Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Confidence—the double-edge sword

I have been ill as of late, which makes stringing sentences together in a pleasing manner more difficult. This is the beginning of a second week of me not writing anything new on my current personal manuscript. I revised my completed manuscript, and I had some work to do for the contracted project, but that's not the same as laying down more groundwork in a rough draft.

It's been a while since I worked on a rough draft of a brand new thing. (Once again, the contracted project doesn't count. It's not relying on me to fully visualize the world, just adapt to an existing vision, which is a whole other kind of challenge.) The little scraps I do in writing group are different as well, because they're mostly moments and scenes—they aren't required to flesh out a society.

Which leads me to the double-edged sword of confidence, or at least the illusion of it. See, most writers -for-life reach a point where they realize that you need a certain degree of confidence in your skills and words in order to keep writing. You have to have days where you think "this is good. Yeah. That there might even be great. I'm good at this! I should totally keep writing." They balance out the "oh my god, I suck. I'm a hack. I'll never have an original idea of my own. I should quit."

However, most people also understand that there's a general dislike for those whose confidence turns into arrogance. People who can't take criticism because their work is "perfect," and every editor and agent who said differently is delusional.

When I say something is good, I don't really mean "it's perfect." I'm not sure why you think I might. If I thought it was perfect, I would have said so. It bothers me when I get the impression I'm meant to feel guilty or shamed because I don't think I completely suck. Or I want to share with people proof that no, really, I don't completely suck.

Because there are many, many days when I am convinced that I do (completely suck,) and what I've written doesn't make any sense and no one would ever want to read it. There is nothing more difficult than trying to commit words to a page when you've already got it in your head that anything you write will be crap. Sort of defeats the purpose of trying.

So you'll have to excuse me, when I'm searching for a plot point that hid underneath the bed or behind the sofa and you hear me chanting like a mantra "I am a good writer. Everything I write is good. I can worry about making it better later. Damnit, I am a good writer." It's not bragging, it's an attempt to lure the sneaky words out into the open.

3 comments:

Karen Mahoney said...

*sigh* Yeah. I'm going to borrow that mantra... I was completely stuck today and didn't write a word.

Tomorrow! Everything I write will be good. etc. etc. :)

johnevans said...

I agree. Sometimes I think to myself "Creation is an act of arrogance".

You do need a certain amount of confidence and/or arrogance, certainly. You shouldn't feel bad about that. As long as you're polite when you interact with other people, it'll all be fine. ;)

Tina Hunter said...

Every professional writing course I've ever taken talks about mantras. I think they have become a major part of the writing life. You have to believe you can right well in order to write well... and if you don’t believe it, you must convince yourself repeatedly until you do. =^)

Tina