So, you want to give up everything and write! Are you insane?? Let me assure you, you are not insane. I had many other jobs and even a career (that I still have in another industry) before I wrote my first novel. I did my writing in secret, no one knew I wrote anything, so if this sounds like you, keep reading. If you want to know more about me, keep reading.
What is Confidence?
The technical meaning of it for people is a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities. The issue with confidence is often we gain this as we do something repeatedly. When writing for yourself, you may not be confident that you have the ability to write something others would enjoy reading. This was my issue, and it held me back a long time. To gain confidence, there are some points below, but I will share with you what I did to get some confidence to show people my writing.
I actually spent some time meditating, which was odd for me, because I am more of a practical person. This truly helped focus my mind and relieved some doubts about myself. I had a list in my head of all the reasons I was not really a writer, things from not having any higher education in writing, never took any classes, never had anyone review my writing, never, never, never. As I became aware of these reasons that took down my confidence, I wrote out that list and did something about “my reasons”.
I also started reading author blogs and biographies and listened to some interviews that authors gave where they told a little about themselves, and realized all of them had struggled with this, and many still do. Writing fiction may be a little different than writing non-fiction where you have facts and things to cover. Fiction comes from your imagination, and that is very personal. I have no idea where imagination comes from, and as I read about others in the art, they don’t seem to know either. It is a great mystery. I struggled with the thought that people would really know how weird I was if I showed this side of myself. After mulling over this, I decided my closest friends and family probably do know I am weird anyway, so what is the harm? Embrace the weirdness, after all, as long as it does not harm anyone, what is there truly to worry about?
When You Tell Your Super Secret Plan To People
Be prepared for many reactions when you tell your secret plan or desire to people that you want to be an author and you have written a piece that you want to publish. The reactions I got would be described as cautious skeptism while trying to be positive. You know, the forced smile, the phrases and questions spoken in a doubt filled tone of voice; “Oh yeah?” …. “Really? Good for you” …. “That sounds interesting” … “You write?” … “Wow” … “Mmmmm hmmmmm, what about your career?”
Be accepting of this reaction and roll with it. Remember, they do not know you even write, so their skepticism is natural and valid. Try not to be too defensive when you explain your story, poems, etc. Stay confident about what you have written and your ability, because let’s be honest you have said many of these things to yourself.
Choose Who You Tell Wisely
Another point to consider, is to choose who you tell. If you have negative people in your life, you may not want to tell them right away. Be practical and listen to your gut, confidence is sometimes a fragile thing, and you do not need someone to crush it, especially if you are still unsure of yourself. Remember some people are not negative out of meanness, but instead out of practicality or worry. If you come from a family or area where most everyone gets a practical job, again it is only natural they would be worried and this may come out as a negative discussion. Everyone knows you need to make money to live, and let’s face it, the “starving artist” persona is very prevalent.
I did send my work to my good friend Charlene who likes the genre I wrote in. Again, choose wisely, I did not send it to friends or family that does not like the fantasy genre. I was still extremely nervous, but decided at least one opinion would be good. This was the hardest part for me, but I just closed my eyes and did it. I pushed all the negative thoughts down into my stomach and just did it, and guess what? She liked it. This little bit of validation did wonders for my confidence, so you may want to try this.
Don’t Give Up Your Day Job Right Away
As mentioned above, I still have a career in another industry. I wrote while I worked in my career. It just happened that I was laid off in my industry and while looking for work I was able to make some decisions about life, where I wanted to be and how to achieve my secret goal of being an author. I worked hard in my career and was able to save the money to publish, sold my house and was able to take some time off in my career to publish. You may not have to do these things it is totally dependent on where you are in life and how much energy your day job takes. I am in a very demanding industry that takes up a lot of my time, so remember my path may not be the same as yours. You need to still be able to live with shelter, food and all the amenities of life, therefore you may not be able to, or want to give up your day job. This will also increase your confidence, as you do have something to fall back on. Some people are built to let everything ride on one outcome and some people are not, know who you are and be realistic of the sacrifices you can make.
Keeping Your Confidence Through Criticism
I don’t know anyone who did everything right the first time, no matter what it is. Once you start sending your work to others for their opinion or an editor, you will get feedback. Be accepting of this, and see their point for what it is. They are telling you something so you can fix it. They are not in your head, so they do not have all the background and thoughts of your story and characters. Be confident in yourself that you can fix whatever they are criticizing. For example, the editor thought I should have more of an introduction to my main character and offered several options to consider, one was doing a prologue and another was to do a new first chapter. After some thought, I realized this was very valid, as I know the backstory of my main character, it is all in my head, but the reader does not know and should know so that things may make better sense and a better read for them. So, I added several pages to my first chapter. Another example, is the editor went through my story with a fine tooth comb and the first draft I got back had a lot of changes to it from sentence structures, to sections that I should expand upon and even remove. Removal was hardest, but again, listen with an open mind and if there is something you don’t agree with, tell your reasons to open the discussion and go from there.
You are Already an Author
There are many opinions out there on the definition of author, taking it to the extreme of the difference between author and writer. Newsflash: you are already an author. According to the Oxford dictionary, an author is a person who begins or creates something and/or is a writer of a book, article, play, etc.
You have taken the time to write something on the page, you have gotten lost in your thoughts and words have flowed from your mind onto the page or computer screen. You have created something, you are an author.
I personally have not thought of myself as an author until I published because it seemed in my mind this was an important distinction between a hobby and a career. I feel this was in error after reading some dictionary definitions of the word author, because really there are many reasons why people do not publish their literary creations, but that does not make them any less of a creation. I hope you have the confidence in yourself to call yourself an author (even if only in secret).