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The Cure For A Lack Of Self-Confidence

By Marilyn Horowitz

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What stops you? Why do you settle for less than your best?

I recently gave a workshop at the New York Screenwriters Club to help writers gain more self-confidence, and I’d like to share some of the highlights with you.

Self-confidence, as I’ve often said, is the key to success. This is because unless you believe that you can succeed, you’re sure not to, at least not to your full potential. Now, self-confidence doesn’t guarantee complete success any more than a lack of it guarantees complete failure. There’s a wide range of possibilities in between, a kind of purgatory where you’ve done OK, perhaps even well in the eyes of the world, but inside you know you could have done better.

So, how can you get the self-confidence you need to fully succeed?

Stanislavski, the famous acting teacher, wrote, “Action is character.” In other words, a character is defined by what he or she does. Thoughts and feelings are mutable and subject to change, but the choices we make are not open to emotional interpretation. We either did something or we didn’t. Therefore, since writers must write in order to succeed, it is through writing that we will gain self-confidence.

But how can you write if you have no self-confidence?

Answer: You must write regardless of your self-confidence.

There are many different types of writing. Texts, e-mail, blog, journals, fiction, dramatic literature. We write by hand and type or dictate to a computer or into a phone. We write for different reasons, for work, for pleasure, to communicate. We need to add one more kind of writing, the kind that will generate more self-confidence. This type of writing has only one goal: to prove to yourself that you can write.

And you have to do it for long enough to convince yourself that you have accomplished something. It doesn’t matter if you use a pen or a keyboard. Here you write without judgment, ignoring whether or not what you’re writing is “good.” The only goal is to fill up pages with words. Later you can go back and see if they have any value. For now all that matters is the physical act of writing.

The exercise that I have found most effective with my students involves writing for two minutes upon waking in the morning, every day, seven days a week. Just set a timer and write about anything that comes to mind, without judgment or revision. You may begin by writing something simple, like “I have no idea what to write about.” The only goal is to put words on paper. When the timer goes off, stop writing and go about your day.

By beginning each day this way, you create a foundation for self-confidence about writing because you have already done it—you have already written, even before you’ve eaten breakfast or gone to work. It’s much harder for doubt and self-criticism to get a foothold when you have already changed your behavior. Self-confidence builds on itself, and after about a week you will probably feel better about yourself and your writing.

When you feel ready, add whatever project you’ve been struggling with to this two-minute morning drill. Try to build up to a half hour or more every day. Pretty soon you’ll find your self-confidence soaring. Commit to doing this for at least 30 days.

Many studies have shown that it takes a month to break a bad habit, so this may be difficult at first, but eventually you’ll feel more comfortable with it.

This advice is easier said than done, of course. It can be hard to keep coming up with things to write, whether because of emotional resistance or just a lack of inspiration. The way to prevent this is to have pre-selected topics and to rotate them frequently. I find good topics to be good meals, bad meals, colors, people who annoy you, or what you will do when you win the lottery. If all else fails, simply take some book, script, or magazine you are currently reading and begin copying it, word for word.

To recap: self-confidence is the key to success. In order to gain more self-confidence, you must write regularly. You can overcome knowing what to write about by having pre-selected topics, or simply by copying any text you’re currently reading.

Here’s to your successful writing!

About Marilyn Horowitz

Marilyn Horowitz is an award-winning New York University professor, author, producer, and Manhattan-based writing consultant, who works with successful novelists, produced screenwriters, and award-winning filmmakers. She has a passion for helping novices get started. Since 1998 she has taught thousands of aspiring screenwriters to complete a feature length screenplay using her method. She is also a judge for the Fulbright Scholarship Program for film and media students. In 2004 she received the coveted New York University Award for Teaching Excellence.

Professor Horowitz has created a revolutionary system that yields a new, more effective way of writing. She is the author of six books that help the writer learn her trademarked writing system, including editions for college, high school, and middle school. The college version is a required text at New York University and the University of California, Long Beach.

Professor Horowitz has written several feature-length screenplays. Her production credits include the feature films And Then Came Love (2007). Her new novel, The Book of Zev is available on Amazon.

Screenwriting Article by Marilyn Horowitz

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