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blacbird
12-17-2005, 11:14 PM
One of the constant mantras of writing for publication is "Have confidence". Which, like advising a poor person to have more money, doesn't do a lot of good if you don't. And provokes some questions:

Is confidence something you just "have", or is it something you gain, or build?

If the latter, how do you do that?

If you've had confidence, and lost it, can you ever get it back? If so, how?

If you don't have confidence, how do you proceed in its absence?

caw.

Jamesaritchie
12-18-2005, 12:40 AM
I can only answer for myself. Confidence was never a factor for me. I never had confidence, nor lacked confidence. It was simply never a factor. It still isn't.

It's the old martial arts mantra. "If you care about winning the fight, you have already lost the fight."

Coonfidence, and lack of confidence, to me, both mean you're worried about things beyond your control. Agents, editors, publishers, the market, the reading public, are all outside things and outside events. They all happen outside the writer's door.

Writing happens inside the writer's door. If you simply write because writing is what you wish to do, and if you simply write the best way you can, and worry about nothng that happens outside the door, I don't think you need confidence.

When confidence becomes a factor, even seasoned pros can get in trouble. Fine, so the last book sold, and fine, it had pretty good sales numbers. But can I do it again? What if I'm a one shot wonder? Or what if I've lost it after all these years? Or what if the market has changed amd I'm too old a fogey to keep up? What if the reading public has outgrown me? I want to try a new kind of novel, I want to experiment, but what if I fail? Maybe I should just stick to the kind of novel I've done well with all these years? Maybe that's all I can write well? What if that reviewer was right. and I really am a hack?

I don't think it's confidence that keeps most writers going. Even seasoned pros, even bestselling writers, find themselves in serious trouble when they let confidence become a factor.

I think most writers who keep going, who keep trying, do so because confidence isn't a factor. They aren't worried about what happens outside the door because it isn't in their control. The focus everything on what happens inside the door. They're doing what it is they want to be doing. They're writing. They want to be published, they try to write well enough to get published, but that's out of their control.

It's a matter of write it, then submit it and forget it.

aka eraser
12-18-2005, 10:57 AM
I've always had confidence in my ablility to write - if that's the type of confidence to which you're referring. It stemmed from teachers' and family praise. It grew when newspapers and magazines paid me for writing. Rejections never deterred me for long: right piece/wrong pub was my usual rationale. (Okay, so sometimes it just sucked- but it took maturity to realize that.)

I think self-affirmation is the only way to keep the confidence level up sometimes. If you're still waiting for your first acceptance, or your rejections are running ahead of them about 10 -1; it's darned understandable if your confidence takes a whack.

You've got to believe in yourself, but sans delusion. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses. Improve both. Treasure every handwritten rejection and go to school on every editorial suggestion contained therein. No matter how good you think you are, or how bad you think you are - you can always improve.

Don't think about the piece you just sent out. Focus on the next one. And the next.

One day the acceptance comes. Then another. Before too-too long you don't need to rely solely on the person in the mirror to tell you you have the right stuff.

I should have copy/pasted your questions and I'm too much of techno-dweeb to try it in mid-post. But I know your last question is a toughie. How do you regain lost confidence?

I don't know. Mine's gone on unscheduled vacations now and again but never quite long enough for me to panic. If it did go AWOL for too long, I think I'd have to start at ground zero again and just write for me.

blacbird
12-19-2005, 09:29 AM
Some good points, well expressed, James. I can't say at this moment that I categorically agree with all, but I appreciate the comment and the thoughtfulness behind it. I'll reflect thereupon.

Then again, having no confidence, what do I know?

caw.

Jamesaritchie
12-19-2005, 10:27 PM
Some good points, well expressed, James. I can't say at this moment that I categorically agree with all, but I appreciate the comment and the thoughtfulness behind it. I'll reflect thereupon.

Then again, having no confidence, what do I know?

caw.

It may be you should agree with none of them. That's only how it works for me.

Unfortunately, how it works for me is about all I have to go on. We're all different, and in some areas we each have to find our own road.

Okay, I can tell you a trick a friend of mine used for a time. Right up until he sold something, in fact. He found a novel he thought was the worst written thing in the world. Everythime he got discouraged by rejection, he'd pull that novel out and read a few pages, and then tell himself, "I may not be the best writer in the world, but I can certainly write better than this."

Doing that always made things worse for me, but it cheered him right up and got him writing again. Different strokes.

The one thing I know for certain is that while it does take talent to be a successfuil writer, it doesn't take much. Dedication and hard work are far more important. I don't know where Lightshadow came across the sig line A professional is an amateur who didn't give up, but there's an awful lot of truth in it.

dragonjax
12-20-2005, 12:31 AM
One of the constant mantras of writing for publication is "Have confidence". Which, like advising a poor person to have more money, doesn't do a lot of good if you don't. And provokes some questions:

Is confidence something you just "have", or is it something you gain, or build?

If the latter, how do you do that?

If you've had confidence, and lost it, can you ever get it back? If so, how?

