Fluctuations in Confidence: My Growth as a Writer
Updated: May 10, 2022
Many writers say that the way to get better at writing is to read, and reading is what first inspired me to write. I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember, which initially fostered my interest in fiction writing. In fact, some of the first stories I dreamed up mimicked the concepts of my favorite books. Around fifth grade, I decided I wanted to be an author. I clung to that notion all the way through eighth grade, daydreaming about characters and writing scenes during my classes. While I rarely finished any writing projects, I kept starting new ones throughout those years, with about one major project per grade. Looking back, I think I may have been drawn to creative writing because I was really lonely in middle school. I was belittled by many of my peers, either behind my back or directly to my face. The few friends I had were always happy to read whatever I had written, but sometimes I felt that they didn’t quite understand me, and petty drama often divided us. Reading and writing gave me a sense of identity that I desperately needed. I was the bookworm who spent class scribbling away in my own little world, and that protected me.
The start of high school shifted the way I viewed myself and my relationship with writing. I was in a brand-new environment, meeting all kinds of people who treated me differently than my classmates from middle school. For the first time in years, I felt not only accepted, but also appreciated. I didn’t need to hide behind my writing. When I started to depend less on my creative writing, I began to doubt my own abilities. Did I really have what it takes to write a novel? Did I really have what it takes to create a story worth telling? I fell out of creative writing and got into the habit of only writing for academic purposes. My second year of high school, I took Honors Composition, a class that was formative to my academic writing. It has been four years since I sat in Mrs. Browning’s classroom in Loretto Hall, yet I remember clearly many projects and lessons from that semester. I still utilize a few techniques from Honors Comp. when writing my college papers, such as how to best integrate quotations and transition from one paragraph to the next. After taking Comp, I was eligible to start volunteering at my high school’s small writing center. During my lunch period shifts, I started developing my skills as a writing tutor, and thinking about what makes good writing.
I continued to develop my writing and editing skills when I began my journey as a college English major. When looking back at the papers I have written over the last few years, I see the ways my writing has improved in structural cohesion and strength of ideas. In my freshman year of college, I lacked confidence in my academic writing. That first semester, I was mostly required to write short reflection-type papers that I did not spend a lot of time planning or prewriting. I often was intentional about relating my thoughts to the class material, but sometimes the introduction or conclusion would be weak or missing entirely, or somewhere I had introduced an idea that I never followed up on. In the spring of my freshman year, my English syllabus presented the option between an extended research paper or a project at the end of the semester. I initially wanted to write a paper, but it was my first chance to write a Big College Paper. By Big College Paper, I mean a broad prompt requiring a narrow, unique topic and a lot of independent research, expected to be 8-10 pages. It was intimidating. Once I started researching for the paper, I quickly became overwhelmed and switched to the project out of fear. Fear that I didn’t start researching early enough, that I wouldn’t be able to settle on a topic, and that I would finally have to face that I am not as intelligent or as good of a writer as wished I was.
During my second year of college, I felt myself getting stronger as a writer. In a short position paper, I came up with a thesis that I thought was unique and was excited to argue. The structure of that paper was stronger than that of my previous work, with developed ideas that I made an effort to clearly link back to my thesis. For a slightly longer paper, I challenged myself with another creative thesis. I needed help from the professor adjusting the structure to better clarify my ideas, but I am happy with how it turned out in the end. While I knew I was improving, I had yet to write a Big College Paper. I faced this task yet again in April, with no alternative option available for me to take the easy way out. I still felt intimidated. When I finally had an idea for a topic and a broad idea of what I wanted to say, I took several days to research, reading essays that helped me shape the content of my paper. As I wrapped up my research, I was able to sketch a loose outline that I could adjust as I went along. When writing, I paid close attention to the structure, breaking down my examples as I explained how they were relevant to my thesis. By the time I hit the tenth page, I felt like I had created something interesting and cohesive. I had more practice writing a Big College Paper over the summer, in my third-year writing course, for which I was assigned an extended researched argument essay. My chosen topic was something that I am extremely passionate about, and my excitement motivated me to be creative in my research, which gave my final product a unique, personal feel. This semester, I’ve been doing even more academic papers, but the writing itself is less daunting. I know I can do it.
In addition to becoming more comfortable with academic writing, I’ve gained an appreciation of writing as a process. Some of the classes I have taken, such as Peer Tutoring and Fiction Editing, have emphasized the importance of collaborative review and revision. A piece of writing becomes stronger when it is shared with someone else, which allows the writer to receive feedback and revise. Learning all of this prompted me to reevaluate my fear of sharing my writing with others. I was worried that someone else reading my writing would expose its flaws, and I would be ashamed. I was fearful of the inevitable revelation that my writing wasn’t any good after all. In my Fiction Editing class, I was required to write creatively, and required to submit my work to my peers for critical review. I was able to face my fears a little bit, and began to understand that peer review isn’t as embarrassing as I worried it might be. In Peer Tutoring, I learned that collaboration is essential to the writing process, and that good writing is not created in a vacuum. A writer needs some outside perspective in order to make a piece the best that it can be. After the experience I gained and the lessons I learned in these courses, I started to wonder what was holding me back from writing for myself, and not just for school.
I have been working hard to get back into personal and creative writing in the last year. I journal a lot, writing regular mini-essays recording the events of my life and how I feel about them. While I keep my journals private, I have also been exploring avenues in which I can share my writing. Since my early teenage years, I was so protective of my writing. I went from willingly sharing my writing with my friends to being horribly uncomfortable with anyone I am close to reading anything I’ve written. Now I make an effort to share my voice with the world, and with the people I care about. For the last two years, I have been writing a review for every book I read, and then sharing that review on Goodreads and Instagram. Writing something as simple as a book review and posting it online allowed me to grow back a tiny bit of that previous confidence I had. I became interested in writing because I loved to read, and my love of books helped me get back into writing again. In the last few months, I’ve expanded my online writing into a personal blog (this blog!). It’s still in the early stages, but I plan to use it as a platform to publish my thoughts about my favorite media of storytelling, and to share a few stories of my own. In actively promoting my first blog posts to my family and friends, and I have made great strides in conquering the insecurity in my own abilities that has plagued me for years. I am proud that I have come this far, and I know I can grow further as a writer. I can create something worth reading, as long as I allow myself to be vulnerable enough to share what I have to say with others. Maybe someday I’ll even be able to write that novel. Anything is possible!