View Full Version : Goal: Get confident in my voice.

08-20-2011, 09:02 PM
"You there! Yes, you, eating that burrito! You don't belong here! Get out!"

I'm the first person in my family to go to an American college. When I first arrived on campus, I had this feeling that I was there by mistake. That any moment, someone - a dorm mate, a professor, a townie - was going to discover me for the fraud I was. Every day in class, I sat there and wondered, is this it, the moment when the prof looks at me, somehow sees into my soul, and stops the lecture to bellow out that fearsome proclamation?

The feeling persisted past graduation and into my first awful job. It continues to this day.

Regardless of how many people tell me "You're such a good writer, you should write something" and "Your blog helped me so much, you should put out a book."


Because I tried writing a story, and no one I know likes it enough to read past the first three chapters.

I've been published for my poetry, and my friends say I'm good. Why doesn't anyone want to keep going?

This question haunts me. It keeps me from being that thing as elusive as the American Dream: Confident.

Like a kid coming home with a school project that the teacher praised, I proudly showed my work to a few people. The criticism that came back was crushing: you're too descriptive, it's too hard, why do you have to use such big words?

It was a WTF moment.

I felt like my worst fear had come true. I was sitting in that classroom again, and someone *did* stand up and yell out: You're a big fraud!

So, how do I come back from that? How do I reconstruct reality if what I see is a chair, but everyone is telling me it's a table?

I ripped open the reality and questioned it. I shifted my perspective into poetry mode. (reality comes under my control when I'm in poetry mode) And I thought, a table is a chair if one sits on it. To a child, a table is a fort. To a nomad, a table is an unnecessary piece of tortured wood.

I said to myself, you know what? You wanted to write something you yourself would want to read. Well, here it is, you wanker! WTF are you complaining about? Well, the lack of support for one thing. Who the F cares? Um... I kinda do... Yeah, so, you just gonna let it go? You're gonna what, run away from it like all the other projects just because you're not getting the reaction you wanted? Lots of people had their work put down because it was new or strange or it made people uncomfortable. That's what art is. That's what writing is. You freaking put out your voice and maybe one out of a million people is going to say hey, hey you! You're freaking awesome.

So, I know that a lot of people use this forum to write about their accomplishments about getting agents or published. But here is my goal, as humble and fundamental as it is: build confidence in my writing. It's not bad. It's not good. It just is, and even if I'm the only person who will read my book to completion, at least I didn't deny that dream. I have that one thing.

Time to build on it.

08-21-2011, 11:23 AM
I think that's a great goal! And I wish you all the best.

Now, having lack of support, trust me that's something you will get over and you will learn not to care. I know, I have a huge lack of support, so much so that my debut novel is getting published and not a single person I personally know (family, friends and the like) has read my book. None of them cared enough to take interest, respect my dreams of becoming a published Author so I finally said who the hell cares what they think!
And, now, of course, since the word is out, how many people do you think have asked me if they can read my book? Dozens and dozen's because now it's not just a silly waste of my time, now they can actually tell people they know someone who's soon to be published.
I wonder how dissapointed they all will be when I tell them in order to read my book they have to buy it! lol they had their chance to read it for free :)

08-21-2011, 06:01 PM

In a class I took a long time ago for a career I failed at miserably, our trainer told us, "How do you get enthusiastic? You just get it!"

Acquiring confidence is the same way, I think. You just get it. So don't waste any more time trying to build it. Just . . . get it! Right now! :)

08-21-2011, 08:38 PM

I guess it depends on what your goal is. (I seem to have been saying that a lot lately.)

If your goal is to write the story YOU want to read, then congratulations. You've already done that. Your next step should probably be to self-publish it and see if anybody else shares your taste.

On the other hand...

Most authors try to write books that OTHER PEOPLE will enjoy.

I'm not sure those people who gave you feedback meant to put you down. They may not have meant to hurt your feelings/pride/confidence in any way. What you experienced is what all of us have gone through: The discovery that our writing skills don't quite match our vision. Yet.

Let's look at what they said: You're too descriptive, it's too hard, too many big words.

Those are very good points. Description needs to serve the story, not overwhelm it. Leave room for the imagination to fill in the blanks (which should make sense to you, as a poet.) And while poetry is meant to be read slowly and thought about, prose is meant to flow swiftly. At some point, you want the reader to forget about the words and lose herself in the story. So big words that make a reader stop and think, Wait, what does that mean? can get in the way of a reader's experience.

It seems to me that if you want to be a better writer, you should take people's reactions very seriously, but not personally. They are not telling you to go away. They are not telling you that you don't belong.

They are telling you that there are things you can do to make your writing better.

And as you learn how to do those things, and people respond with more enthusiasm to your stories, you won't need to build your confidence. It will grow all by itself.

08-21-2011, 08:53 PM
Thanks for reminding me of something that I always forget. Criticism is about the work, not about the person. *facepalm* lol.

I think that this forum will be a big help in that respect. I've been poking around, and even giving some of my own input (which I hope has helped!). I think that a major flaw in my own philosophy is that I really haven't put myself out there as much as the more experienced writers have. And my skin is about as thick as a tomato's.
I think I also need to show the work to a broader spectrum of people. And so far, I've only been showing it to people who are my friends, but who don't read the genre (ie. romance/ vanilla erotic fans and kid lit readers) I figured that out as I went through some of the forum threads.
I was working with the artist who's designing the cover for my book, and he gave me a completely different response a few days ago. It floored me. He asked for more description. That was a WTF moment. Seriously. I opened his email and said WTF, dude.
Anyway, the point is, I'm learning that I was offering a wasabi turkey with cranberry chutney California fusion cuisine to people who wanted roasted turkey and cranberry sauce from a can.
This forum is definitely helping me in more ways than I expected.