” … “Levin’s staring at Anna’s portrait in a weird way. This can’t be good.” … “I think Levin’s gonna totally fall for Anna now.) Engage with a book as if the story itself is a person you are interviewing. This is how you go from simply ingesting what you read, to DIGESTING it. It’s how you suck out all the nutrients from the work that can then be used to nurture confidence in your own writing later.

10. Repeat #’s 1-9

Whenever you feel like you’ve lost confidence again, please review lessons in # 1-9. Part of what makes us lose our confidence is forgetting the tools that have helped us become more confident in the past. So remember to revisit these tools whenever you feel like you’ve lost your mojo.

Good luck.

much “Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll See.”


What do you do to help boost your confidence? Please share your wisdom with us in the comments below!

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24 comments on “10 Tips To Help Boost Your Confidence

  1. As usual…very timely and needed. Favorite line:
    “Unlike questions of worth, questions of craft are what writers should spend most of their time on.”
    That is going on my twitter/facebook status and credited to you.

    • Ollin says:

      Thank you. It is true! All writers should remember that. We spend so much time on questions of worth when this is a waste of time. And it also stalls us from actually doing the work that will make us a very good writer. You want to be a good writer? Start writing!

  2. A very useful and inspiring post! When I read this I felt hope starting to resurface and my dream of becoming a published writer growing clearer in my mind. It always will take time to achieve one’s deepest goal… of course willpower and self-confidence is so important for that! 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Ollin says:

      You’re welcome. My hope was that a reader would leave feeling very confident and assured after reading this post. I’m glad it worked for you!

  3. struggletovictory says:

    To boost my confidence, I go for a run or a long bike ride. My brain usually goes into “non-thinking mode,” and I come back feeling like I’ve hit the restart button. I’m usually much more creative after exercising. I also like to browse through magazines to boost my confidence, because they usually give me great ideas for future writings. Prayer and journaling are probably the best ways I’ve found to boost my confidence. God never fails to come through for me. I LOVE your idea of studying roots of words. I’ve wanted to do this in the past but haven’t been sure how to do it. I’m going to give it a shot!

  4. I love that story Ollin! It’s so important to trust that whatever is happening to us right NOW is what we need to move forward. My confidence booster is sharing my work and getting feedback, because no matter what they say, I know it’s going to make my work better.

  5. Hi Olin,
    I really enjoyed your post today. .As a volunteer crisis phone counselor, I know that ‘it’s all a matter of perspective.’ I found all your tips Very inspiring and motivating. You put a lot of time and thought into it, so thank you. The quote the first person commented on had struck me too, Sometimes we spend too much time self absorbed in our own worthlessness.

    To add to the comment from the Julie before me, I must add the quote from Buckaroo Banzi and the 8th Dimension, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Simplistic sounding, but profound.
    Julie R.

    • Ollin says:

      Thank you. I appreciate you taking notice of how much time and effort I put into each post. I really want to be as useful and as helpful to my readers as possible.

      Thank you for sharing that wonderful quote as well!

  6. Excellent writing tips, Ollin. Rule #8 is great – read, read, read. Two books on writing that I’ve read more than once: “Bird by Bird,” by Anne Lamott, and “On Writing,” by Stephen King. Enjoy your writing.

  7. I love the Chinese Proverb & this post, especially tip #1 because it is so true! Life is uncertain. It’s filled with possibilities and probabilities. You have but to learn that delicate dance between determining what you should act on and put in motion (like pursuing writing), and then releasing the outcome and allowing life to unfold. Easy to say, not always easy to practice 🙂

    You’re spot on with tying this to self-confidence, because all too often it is the internal doubt or insecurity that will stop you from setting the very thing you long to do in motion. Keep setting things in motion Ollin!

    • Ollin says:

      Great point A. Kathryn! And you are also right that it isn’t easy to do. But realizing that only uncertainty is certain is a great starting point!

  8. M.E. Anders says:

    Studying the Craft – that is one of the most important parts of writing for me in this stage.

    I have also read Story Engineering and The Art and Craft of Story (Victoria’s latest book). I would add Save the Cat by Blake Snyder to that list. Though it’s geared towards screenwriters, most is applicable to novelists.

    Thanks, Ollin!

    • Ollin says:

      I think it’s the most important thing writers can do right now who feel they are not “good enough” or will never be “good enough.” Thank you for those recommendations!

  9. I can’t begin to tell you what this article did for me today. It’s like you were standing over my shoulder for the last 6 months straight and finally let me have it. I know that faith without action is death, and I haven’t been acting. Thank you so so much for the boost!!

  10. spinx says:

    Some very good suggestions- and not that hard to follow as people make them out to be.

    But that is the thing with us humans- the greatest wall to stop us from trying remains the one in our own mind.
    “I will never be good enough.”, yes, yes, yes…..this one, actually, has never really been a problem for me for one very simple reason- if you really have even the slightest of talnets, and you keep at it for ten years- then my friend, you cannot NOT get better.

    Don´t expect to master a craft in six months- don´t expect to be much better after one year even- try five years, and then look back.

    “Should I really be a writer? Am I wasting my time?”………….this one is harder to overcome, but very recently, I´ve come to realize one thing—-everyone, really everyone you know, questions their path as you do yours.

    Dentists dream to be actors, actors ask themselves if they should not have become singers instead,…he wishes….she wishes……we wish, wish, wish…..and wonder.
    We always wonder.
    I do not wonder anymore. Because I have truly realized one thing- regardless what kind of proffession, or lifestyle you chose- it will be hard.

    Being a secretary is hard, being a constructionworker is hard- being a human simply is hard.

    We all have to work hard.
    And at the end of the day, I´d rather give it my all for something that brings me enormous joy.

  11. Awesome post! I really like that proverb. It definitely puts things into perspective. It’s a good reminder to not worry so much and just be, just write. Like you said, decision=action, and what will come will come!

  12. svaswani says:

    Thank you so much for the “10 Tips To Help Boost Your Confidence”…..wow!! its so powerful ….For me “ITS A MASTERPIECE”….I read this every morning and I feel more confident and strong…..this has enhanced and enriched my journey of life….thnx once again….gd luck…God bless…

    • Ollin says:

      Wow, I’m very flattered. Haha. And I feel very blessed that I touched your life in a profound way. I am very grateful. Good luck to you!

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