The Blog Chain has circled back to me again, so I’m postponing my usual “In Deep Smit” posting (unless y’all will buy the deeply-smitten-with-the-chain-gang thing two weeks in a row. 😉 ) This chain’s topic was selected by Kate Karyus Quinn. If you didn’t already find your way here from Leah Clifford’s blog, be sure to check out her post. And Mary Lindsey will be up next.
The topic this time:
How as a writer do you find the balance between having too much or too little confidence in your work?
So, I’ve titled this entry, “Smug as a Bug in a Rug.” And by “in a Rug,” of course, I mean “wearing a toupee.”
Rubber Tree Plants aside, have I done what the topic question asks? Well, I will answer that with a strong, confident “Maybe.”
If you’ve followed our chain since it started, you’ve seen that most of us don’t really have a “balance”– more like a teeter-totter of ups and downs.
I have to say, this blog topic is not the first time I personally have pondered about my confidence.
I’m a physician and the director for a hospitalist program. I think we can safely agree that a 35-year-old woman does not get where I am without a healthy portion of professional self-confidence. I am an experienced public speaker. From Speech and Debate teams in high school to delivering medical lectures, I’ve never been uncomfortable talking to anybody.
So I was as surprised as anyone to find myself picking at my conference lunch, envisioning myself puking on the agent’s shoes during my pitch session.
I’m a powerhouse, I told myself. Why am I terrified of a 7-minute conversation?
The answer to that, I think, comes from the blurring of “professional” and “personal” that comes with writing.
To write a great story, you need to pour yourself into the work, so professional detachment gets a bit harder.
There are some components of writing that I am quite confident about.
- Professionalism. Business letters come easily to me. I interview well. I’m comfortable with public speaking. My work requires skill in starting and conducting much more difficult conversations than any I could have about my writing. I know many authors are less comfortable on the networking/business side and would prefer to stay comfortably behind the keyboard. This is thankfully not a concern for me.
- Stories. I love the story of The Edge of Memory. I may need to revise some of the nuts-and-bolts of how the story is told (and I am always willing to consider ways to tell it better) but the story itself is solid. I think about my stories for a long time before writing them, so the web of connections is already well-defined before the first draft. This helps me weave in the details that eventually come together more naturally into the narrative.
- Communication skills. I’m not talking here about my writing, but more about my comprehension. It is a running joke among my family and co-workers that I translate English to English. Quite frequently, I am called upon to explain when folks have “a failure to communicate”. I’m fluent in Mother-in-Law to Son translation, as well as Resident-Physician to Nurse. When I receive feedback on my writing, I believe I’m good at understanding and then acting on it to improve my story. Beyond a good story foundation, that might be the most useful skill I have.
Every writer has crisis moments. I know I have. All of us have reached the point where we’ve announced we were ready to give up. We didn’t. That makes all the difference.
I once read a quote from Erma Bombeck. It’s not really about confidence per se, but more about perserverance:
When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything you gave me”.
I’m a writer. I am going to have crises of self-doubt. I’m going to think what I’ve written is the worst drivel ever to be strung together. I’m going to believe my test readers are just being nice when they tell me they stayed up all night to finish my novel. I’ll convince myself that I’ll never be good enough to make it in this industry.
And then I’ll get over it and write.