Building Confidence as a Writer
Guest Blog Post by Poet & Editor Shelby Leigh
I first connected with the lovely Shelby Leigh when she reached out to offer to read and review my debut collection Cajoncito. Hungry for reviews, I leapt at the chance, but it was only after receiving the review that I had a snoop around her website and social media- and quickly realised I had found a gem!
Shelby is a real powerhouse poet and mental health advocate. Her collection Changing with the Tides is a bestseller, she runs The Poetry Club which provides community, workshops and writing challenges to all its members, and she also works as a free-lance editor and poetry consultant. Her newsletter is an absolute treasure, and was the reason I reached out to her for a guest blog post.
I do hope you will find as much encouragement in her words as I have. Don't forget to reach out and let Shelby and I know what you think!
Did you grow up dreaming of being a writer when you got older, but never actually showed your writing to anyone?
That was me for a long time. Writing poem after poem, story after story, and keeping it hidden away.
I was terrified of rejection, of someone saying i could never be a writer. I was scared of what my friends and family would think.
You see, for most of my teenage and adult years, I’ve been on the shyer side. I’m pretty timid when I first meet new people, and I fear being judged by others far too often.
For many years, this fear and lack of confidence seeped into my writing and even how I was marketing myself as a writer.
But eventually, and with a lot of intentional work, my feelings changed, and I learned to embrace my work, because it’s a huge part of who I am. That change has helped me tremendously in my writing career.
If you’re scared to share your writing…
When I started college, I decided that i was done keeping my work to myself. I created an anonymous blog on tumblr and started sharing my work.
And people started reading, slowly but surely. I received positive comments and was even encouraged to publish my first book of poetry.
This helped me gain so much confidence, because for all the years I had been writing, I had never received feedback on my work before.
Of course, you don’t have to write anonymously to do this. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t, because I lost out on building name recognition for a couple years. However, it was what I needed to do to feel safe sharing my work. And that’s okay!
Here are a couple things I’ve learned since sharing my writing publicly:
For every negative review or comment, there are plenty of people who leave positive reviews and comments. You can’t please everyone. But, you can accept that everyone has an opinion and embrace the fact that people are giving your writing a chance.
If I had given up after receiving negative comments about my first book, I might not have published my bestselling collection changing with the tides. The book that changed my life and my writing career.
If you’re battling imposter syndrome…
If you would have told the freshman-in-college-version-of-me that by writing little poems in my dorm room every day I would eventually have a bestselling book, a book deal, an audience of 350k people, teach poetry workshops and edit poetry books…
I would have never believed you. Ever.
But here we are.
So, if you've read this far, and you don’t feel confident as a writer, I challenge you to take the next step. If you've never shared your writing before, share it with someone. If you want to submit your writing to a literary mag or a publisher, do it. Go for it.
I'm here with you, cheering you on!
Take the time you need to develop your voice
Like with any other skill, the more you write, the more confident you’ll become. If you’re not confident at all with your writing today, don’t expect to be confident tomorrow.
It can take months — even years — to build confidence. That’s just the truth. And that’s okay.
Know that whether you choose to keep your writing to yourself, or share everything you write with the world, or take a break from writing, or have days where you feel like the worst writer ever, days where you never want to pick up a pen again, that’s okay.
Just don’t give up.
About Shelby Leigh
Shelby Leigh is a poet and mental health advocate who has been writing on the internet for 6+ years, amassing a following of more than 380,000 readers. Her third poetry book is forthcoming in Fall 2022 with Central Avenue Publishing. In addition to writing poetry, Shelby hosts monthly poetry events through the poetry club and serves authors through poetry book editing and marketing strategies. Find her at shelbyleigh.co, Instagram and TikTok @shelbyleighpoetry, and Twitter @shelbyleighpoet.
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