The world of content writing is big, bad and scary. While I’m lucky enough to contribute to a website made up of a really welcoming community, there are plenty of people out there who aren’t afraid to really sink their claws into you if they don’t like what you have written. While this kind of criticism can be unpleasant for even writers who find the process as pleasant as baking a batch of cupcakes, imagine how it can feel for someone with low self-esteem.
Hi everyone, my name’s Charlotte and I’m a nervous wreck
While I can argue my case against things like Russia’s anti-gay laws and captive cetaceans with unwavering passion, I’m a nervous wreck in most other areas of my life. I live in fear of bees and wasps, of not having control over my life, of the people I like not liking me back and a whole host of other things. One of my biggest fears however, is of my writing being poorly received.
Even at university I dreaded our peer appraisal sessions, terrified that my work would be laughed at and I’d have to scrap the whole thing. Even now I refuse to show people my short stories, novel notes, reviews or poetry, and write all of my industry content with a niggling voice at the back of my mind second guessing almost every sentence.
Low self-esteem isn’t a weakness
It’s very easy for other people and even you yourself to say, “Now stop being a wuss and get on with it!” However, low self-esteem most definitely isn’t a weakness and shouldn’t just be buried under a poor layer of content that you haven’t put your heart into. This is where you most probably will get pulled up on mistakes, misinformation and other errors that you would have been able to correct if you were giving the piece your full devotion.
Hell, I’ve been ripped apart by the Grammar Police for simply using the archaic British word “gotten.” As you can see below, those who picked up on it even felt the need to broach the subject with The Guardian style guide editors! To me, despite the fact that my post itself was well received, it felt like an unnecessary attack that ruined my mood for the rest of the day.
That’s the thing, once you have to face this criticism your confidence takes another knock, you lose even more enthusiasm for getting your work out there, you put off writing pieces and curl even tighter into your shell. It’s a vicious circle, but one you can start to conquer with a few simple techniques and a lot of determination.
Kicking that niggling voice into touch
I like to think that you can’t read the trepidation I felt following this incident in my following published pieces. However, it’s something I’ve only managed to achieve through putting a concerted effort into kicking my niggling voice back into touch.
So what do I do to keep the self-doubt at bay that you can put into action too?
1) Take a break
If you encounter some criticism that upsets you, take a break to do something that makes you feel better before sitting back down with a fresh mind. If you’re struggling to write a piece because you’re convinced it isn’t good enough, do the same. Forcing out a piece of content really shows.
If you’re working from home, taking some time to read a book, go for a wander outside, fuss over your pet or even just make a cup of tea are all really nice little distractions. At work, go and grab a drink, nip outside for a moment to gather your thoughts or even just stretch your legs around the building.
2) Take criticism on the chin
I know it’s hard, but making the most of a bad situation is a must in an industry like ours. If you’ve been hurt by something someone has said, occupy yourself with something else for a moment before going back to their comment. Read it over, and see if their issue is something you can take on board and action when you come to write your next piece.
Bear in mind that not all criticism is actionable though. There are plenty of trolls who make it their mission to post inane and vicious comments that make people feel inferior. Hurtful as they might be, learn to recognise these comments and ignore them outright.
3) Keep track of your well received work
Whenever “I’m not good enough” and “I might as well just give up” thoughts pop back into your head, read back your well received work and the nice comments readers have left to give yourself a confidence boost.
4) Have a musical accompaniment
I often find that having my favourite music playing quietly in the background is a great encouragement while working. The love you feel for the music is a great mood booster that will, in turn, feed into your work. There’s nothing worse than trying to write when you feel completely blue.
5) Read everyday
Reading other people’s work is one of the best ways to learn how to write to a higher standard. As well as providing opportunity for content inspiration to strike, you’ll find yourself picking up writing tips you can action in your own work. If there’s a particular blogger you admire, for example, read their stuff to pick up on how they get it right (and how they get it wrong – even the best of us don’t write perfectly all the time; a valuable lesson for those lacking in confidence).
6) Write everyday
The only way to improve on your work is to practice, practice, practice. Even if you’re just writing regular accounts of your day in a notebook or scribbling down notes and ideas, it all works towards honing your style, tone of voice and talent.
7) Reverse your negativity
Psychological tricks like this can do wonders for just forcing us to take a different perspective. Instead of getting disheartened and asking yourself, “Why am I writing this anyway?” think, “Why haven’t I written this already?” Once you actually ask yourself why and realise that there’s no real reason, it’ll give you the little boost you need to get started.
8) Set early deadlines
There’s nothing worse than rushing to reach a deadline for a piece you’re struggling with. I know how much extra pressure and, consequently, stress this can cause, making you feel like you’re crap at what you do and not good enough. All you need to do is set your date for completion earlier than your actual deadline date, giving yourself enough time to craft a carefully considered piece of content that you’re actually happy with.
A simple yet essential technique. You’ve seen in my earlier example how the most mundane grammatical mistake can turn into something a bit soul-destroying, so making sure it isn’t there in the first place removes you from the danger of being targeted by the Grammar Police, Punctuation Police and their respective units.
10) Enlist the help of a confidante
There must be at least one person you would trust to look over your work. Whether a friend, family member or work colleague, having someone you can turn to for a second opinion is only ever a good thing. As well as being able to spot any spelling/grammatical errors you may have missed, they can bring a fresh perspective that can also identify where you’ve included too much fluff, not been clear enough on a point or whether you might even be better broaching your subject from a completely different angle.
11) Reward yourself
Taking the plunge and hitting publish on a piece after battling with your self-esteem demons is a big step, so reward yourself for it! I’m not talking about a big night out or a slap up meal, something simple like watching a film with a slice of cake or a going for a long walk with the dog are lovely ways to zen out.
It’s all about experience
I’m not going to lie and say that these tips will change your life overnight. They won’t. They will however make gradual but really impactful improvements to your overall outlook, well-being and attitude that feed into your working practices and content itself.
Yes, having potentially hundreds of critical eyes pouring over your work is a terrifying thought, but by diligently brightening up your outlook and working towards making yourself a more confident person, you’ll get used to it. Eventually you’ll even learn to look back at incidents like mine and laugh about them while you eagerly type up your next piece!