Believe in Yourself as a Writer


If you don’t, nobody else will!

I was interested to read the following statement from Hilary Mantel about confidence: “The most helpful quality a writer can cultivate is self-confidence – arrogance, if you can manage it. You write to impose yourself on the world, and you have to believe in your own ability when the world shows no sign of agreeing with you.”

When Hilary Mantel wrote her first historical novel, it was turned down by a number of publishers who said her work was too serious and intense for readers who wanted “chick lit in long frocks.” Yet she was to go on to become the first British author, and the first ever woman, to win the Booker prize twice. If she hadn’t had the confidence to ignore those publishers, we might never have had the wonderful ‘Wolf Hall’ or its equally wonderful sequel ‘Bring up the Bodies.’

I had a quick look at Mantel’s Amazon ratings and was intrigued to discover that 342 readers had given ‘Wolf Hall’ a one star. If she’d allowed herself to get discouraged by that figure, she might never have continued and won the Booker for a second time. No doubt she followed her own advice to ‘believe in your own ability.’

I don’t think writers should ignore reviews: there is always something we can learn, and the next novel can benefit from constructive criticism of the last. But if reviews are unhelpful or contradictory, I don’t think we should fret about them. A good dose of self confidence will stand us in good stead. And if the Booker prize was won on ‘arrogance,’ then bring it on!