How to Become a Confident Author
Successful authors often have a bias towards action. Rather than spending months mulling over ideas and talking strategy, those who succeed typically write and publish. Unafraid of doing a bad job, they don’t hold fire to ensure everything is perfect. Instead, they act, knowing they will never have 100% of the information they need to make a flawless decision. They trust that putting themselves out there will expose issues in their work they can fix at a later date. And a similar principle goes for marketing, networking and public speaking. Knowing this to be true, it makes sense just to begin whatever you need to do, right?
Well, it’s not that easy for everyone.
Many authors lack the confidence to take a leap of faith. They know they need to take action, and maybe even which actions they need to take, but they don’t because they lack confidence. Nervous authors generally don’t publish. If they do, they don’t tell anyone about their work. If they’re asked, they downplay it so nobody searches for anything they write. If they start to see success, they often stunt their growth by hiding their identity, turn down public speaking opportunities and bail on networking plans that push them out of their comfort zone. Their fear of being judged creates a glass ceiling under which they struggle to thrive to their full potential.
Some authors lack confidence in a particular area of life but have it in abundance elsewhere. Others exhibit less confidence across the board. And some experience it in waves, depending on recent stimuli. Fortunately, this phenomenon doesn’t have to control you. You see, confidence isn’t an innate quality you have from birth. It isn’t fixed. As an author, you can upskill your confidence levels to increase your chance of gaining success in whatever facet of authorpreneurship you desire. Doing so doesn’t have to be complicated, either. You can start by practicing a few simple tactics to build confidence as an author, as you will discover in today’s blog post.
Understand Imposter Syndrome
When viewers sit down to watch a horror movie, the realisation that the film they’re watching is scary sometimes comes too late. As soon as they realise, they want to abort mission. At the same time, though, they’re hooked. They know that if they leave part-way through, the monster will play on their mind. But if they endure to the end then, even though it’s scary, they’ll overcome their fear. Why? Knowledge. You see, monsters in horror movies are only scary when we can’t see them. Forced to imagine, our brains apply our darkest fears. The minute the truth appears on screen, though, the monster gains a shape and limitations. We feel better equipped to fight it.
Confidence works similarly to a horror movie. When many of us consider walking into unfamiliar situations, we imagine worst-case scenarios. We clam up and say “I can’t.” Understand that this reaction is a neurological hangover from a time where unknown situations could kill us, however, and you can learn to ignore your negative inner voice. Instead of letting it cripple you, you can and redirect your focus from potential disasters to opportunities your actions could create. This tactic won’t remove your fears altogether, but it will limit them long enough for you to take action and realise your monster is really just a sheet on a stick, which will get you started.
Maintain a Support Rail
The brain has a recency bias. Say, for instance, you’ve been a corporate hotshot for years but you’ve left your job to write and you’ve had a horrible week. In week one, you’ve struggled to hit a wordcount target, created errors in your e-book files, overspent on your marketing budget and embarrassed yourself while networking. Do you feel confident? Absolutely not. A bad week can knock the confidence out of even the most self-assured of authors. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been successful in a past life. After tying your entire identity to a new career, a stumble will cause you to doubt yourself. This outcome is less likely, though, if you use a support rail.
Say, for example, you went part time in your old job instead of leaving altogether? According to Dr Tchiki Davis, a wellbeing expert at Berkeley Wellbeing Institute:
“When we use our strengths, we can end up feeling more confident because we regularly experience being good at something. This reminds us that we are indeed good at things and have reasons to be confident in our skills.”
Holding down that job while you learn the ropes of the new one might be a logistical challenge. That said, it’s worth it if keeping mastery in one area of your life gives you the confidence to keep learning in a new venture. As Will Store, a status expert and author of The Status Game,highlighted in a recent interview, “A really healthy life is one in which there’s several difference sources of status.” In essence, split your day between activities that give you confidence and activities that enable you to stretch outside your comfort zone. Doing so will give you enough aggregate confidence to keep taking risks.
Take Baby Steps
Shrinking away from socialising, both online and in real life, can stunt an author’s growth and reputation. At best, this sort of insecurity stops you from leading discussions, meaning nobody knows your worth. At its worst, shyness can block you from attending events altogether so you never meet potential collaborators. Why do we do this? Often, it’s because we lack confidence in our own knowledge. We’re afraid of saying something stupid, partly because we don’t know what we don’t know. Thankfully, there is a dependable process you can follow to overcome this particular issue: take baby steps until you have enough confidence to make greater strides.
According to Beth Burgess, a therapist writing for Life Hack: “A sure-fire way of being more certain of what you’re doing is to learn more.” It’s logical. Even so, after learning the basics, many of us still worry about saying something foolish. If this sounds like you then perhaps start with a baby step. Try asking questions in forums if you don’t feel confident enough to provide answers. That way, nobody expects you to be right or insightful. At an event, maybe raise your hand. In both scenarios, your eventual goals might be to run a Facebook group or talk on stage. And while these steps aren’t as big, they will help you get used to being in the spotlight.
Identify as Confident
“My boss told me, ‘Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.’ Now I’m sitting in a disciplinary meeting dressed as Batman.”
While the creator of the above meme is clearly poking fun at the prospect that you can use props and behaviours to shape your own identity, scientific studies suggest that the idea has some merit. For instance, one study cited in a 2016 Mental Floss article explained that researchers photographed men and asked women to rate them based on their looks. In the study, the men who received antiperspirant before their shoot were deemed generally more attractive. As the article explains:
“What made those men seem sexier? Confidence. The knowledge that they smelled good was enough to make them feel good, which made them look good.”
This is a lesson you can translate directly into authorship. Imagine how the person you want to become looks, acts and dresses. Then enact those qualities, playing a character. Get the clothes. Spray the scent. Attend events and put yourself out there in character. Many authors find creating an author persona useful and so can you. Once you start, it’s only a matter of time until you’re no longer acting. You’ll mentally adopt the mindset of the character you play and it won’t be a character anymore: it’ll just be you, exhibiting all the traits you once wished you possessed.
Just as identifying as a confident person can grow your confidence, multiple scientific studies suggest that success also begets success. It isn’t that some people have a greater natural capacity to be successful in multiple areas of their life. It’s that they’ve probably demonstrated success in the past, experienced encouragement, and repeated the processes as a result. Having a little success makes a person more likely to act in a way that results in more success. What these experiments conclude is that confidence isn’t innate; it’s a skill you can nurture in yourself.
The reason why lies in the way our brains form habits. A 2018 article in Science Connected Magazine explains, for example, that:
“Our brains form neural pathways–connections between neurons–that get stronger the more often we perform a task. And when we perform a task enough times, we no longer have to think about how it’s done. This is when it becomes a habit.”
So take this principle, apply it to confidence, achieve a feedback loop of success, and you can hack your own neuroplasticity to make you more likely to use confidence as a reflex in more situations. If you struggle to get going, start with something small. Maybe show a short story you wrote to a supportive friend and gain positive feedback, even if it’s contrived. The success will start a snowball effect you can use to grow in confidence over time.
If you follow all the tips in this article, your insecurities will never totally disappear, but they will diminish. Just remember not to overcorrect. Start out with blind bravado if that’s what gets you moving, but aim to adopt humility as you develop. It’s only when you can take risks into the unknown but acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers that you can truly maximise your potential as a creator, collaborator and author-entrepreneur.
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