How to Find the Confidence You Need

I write a lot about my ideas and philosophies when it comes to what a decent (fantasy) book needs and what a decent author should realize. But, I’m saying these things from the experience of someone at the bottom. I don’t know if I insult people with what I say because of my seeming naivety, or if people perhaps think I’m a fool for being so optimistic and hopeful. If so, I’m sorry, and I’d give you a cookie if I could, to convey my sincerest apologies.

But the truth is, I’m not. I’m not optimistic or hopeful, and many days I have to have my close ones push me on because I’m so downtrodden on what I’m trying to accomplish. I realize the difficulties and the insane wall it is to become a successful author; and the thousands of manuscripts that will be on those tables along with mine, all with their own wannabe authors with dreams just like mine. I don’t know if this is normal or not, to be so insecure about your own work, but I’d like to think it is.

One day last week I was on a forum and someone posted a thread asking for help to get published. The guy said he had written a zombie novel, and that his friend had compared him to famous authors. Every line in this guy’s post was oozing with confidence and optimism, and even when we told him he was going about it the wrong way, he still wouldn’t let the wall down, claiming that we were attacking him and that he would get published with our help or not. Now, I don’t doubt he’ll be (self) published some day, but I just have to wonder how other people can feel that way. It worries me, really, because a lot of the time, don’t feel that way.

And I don’t know why I don’t feel that way. Is it normal to just get sick of your work, hating it and loathing it every time you open Word? Is it normal to want to give up all the time because you just freak out that you don’t have enough symbolism, not enough character development, no real arc, even when you have people telling you over and over again that you do? Am I just being realistic, or am I exaggerating problems that aren’t actually there because I’m building up a resistance if/when I ever do get rejected? Psychologically it makes sense — by never believing in myself, I won’t be so destroyed if the worst happens. But should I really be feeling this way?

Now, I can feign confidence when I have to; I’ve trained myself pretty well at doing it. If I have to convince a room full of people that I’m their guy, I can do it (I wanted to be an actor before realizing I was actually a decent writer). But faking it doesn’t stop my real feelings. Faking it doesn’t change the fact that I’m always worried about my work, always worried if other people will enjoy it or not. Because, even though people love to say ‘write for yourself, not for others!’, you still need some people to like your work if you actually want to be a full-time writer. If you intend to eat and have a house, at least.

This isn’t to say my book is bad, it’s to say that I hate that I can’t objectively judge it from my own eyes. Because honestly, if I had to read any of my favorite books five times over, making sure every sentence and line was perfect, I would get sick of those books too. So it comes to the point that I don’t even know if I’m sick of my book because I’ve analyzed it so much, or just because it’s a bad book. I’d like to hope it’s the former, but again, I don’t know.

I’m not always depressed about it, either. Some days I’ll edit something wonderful and my feelings will be completely opposite to what I’m feeling now, and I’ll just be smiling from ear to ear the whole day because I just know I’m going to make it some day. Truthfully, writing is making me more bipolar than a teenage girl on a daily menstrual cycle.

It just sucks. It sucks that I will inevitably be feeling this way for the rest of my life, just because that’s the kind of person I am. Even if everything goes my way, I’m still going to be worried when I get a reply from the publisher, I’m still going to be worried when my books hit the shelves, I’m still going to be worried that I wasn’t on the NYT Bestseller list long enough, and I’m going to be worried that my sequels won’t live up to the first. And now that I’m listing it out, I’ve made my worries that none of those things will ever happen ten fold…

It’s just who I am. It’s a neuroticism that won’t go away, and I have to live with it every single day of my life. I guess it’s the reason why I’ve held back for so long, because I never really wanted to get my feet wet and start feeling this way all the time. And it’s the reason why I love talking about my hopes and my dreams, my ideas and my philosophies, because it makes me feel like I’m more than just one of the other 999 manuscript authors on that table. It makes me feel like I’ve got something that they don’t, even though that may be entirely a lie just to make myself feel better.

