How to Increase Writing Confidence – Grow the Skin of a Rhino


What’s so great about the skin of a rhino? It’s tough as Teflon! These tips on increasing your writing confidence will help you toughen up and soldier through the moments of despair all writers face.

How to Increase Writing Confidence

The Confident Writer

If you lack confidence, work your way through The Confident Writer. It’ll change how you write and how you see your writing career. It may even increase your chances of getting published…or at least finishing your book.

Before the tips, a quip: “The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.” ~ John Steinbeck.





Do you treat what you are writing as the most important thing in the world – whether it’s a blog post or an article for the New Yorker? It’s never too late to start.

Why Writers Need the Skin of a Rhino

“Writing that novel was a slog,” says Lionel Shriver, about her best-selling We Need to Talk About Kevin. “I have more determination than the average bear, but anyone’s internal resources are finite. Having long resorted to journalism to make ends meet, I was already mentally preparing for a future as a full-time hack. But I finished my first draft because I wouldn’t be accused of not having tried.”

Shriver didn’t just finish her first draft, she finished her final. After reading the manuscript for a month, her literary agent said, “I don’t see how I’m going to sell this….I just don’t think anyone is going to want to publish a book about a kid doing such maxed-out, over-the-top, evil things, especially when it’s written from such an unsympathetic point of view.”

New writers aren’t the only ones who need the skin of a rhino when they’re trying to get their work published! Shriver had written several books before Kevin. They sold like Mexican snowsuits (s-l-o-w-l-y), but she had the cojones to keep writing and publishing.

Over the next eight months, Shriver approached 20 other literary agencies, but they all turned her down. “On the cusp of giving up…I realized I wasn’t powerless,” says Shriver. “I sent the novel directly to an editor. Submitting a manuscript without representation is one of those things that wised-up professional writers are never supposed to do.” What happened? “She read it over the weekend and made an offer on Monday.”

Shriver had the skin of a rhino, and it got her book published. Are you ready to grow your own tough skin? Here’s how to increase your writing confidence

How to Increase Writing Confidence – Grow the Skin of a Rhino

Remember the one thing that can make or break your writing. You can’t control how your work will be received or whether it’ll be enjoyed or despised (or, worse, simply forgotten). You can’t control whether an agent or publisher or editor will buy your novel or who will nudge your career along. You can’t control what people say, feel, or think about your writing. But, you can control how you handle your feelings, disappointments, failures, regrets.

And that’s the thing that can make or break your writing career: how you respond to critics and scoundrels. Criticism doesn’t change your chances of getting published…and it doesn’t have to slay the Muse.

Tell the story you need to tell. If you write for yourself first – not for publication or money – then it matters less what other people think. Gregg Feistman, Assistant Professor of Public Relations at Temple Universityand author of The War Merchants, says, “True writers have an intrinsic, instinctive need to write – it’s what we do and we can’t conceive of not doing it.”

He adds that nobody can read something you carry around in your head. “No one, not even Shakespeare, got their first versions right the first time,” he says. “Just get it down on paper (or onto the computer screen) first. Then, go back and fix it.” Simply writing and editing can increase your writing confidence.

Writing Confidence Tips

How to Increase Writing Confidence

Savor the rumor that Stephen King thinks Stephanie Meyer is a lousy writer. Rick Namey, who published three travel guides for Fodor’s and a book of political satire for St. Martin’s Press, says, “I read recently that Stephen King thinks that Stephanie Meyer is a lousy writer. Too bad the poor girl had to find out after selling millions of books!

He cautions writers to be wary of well-meaning but ill-guided advice. Some people won’t like your voice and style, and others will; it’s all subjective. Second-guessing yourself because of negative feedback will destroy your productivity. “Don’t look for approval,” says Namey. “If you encounter unwanted critiques of your writing, ignore it and keep going.”

Know that all writers need a thick skin – especially published authors. “I paid my dues…I was in commercial terms a flat-out failure as a novelist for nearly 20 years,” says Shriver. “My last novel sat wanly on my C drive, unpublished. The previous six had all lost money.” Would you cower and hide if you wrote six commercial flops, and your last book was unpublished? I probably would…and I’m accustomed to getting rejected several times a day! If you’re scared everyone will hate your writing, remember Lionel Shriver. She refused to be accused of not having tried.

For more tips on increasing your writing confidence, read 5 Ways to be a More Confident Writer, Blogger, or Freelancer.

Do you have the skin of a rhino? Feel free to share what decreases or increases your writing confidence below…


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11 thoughts on “How to Increase Writing Confidence – Grow the Skin of a Rhino

  • Anton Volney

    This post was pretty good. I think that gaining the skin of a rhino comes with an increased confidence in one’s skills. This can be from education or practice, or both, but I think that once you have the fundamentals down pat, the rest of the process becomes easier. You gain confidence, and you can handle criticism.

  • Laurie

    Thanks for your thoughts, P J – and congratulations on sending your manuscript to your publisher! That’s very exciting.

    I’m learning not to edit as I write, and it’s getting easier. I’m the type of writer who agonizes over every sentence before going on to the next one, which really slows my writing down.

  • P J Kielberg-McClenahan

    I just sent my final manuscript to my publisher for my first novel. I agonized over this manuscript in its embronic stages.

    At one point, I decided that I would abandon all attempts to edit as I went along, and just wrote, wrote, wrote. I found that as I no longer gave a damn about punctuation, I was concentrating on the content of my work and it went well after that.

    If you write, do not try to edit as you go along. Let an editor do that.

    Turn grandma’s picture to the wall, pull out all the stops, and tell your story like you hear it in your mind.

  • Laurie Post author

    Actor Mandy Patinkin told interviewer Jian Ghomeshi that if you can’t take criticism about your work, then you have no business receiving praise! Can’t have one without the other.

    I love both Mandy and Jian! 🙂

  • Misha Krasnotsvetov

    Criticism is a way to improve, especially if it is argumented. That is why I always let several people read the stuff I write, and I learn from the ‘mistakes’ I make.

  • Amandah

    I’ve been developing the skin of a rhino for many years now. I think a lot of people ‘internalize’ criticism and rejection. It often goes back to their childhood. They believe they’re a failure, not good enough, etc. It’s important to have a healthy sense of self-esteem and realize that a ‘rejection letter’ is a rejection of your writing, not you.

  • Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen Post author

    Thanks for your comments. Indeed, increasing your writing confidence is all about WRITING. How can you be a more confident writer if you don’t write?

    It takes years to be a fantastic writer. I think people give up too early.

  • Barry Wheeler

    I have found that I’m writing more and more each day. I’m gradually finding my own voice, one that works for me. I don’t take rejection personally any more but use it as a way to improve what I am doing.

  • Nan

    If found out the best way to write is just to start typing and not pay any attention to the grammar. Write free flowing whatever is in your mind, then go back and edit. The only way you get better at writing is to write more. You need to develop the technique of writing what you think quickly and without hesitation and then rewrite. Practice and time will make anyone a better writer.