Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Confidence: it's all in your head

by Rick Blechta

Lack of confidence is certainly not just a writer thing. I have not met many (if any) people who are brimming with confidence in all parts of their lives. Catch anyone in “the dark hours of the night” and ask them about it then, and you will probably be surprised by their answers. Not that I normally pop into people’s bedrooms at three in the morning or anything!

But based on my experience, I think all writers suffer from confidence issues far more than any other occupation. Quite frankly, most of us are doubting ourselves nearly all the time. It can be on an hour-by-hour basis in bad cases. “Is that last paragraph what my story needs at this point?” “Did I even give this character the correct name?” “Is my writing any good?”

This non-confidence we scribblers feel is exacerbated by the time we spend working in solitude. There’s a saying that you’re only as good as your last book. (Should be previous, but who am I to quibble?) How can we help but doubt ourselves with that kind of pressure, especially if you knocked the last one out of the ballpark?

I’ve found it doesn’t help if you’re handing out your deathless prose to others while you’re still working on it. Sure, it's helpful to get other opinions on a work-in-progress, because we can get so myopic about what we’re doing. But you may well open yourself up to more doubt which will certainly lead to second-guessing, and that you don’t need if you’re going to hope to reach the finish line.

That’s not to say I never send out an mss without people whose tastes and decisions I trust. I have to regular ones on whom I rely and occasionally others if certain knowledge or opinions on the storyline are needed.

The point is, I plow through to the end, regardless of my confidence level about various facets of the storyline or the way I’m handling it. Putting on blinders is the way I look at it. If you take those blinders off, you begin looking around, probably too much, and then the doubt creeps out from dark corners or during the dark hours, and you can easily become paralyzed by it.

Yes, it is all in your head most of the time, and getting caught up in it is not a good thing. But even if those doubts and your confidence turns out to be misplaced, you can always fix it during the editing stage. Right?


Eileen Goudge said...

I've been at this 40+ years, Rick, and still have those doubts. Only now I live in fear of losing my marbles. It never ends. Best we can do is soldier on and trust the process.

Rick Blechta said...

That's it! "Trust the process."

Very wise words. Thanks!