Every time I get a new follower on my blog, it makes me feel better. Every time I get an email or a message from someone saying that they appreciated one of my posts, it makes me feel better. Because truthfully, every time I press that Publish button, I’m scared out of my mind. I’m afraid that I’ll be judged and I’ll be ridiculed for something I said, or that a potential publisher will laugh at my inexpertise. But I do it anyway, because only by doing these things will I ever have a chance to make myself more than what I am right now.

It’s probably naive of me to think that other writers don’t feel this way; I’m sure many do. What I’m saying is, just as I have to tell myself every single day, no matter how much you might hate yourself and everything you type down, you still have to keep going. There’s a reason why you started doing what you’re doing, whatever that may be, and you shouldn’t stop just because you lost a bit of confidence along the way. I hope some day my words will come with the experience of a successful author, but even if they don’t, at least I can look back at my life knowing that I tried.

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3 thoughts on “How to Find the Confidence You Need

  1. Hey discovered your blog on Cracked and I have to say I think you have the knack for it. It is totally normal and I think somewhat expected to feel apprehension when submitting a new post. This, to me shows that you care about what you are doing and as a fellow blogger I often wonder if what I have to say is what people want to hear.

    I believe, that if you write for yourself, then you will always remain consistent and true. There are thousands, millions of people who like what you like, so if you write the content that you want to read then your audience will find you. Whether this is a blog or a novel.

  2. I’m aware it’s been some time since you published this. But I know the phenomenon of getting sick of my work, or losing the ability to objectively judge it, very well, though more from my photography than from writing. When I go through new photos to choose the best ones, I always make my choices on first sight, because the more I look at them, the more flaws I find, the sicker I get of them, the mind kicks in, and in the end I can’t seem find just one that is truly the perfect picture I wanted to take in the first place.

    There’s a small photo page on Facebook that I’m trying to draw more people to, and most of the time it’s completely odd to me what they like and what they ignore, often times it’s even the opposite of what I feel are the best and the just-ok-pictures. So you’ll probably never understand what people want to see or read. What you do understand is what you are, what you think and feel and how you want to express that in your unique way. Language belongs to you like it does to everyone else, no matter what some publisher says. I know it does matter, but for the work itself, it just shouldn’t.

    Should you feel this way? No. Now, I’d like to say it’s all about trust, but as you said, isn’t it pretty normal to get sick of something you make yourself revise again and again? Trust itself is easy – for the first few hours or even days. After that the path is obviously getting more bumpy.

    Maybe you want to try to give some room to what you created? For right now it seems you are holding on very tightly to it, by re-thinking it again and again. Is it good enough, am I too naive, am I good enough? But you’re pulling it back in every time you have those thoughts, and it keeps your creation from going out there and doing its thing. It can do it all on its own, but right now it can’t, because it is trapped. Think of it as a true creation, an animal or something else you like to think of, that can move at the speed of light and through the dimensions right into people’s hearts or wherever it wants to go, that it can evolve and bring a breakthrough. But don’t try to force it anywhere, where you think it should be at. Maybe it wants to bring back to you what you never could even imagine.

    And then, every time you catch yourself back at those thoughts, try to remember that you only just let your creation off the leash, and that you released it to give it some space and time. And decide to give it some more!

    It helped me a lot when I created my photo page, and although I still get those moments of doubt, they’re around less and less often. It would be great if it would help you, too.

    (In case you may want to like the creation I unleashed, it’s on Facebook as /smallestfishphotography. There’s the animal! I didn’t do this on purpose, it was a thought that came to me later on in the process; the idea for the name was earlier and spontaneous. 😉 )

    (Sorry if my English sounds odd here and there. I’m not a native speaker.)

  3. Oh, what I actually wanted to say and did not: To me you already are a successful author, as you are obviously able to express what you feel. And that would be what I call successful at writing.

    As for the forum guy: Some of those, in all their hubris, really get lucky, because they find somebody who buys it. But most of them don’t, because since they are already perfect, they lack this exact ability: doubting and taking criticism – and transform it into something we call “getting better”.

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