The Evangelical Writer: Why you need to believe in yourself

Be your own crusader
Be your own champion

Evangelism. It can be scary. It can put you off a nice walk in the park. It can make you squirm uncomfortably at the front door. Or it can be fascinating and illuminating to see how the power of belief can make someone turn their life around, dedicate themselves absolutely to what they believe in. At its worst it can become fanaticism, extremism, terrorism. At its best it can be selfless dedication to a philanthropic cause.

Evangelism is like being possessed by a virus of belief. You want to spread the word to everybody, you want them to feel as you do. I felt that way recently when I joined twitter and after the first self-conscious new kid on the block feeling, (tagging onto people and hoping they would be nice about it) I began to discover what a wonderful place it was. As a writers forum it is invaluable on a practical, social, mental and emotional level. There is the opportunity to meet so many diverse but helpful, co-operative and compassionate people. I began to tell other people about twitter and what I had gained from it, how it had changed my writing life but I could tell from their glazed expressions that my fervour was making them a little bemused. I couldn’t get them to buy into it. Recently a writing friend Sally Clements began expounding on NaNoWriMo (for the uninitiated it’s where you sign up to write a 50,000 novel in the month of November). She explained super-exhuberantly why she thought it was so great, what it meant to her, and why I should try it. (See her great NaNoWriMo post. At first I backed slowly away, but her enthusiasm was infectious and I began to think that I could, quite possibly give it a go. (I’m still lurking in the doorway on that one, but I might dash in at the last minute, you never know!)

Evangelism is defined as crusading zeal in support of a cause. As a writer you need to be an evangelist. You need to believe in your writing, in your story, in your characters. You need to be utterly convinced and convincing. You need make others suspend their disbelief and travel with you. You need them to buy into your reality and make it their own for a time.

To write requires self-belief. But in the creeping forward towards an obscure point that is the story or novels end all writers must encounter doubt. The way is not clear, the walls and floor are not solid, and until you reach the endpoint you can’t be sure that the story you have made is coherent, has integrity, says what you want it to say. And even then, you cannot be sure if your message will resonate with others or even reach them.

And when your book is written, you have to go one step further. Now you have to spread the word. You may need to convince an agent or publisher that your story is one they want to share. You need to travel virtually or physically to meet people, to let the world know about your book, to talk and blog and tweet about it, to be its champion. All this in the face of your own doubts and insecurities. A crusade is often a battle, it isn’t easy, it flies in the face of obstacles and resistance. You need to Feel the Fear and do it anyway. If you really want to be a writer and to be read, you have to be the evangelist of your own unique story. Go to it.


Dan Holloway (Blogging at:The Man Who Painted Agnieszka’s Shoes) has an excellent post on the relationship of doubt and creativity and Jemi Fraiser (Just Jemi) asks us to consider our writing fears.

15 thoughts on “The Evangelical Writer: Why you need to believe in yourself

  1. Great post, Alison. There are such ranges of reactions in all things human, aren’t there?

    I stumbled onto NaNo last year right about this time. It was a very spontaneous decision to enter – I really didn’t know ANYTHING at the time. I loved it 🙂 It was such fun to just write and to talk to others about just the creative part of the whole process. If you do join in, I’m under jemifraser if you’d like a buddy!

    1. alisonwells

      Thanks Jemi,
      I like the idea of not knowing too much about NaNoWriMo and jumping in, trying to avoid the fear that way. I’m at a time in my life, because of the kids being so young, where my writing production is slow, the equivalent of going for a walk with a toddler. It takes so much longer to do anything. So 50,000 words….But I’ve said recently in this blog that intention goes a long way towards the cause and is itself an orientation towards success, so perhaps I’ll just go ahead.

  2. Twitter is a world that proves Wittgenstein right – unless one actually DOES it, it makes no sense at all. I find it an amazing place first for finding lovely, kooky, supportive people, many of whom have become friends in the “real” world, and second for helping as a writer – events like #litchat #writechat and #followreader are an invaluable way to chat with large numbers of people all trying to do the same thing.

    I think one of the reasons I started Year Zero is that I find it much easier to be evangelical about an ideal (the value of the direct conversation between reader and writer) and other people’s writing than my own.

    1. alisonwells

      Kooky, right on! I certainly feel the same that it is easier to champion a cause or promote someone else than yourself. That’s why I think the e-communities networked support and encouragement is so great to provide us with a certain level of personal affirmation. With a collaborative venture like Year Zero you have a sense of something greater than yourself that is of value to your readers, it’s the same reciprocal relationship as twitter. It’s a more satisfying feeling of sharing rather than pure self-promotion.

  3. Excellent post!! I’m in the self-doubting mode right now – a rough part of my wip. Thanks for this. It’s exactly what I needed! Evangelism, something I’ve always denounced, is my new mantra!!

  4. Hi Alison

    Pleased to have discovered your blog today.

    A wonderful, heartfelt post. Interesting & thought provoking.

    Like you I find Twitter a great writer & reader resource. It is a joy to connect up with like-minded people. Although friends I’ve told this to have laughed at me & said I use Twitter as a procrastination tool. (some truth in this but not on the whole – honest)

    Look forward to reading more of your posts in the future.


    1. alisonwells

      Hi Kat, lovely to have you here. Have you read the procrastination post with the Twitter carrot tip? Tweeting only allowed after a set wordcount. A rule I devised and flagrantly defy all the time. I had to laugh when you say you use Twitter as a ‘procrastination tool’ . That makes it sound very useful! Which it is, but not for the manuscript! Had a nose round your blog just now and I like it, hope to make it back there regularly. Alison

  5. Hi Alison,
    I am new to blogging, only facebooking for about six months and have no clue about twitter. Any guidance would be gratefully appreciated. Enjoyed your post. I am feeling a bit out of my depth at the moment and so your post spoke to me. Look forward to future reading.

    1. alisonwells

      Just to let you know I have emailed you with more tips, links and info. Hope you find it useful. Thanks for visiting the blog, I really appreciate it!

  6. Hi Alison 🙂
    Thank you for the great post.
    I hadn’t considered being evangelical in terms of my writing before. I have to agree that being imbued with self-belief is a major component in success in any field of endeavor.
    Thank you for sharing. I’ve taken your words to heart.
    All the best,

    1. alisonwells

      Thank you Ann and RK Charron for your positive comments. They help me be evangelical about myself! Best of luck with all your endeavours. Alison

  7. Hi Alison – another great post full of inspiration. I haven’t signed up for the NaNoWriMo but am trying to get 1,000 a day on my book at the moment – so may sign up! Thanks for another wonderful slice from your brilliant mind!

  8. Alicia

    I’ve recently discovered how wonderful twitter is too. I had no idea. 🙂 Thank you for your encouraging words. It’s important to believe in our selves and our writing. I get plagued by negative thoughts so it’s such a nice reminder that I need to actively be working on my belief. I did NaNoWriMo two years ago and loved it. I’m still working on the book I started then. LOL

  9. alisonwells

    Reblogged this on Head Above Water and commented:

    I thought this post from the archives could do with another outing. Personally speaking I’ve struggled with confidence as I get back into a difficult writing project after a gap.

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