Peter Bowerman is one of the most visible and successful copywriters in the U.S., perhaps best known in the mainstream as the author of the Well-Fed Writer books on how to build a freelance copywriting career. One of his recent blog posts addresses a concern that all writers…I mean, all creative artists…I mean, all human beings have to face. And that’s a lack of confidence.
Bowerman notes that no how-to copywriting book can truly prepare a fledgling freelance copywriter for taking the big leap and and really doing it for a living. It’s like standing at the base of Mount Everest, climbing gear in hand, and looking up at the cloud-covered peak as a ticker-tape of uncomfortable questions runs through your mind. Can I do this? What if I take the wrong step? What if the wind picks up? What if I get stuck at the halfway point?
Heck, I still have the occasional Everest Day myself, even after 14 years in the business. You never grow fully immune to them. But you do learn to trust your skills and instincts — and that’s enough to keep your feet moving up that mountain slope.
If we learn by doing, then we learn confidence by doing many times. For instance, what’s the most common fear out there? It’s public speaking. (Or maybe it’s death; I get those two confused a lot.) Most people dread public speaking, and some have an absolute terror of facing an audience.
What do these people do cure their phobia? They face audiences, and they talk. Groups like Toastmasters provide a safe, supportive environment for people to practice their public speaking skills, giving speech after speech until they know they’ve got what it takes. They may never love it — but they know they can do it.
Writing is like that. When we start out, we’re terrified of the blank page because it offers no safety net, no guidelines. What if we write badly? What if we write nothing? What if we miss the deadline? What if what if what if?
Ray Bradbury suggested that writers start their careers by churning out thousands of words a day, just to shake out the bugs of inexperience as mercifully quickly as possible. In his Zen in the Art of Writing he says: “There is no failure unless one stops. Not to work is to cease, tighten up, become nervous, and therefore destructive of the creative process.”
So there’s only one way to gain confidence as a writer. Write. A lot. Write until it becomes second nature. Most importantly, finish what you start. Complete enough writing jobs and over time those nagging doubts will lose some of their power over you. You’ve done it before. You’ll do it this time.
Hey, it’s just a big hill with snow on it, right?
For more about me, my writing services and current package deals, check out my website at www.reynoldswriting.com.