If you don't have confidence, how do you proceed in its absence?

caw.
I spent 16 years fiddling with one novel, trying to get it Just Right. During that time, I sent out various queries to agents and editors, really concentrating on trying to get an agent between February 2004 and August 2005. I wound up getting about 100 rejections all told.

Starting around January of 2005, I finally decided to work on another book-length project...and not the sequel of the stalled novel, something completely different. That second book did a little better, scoring me a bunch of personalized agent rejection letters, but no offers.

In August of 2005, I started a new project. I wrote my third novel in two months, took 10 days off to write a query and synoopsis and create my agent list, then took a week to revise. Within 2 weeks, I had five offers of representation. Eight days after I selected an agent, I had a three-book offer from a publisher.

Did I always have confidence? Hell no. If I was so good, I thought, why couldn't I get an agent? Now that I have an agent and a book sale, insecurity still gnaws at me. Now it's, "What if the second book isn't as good as the first?"

But am I more confident now than six months ago? Sure--I've accomplished a lot, and I'm proud of those accomplishments.

So with every victory--whether it's completing a novel (which many people aspire to but few actually do), or getting an agent, or getting a book sold, confidence will probably increase. That may not temper any insecurity you have (it doesn't for me), but it's something that deserves a round of applause.

Alice Orr once said at a conference that we should "Never be daunted." I try to take this to heart, even in the face of insecurity.

Perks
12-20-2005, 12:38 AM
Blacbird,

Confidence seems pretty much like your screen-name (crows being one of my favorite birds, don't ask me why.) Sometimes it'll sit close in view and inspire and mesmerize, sometimes it's nowhere to be found, and sometimes it sh*ts on your head.

The only thing I can do with the intangibles of this process, is ride them out. What confidence I really crave is to know that when inspiration, creativity and confidence ebb, that they'll come back eventually.

Gehanna
12-20-2005, 05:33 AM
Is confidence something you just "have", or is it something you gain, or build?

Because confidence can be easily broken, I do not believe it to be an inherent quality. I do however find the capacity for confidence to be inherent.

If the latter, how do you do that?

Trial, error and relentless determination.

If you've had confidence, and lost it, can you ever get it back?

Yes.

If so, how?

Trial, error and relentless determination.

If you don't have confidence, how do you proceed in its absence?

Prayer, Faith and relentless determination.

Sincerely,
Gehanna

triceretops
12-21-2005, 05:10 PM
It's important to endure over a long period of time. There is no instant gratification in this endeavor. Unless you're writing flash fiction and getting picked up imediately for publication. It's a long haul, and this is the second time in my life I've been on this train. All the credits in the world have not helped me to rise to the top of the slush. It's a even board straight across. Determination is the key with the ultimate goal of survivability. If you have this attitude, I think publication is secondary and eventually comes.

Do not fall in love with the websites of your submission sources, nor the seeminly perfect editor/agents of your work. Don't wait and hope for an acceptance that you believe is inevitable from your favorites. Here lies ruin and confidence busting. Submit accurately and intelligently, but move on and hit another with just as much care.

I guess I'm saying don't fall in love with your buddies in the trenches. If you do, the absence or split can be that much harder for you to bare. It requires a certain amount of insensitivity on your part, and I know that's hard to believe. But if you do enough of it, it becomes business as usual.

Tri

arkady
12-21-2005, 06:58 PM
My confidence in my ability and talent has never diminished. But my confidence that the publishing industry is going to take note of these things is sustained only by massive self-infusions of hope and faith.


Treasure every handwritten rejection

I've gotten exactly one (1). It said "I really enjoyed your book and loved your writing. But I don't think we have a match."


A professional is an amateur who didn't give up

I keep telling myself that. It's what I mean by "hope and faith."

blacbird
12-22-2005, 12:06 PM
Many good, thoughtful comments, a couple of which provoke another question:

What is the difference between confidence and faith?

caw.

Jamesaritchie
12-23-2005, 12:57 AM
Many good, thoughtful comments, a couple of which provoke another question:

What is the difference between confidence and faith?

caw.

Great question! Wow, and a tough one. Again, I can only answer for myself. For me, confidence is something I have in myself. It has to do with my abilities, my strength, my talent, my determination.

Faith is something I have for an outside source, a belief that God, or whoever, whatever you believe in, be it God, fate, destiny, or leprechauns, will help me attain my goals despite my own weaknesses and lack of whatever, as long as I do my part.

scarletpeaches
12-23-2005, 01:53 AM
Confidence, for me at least, means knowing I can do something, or at least have the means to learn to do it better. Faith, to quote the Good Book, is the assured expectation of things hoped for, though not yet beheld.

I don't think you naturally 'have' confidence - it has to grow, from personal experience, of having positive reinforcement about your writing. At the very start, you might be scared out of your wits at the thought of showing your work to someone, but if you're brave and get a positive reaction, your confidence starts to grow.

You just have to take that step of saying, "Okay, I can do this," and let the curiosity of what might happen override the fear of what might never happen.