Thursday, December 17, 2009

Confidence in writing

I have a friend- who shall remain nameless- who has more confidence than anyone I've ever met. Let me rephrase. In this person's opinion, it's confidence. In mine, it actually borders on all-out arrogance and narcissism. And as much as their attitude bothers me, it has made me aware of the importance of having confidence in my writing, and the pitfalls of having too much...or too little.

I'm not sure if other writers have this problem - but I often fall into this little trap. I write a scene, and am convinced that it is the best one ever. It's perfect - the descriptions are vivid, the tension mounts, the characters are progressing, etc. I finish it with a self-satisfied smile and can't even believe how ridiculously talented I am. Surely it's only a matter of time before I land an agent who gets me a six-figure contract with a major publishing house. I am so freaking great. I float around on a cloud of self-importance. I'm like a little kid on Christmas Eve, freshly printed trendy book covers dance in my head.

Then, however long later, I read the scene again. Oh no. This is my future award winning, New York Times bestselling novel! What is that passive writing doing there?? Wait, I used the same adjective over and over? The scene ends like that!?? WHAT WAS I THINKING?

And poof - confidence gone. My fantasies transform from packed book-signings and Today Show interviews to images of myself lying in my bed, staring at piles of rejection letters and bingeing on cool ranch doritos and reese's peanut butter cups. Who am I kidding? I can't write at all. No one is going to publish my work, no one is going to want to read it. Why do I even bother? I start reading my favorite authors (Nancy McKenzie, Janet Evanovich, Kate Brian) and despair harder. I'm never going to be able to write this well.

But I don't give up. Okay, I might still buy the doritos and the candy but I keep writing while I devour. Because I know that the truth is somewhere in between these two extremes. Am I the best writer ever? No, of course not. But am I the worst? No, I don't think so. I might never be as successful as my favorite authors, but that's okay with me. Because I know that I have stories to tell and a way to tell them in a way that no one else can. And I'm going to try to keep my confidence where it should be.

Some days I write better than others, and it's probably never going to be perfect the second it pops out of my head onto the screen. That doesn't mean it's awful, either. It means that I have to keep working on it, and get my writing to be the best that I can make it. The rest, really, is out of my hands. Agents and publishers may like it, and they may not. Readers may like it, and they may not. All my job is is to do the absolute best job I can, with enough confidence to keep me going even when I think my writing is awful, but with not so much that I become blind to the faults.


Deb Salisbury said...

LOL! I feel exactly the same way.

Anonymous said...

Yup, it's pretty much a roller coaster. Thanks for saying what I've been thinking for the past several months. :)