“Just believe in yourself.”

….Come on.

Let’s not keep crippling our ambitions with that kind of magical thinking.

It takes no work whatsoever to just believe in ourselves. It’s lazy. It’s a feel-good shortcut around the fact that we’re terrible at something. And guess what? We’ll always be terrible at it, unless we face the truth and practise.

Forget you ever heard the words “just believe in yourself”. If you want to make anything of yourself, you need to work harder. You need to impress people with the concrete results you can produce. You need commitment, discipline and rigorous practise in your chosen trade. You need to know your tools.

We also need the right attitude. People won’t buy your books just because you’ve written them. Those books need to be competently written. They need to inform, or entertain, or both. You need basic ability with spelling, grammar and good pace. None of which will be perfect in your first few books.

No one knows this stuff instinctively – it takes repetition and a great deal of learning from your mistakes. Best of all if you can self-publish, and learn from negative reviews, and see those reviewers as teachers rather than haters.

There’s no shortage of self-belief in the world. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. But if that’s all you’ve got, don’t expect to be successful at anything. Why? Because there’s nothing easier than just believing in yourself. Who couldn’t do that? There’s no effort or sacrifice involved whatsoever. There’s no practise or rigour. There’s no commitment.

Instead of just believing in ourselves, and waiting for the world to finally recognise our innate genius (and we’d be waiting a long time for something like that)… No. Just no. We need to stop telling ourselves that shit.

Stop telling yourself things. Ask questions of yourself instead. Was that the best I could do? What do readers want? Why should people pay their hard-earned money for my writing? What makes a bestseller sell? Since people absolutely judge books by their covers, because we’re all busy people and that’s what book covers are for… how can I make my book cover less shitty?

None of this happens right away. It’s a gradual process, and it happens on the job. I’m not right, or wise, or an expert, but I know more now than I did. If you want to be a full-time writer, you need to write full-time. Maybe around a day job too, because life’s hard and sometimes it sucks. (Take a job as a writer. That way you’re getting paid to practise all day.)

But when it all pays off, and you learn stuff, and you can watch your readers enjoy your writing and see your writing improve each time… and maybe even start to build your own business with it… there’s no better feeling in the world.

Stop believing in yourself, and I will too. Let’s admit that we suck at writing, and don’t know anything, and just work hard to improve.

 

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2 Replies to ““Just believe in yourself.””

    1. Ah, she’s up against it at the moment! It’s taking a while, and sorry to say it’ll take longer – but hopefully it’ll be worth the wait when it’s finally done!

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