Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Writer's Wednesday - Coping With A Crisis Of Confidence

Today at The Pink Heart Society, columnist Kate Hardy talks to us about something we all struggle with at one time or another: Confidence.

I think most writers have a major confidence wobble at some point – whether it’s their first book or their fiftieth, and no matter if they’ve hit a bestseller list or won awards.

There are days when you sit there in front of the screen and think – nope. Blank head. Can’t do it any more.

Ways round it depends on what’s sapped your confidence.

Rejection letter? If you get some feedback about why the editor didn’t like it, think about revising the book; otherwise, grit your teeth and keep submitting. It might be that your book didn’t fit the editor’s list, or that another one with a similar premise was read and accepted just before yours. ‘Just didn’t love it enough’ is a killer because it doesn’t tell you what’s wrong – it just tells you that your book wasn’t a good fit for that particular person at that particular time. So you just have to take a deep breath and keep trying until you find the right fit. Or consider whether you believe in the book enough to publish it yourself.

Harsh review? Remember that you can’t please everyone. My sixtieth book came out last month. The very first review was from a reader who basically said she knew the book would go downhill from the first chapter because they had sex in it and informed the world that I’d written ‘many’ books this year ‘and they all stink’. Ouch. The second review came in from someone who doesn’t mince her words, and she said it was the best book I’d written in ages. Same book; completely different reactions. If you have a lot of reviews telling you the same thing (e.g. they don’t get your characters’ motivations) then they’re useful to help you grow as a writer. If not, remind yourself that you can’t please everyone and move on. (Better still, if you know you’re thin-skinned, ask a good friend to keep an eye out on reviews and only send you the useful ones.)

Massive revisions on your book? It could be that the editorial direction has changed and you haven’t caught up; or it could be that you’re changing and growing. Lilian Darcy told me many years ago that if you get massive revisions, it usually happens just before you have a ‘growth spurt’ as a writer. Talk it over with your editor (she’s there to work with you, not beat you over the head with a broom), work out where you’re going, and carry on.

The book just isn’t working? That’s usually a clue that you’ve taken a wrong turning somewhere. Write yourself a rough outline of your book so far (bare bones stuff, not in huge detail) and you should be able to see what the problem is. Maybe you don’t know your characters well enough (or haven’t worked out their motivations), or the conflict isn’t strong enough to sustain a whole book and you need to beef it up. What if one of your characters did something different? Brainstorm some ideas (with a friend, or even with yourself) to get you moving again.

Real life getting in the way? If you’ve got a lot of other stuff going on in your life and the pressure’s too great, you’ll find that it takes you longer than usual to produce a book – and it can be a real confidence-sapper, if you have to move deadlines and you feel everything’s going backwards. Try to delegate some of the other stuff if you can; if you can’t, work out what you can change in your schedule to give you some more time. Work with lists (when it’s really hard, sometimes even ticking off ‘clean teeth’ can help you feel you’ve achieved SOMETHING during a day), maybe lower some of your standards (does it really matter if you don’t vacuum the carpets every single day?), and claim some time back for you. Renegotiate your deadline if you have to, be realistic about how much you can actually do each day, and ringfence your work time so you don't fall behind.

Three more things to help:   

  • Keep a note of your strengths (i.e. what your editor tells you you’re good at) and re-read it every time your confidence wobbles – it’ll remind you that you CAN do some of this stuff (and anything else can be worked on – you can fix a bad page but you can’t do anything with a blank one)
  • Get some endorphins – you may notice authors talking on social media about running, having a personal trainer or going to gym classes. Actually, exercise has a twofold effect – as well as the nice endorphin rush from exercise, it makes you physically more confident (and that makes you feel stronger and improves your mental confidence, too). Getting away from your desk will give you a chance to clear your head.
  • Buy something tangible – I buy a Pandora bead to celebrate every book sold and every award nomination or win. (My very first bracelet started when I won the RNA Rose Award back in 2008.) It’s physical proof that I’ve done it before and can do it again. And when I have 'I can't do this' days, I wear the bracelet to remind myself that yes, I can...

How do you handle a confidence crisis? Do you have any other tips you can share with us? Let us know in the comments!

Kate’s latest release is her sixty-first for Harlequin Mills and Boon, A New Year Marriage Proposal (working title Project Sparkle). 

Will Christmas work its magic?

When reclusive Quinn O'Neill's new neighbor Carissa Wylde asks for his help with a Christmas charity project, he can't resist her vivacious energy. And soon he's caught up in the work...and the beautiful, fun-loving woman behind it.

Like Quinn, Carissa carries hurt and pain beneath her smiles and holiday cheer. On an ice rink, surrounded by twinkling lights, he'll start to kiss it all better. There's plenty of festive magic...but now he's got the toughest challenge of all: proving this romance is not just for Christmas but for a lifetime...

To find out more about the book and Kate, you can visit her website and her blog or find her on Facebook 


  1. I really need to steal your Pandora idea. Having something tangible would be a great shield for Ye Olde Doubt Crows!

    And congratulations on #60! :)


  2. Wonderful post Kate! I think we all deal with confidence problems at one point or another so I found your tips really helpful!

  3. Thanks for the wonderful post, Kate! Perfect timing, as I've had some rough life issues that made it impossible to hit my deadline, and I've felt like such a lame-o for it! It helps to know every writer has moments where it's tough to believe in yourself. And I like the Pandora idea, too! A little reward for pushing through - just might have to head to the store after I turn in my (late!) book tomorrow! :-)

  4. Great post, Kate. Really needed to read this right now as just getting back into my writing after about 7 years of health and family issues derailing me.