Hey Gang! Sorry if the title of this post is misleading. To clear the air let me say this isn't an egregiously late A-Z offering. Nor is it a post featuring naughty words. This is still a family blog after all. Well, mostly. (Last week's incriminating nun-spanking photo notwithstanding.)
Nope, I've just been thinking a lot about confidence--or perhaps the lack thereof--and its effects on the writing process.
No doubt that confidence is essential to good writing. A favorite author blogger of mine recently made some outstanding observations about the impact of confidence on voice. (READ IT HERE. If you don't already follow MOODERINO, do it now.) The point was made that inexperienced writers might find writing in first-person POV an easier way of inflecting character into their, well, characters.
The logic? It often takes more daring, or confidence, on the part of a writer to mix their particular flavor into third-person (or other POV) because it's clearly coming from the author. First POV makes it easier to BE the character, and not the author.
Confidence plays a huge part in all the other areas of craft as well. The words you use, the descriptions, become richer as your belief in your power to wield them grows. Cold isn't a good enough descriptor when you know you can do better. A shining sun just isn't as bright as burning blades of light dancing with the morning sky.
Similarly, plots thicken as you gain confidence. You don't worry as much about throwing a major curveball at a story when you know you can write your way out of it. In turn, the story becomes a deeper and more rewarding experience as you take more chances.
Playing it safe is perhaps the fiercest enemy of good writing, and confidence is the weapon to beat it.
So we know confidence is a good thing. We need it. But what about when it turns on us? While confidence is powerful, it is also fragile. To the point we can be roaring with it by our side at one moment only to be left silent and alone the next.
In writing, there are many, many, many--OK, there aren't really enough M-A-N-Y keystrokes left in this keyboard to get them all down--ways in which our confidence can be assaulted.
I'll reference another blog post I read this week. Author Deborah J. Ross pointed out the impact negative writing relationships can have on our confidence. (READ IT HERE) What made her post so interesting is that she specifically addressed what happens when our writing "friends" turn on us--even subconsciously.
She is careful to point out that not everyone in our writing group is out to get us, nor do most people join critique groups to undermine others. It kind of just happens. Subtle comments about poor genre choices for our writing, constant ‘it’s good but not publishable’ feedback, undermining our successes with gossip, etc. It all adds up to make us question our abilities.
Deborah makes an excellent and, I thought, very brave point: it’s hard to say when a trusted critique partner just becomes a critic, but it happens. We need to be cautious. We need to protect our confidence.
That’s just one example of how our writing confidence can be stripped away. There are more obvious ways too. Like being rejected by agents, receiving bad reviews, exploring the abandoned manuscripts graveyard on our hard drive--the list seems unfairly long when compared to the things that can build our confidence.
But that’s really the key, isn’t it? We can grow our confidence. It can be nurtured and strengthened. In that way, confidence is organic, not magic.
Quick Tricks for Building Writing Confidence:
Examine Your Best – We’ve all written at least a couple of things we’re proud of. Maybe it’s a poem. Maybe it’s a paper we got an outstanding grade on in high school or college. Maybe it’s a glowing sentence. Whatever it is, go back and read it or dwell on it for a moment. You’ve done it once; you can do it a million more times if you stick with it.
Talk Ideas With Anyone – This doesn’t have to be done with a writing person. Use your spouse, your friends—anyone who’ll listen, and preferably someone who gets excited about ideas. Tell them about concepts you’ve got for stories. Tell them about what you’d like to do with the characters in your WIP. Basically, dream big. Talk as if you have the skills to pull off any scenario, and the chops to break necks with all the twists you’ve got planned. You’ll feel energized and might even remember why you (hopefully) started writing in the first place. The story!
Believe in the Process – All too often when I think about how much time I’ve invested in writing (all the hours spent putting words down, the books I’ve read on craft, etc.), I’m left feeling bitter and inadequate, not proud. Why? Because I don’t feel I have has as much to show for it as I should.
Here’s a different way of looking at it: I’ve invested the time. I continue to work at it every day. That means I’m getting better, even if the tangibles say otherwise.
I come from a family of farmers. Every farmer questions if all the work and watering is going to payoff until they see the first sprouts. Shoot, sometimes it takes eating that first tomato before it really gets rewarding. Yet the best farmers are persistent and dogged about routine in the face of the doubt, because they believe in the process. Believe in your process. It will yield fruit.
Have you lost confidence in your writing abilities before? What are your tricks for getting it back?