Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Confidence...or Maybe Not

I'm back on the blog chain for this post. You can check out the beginning post by Kate, she had some awesome things to say about voting against yourself, even if you think you're totally the best. Archetype blew my socks off with the post of the year, something I printed and will read every day. Then Michelle got my spirits soaring again, just knowing that I'm not the only one who cycles in and out of the whole confidence thang. Then Sandra made sure to remind me to have confidence in other parts of my life, and finally the poster (it has a T, posTer) before me was Abi, and she had some great things to remind yourself of when the Con man comes calling. Check them all out. Oh, and Terri will be up tomorrow, so keep the linkage going.

Here's the question: How, as a writer, do you find the balance between having too much or too little confidence in your work?

I think confidence comes in levels—no, let's go to DreamWorks—layers. (Quick! Name that movie. Gifts at Rally for all who get it right. sengihnampakgigi) Like onions. Or cakes. Or whatever else you can think of with layers. Confidence is like that.

So what does that mean? Hmm…here's my take.

I have the many faces of Elana. Sometimes I wear the Mom face. Sometimes the teacher face. Sometimes the party girl face. Sometimes the authority face. Sometimes...you get the idea. It's sorta like that Seinfeld where George's worlds collide. Have you seen that one? Elaine invites Susan—George's fiancĂ©e—to the museum or something. He's got Relationship George and Independent George. The Independent George will die at the hands of Relationship George as the worlds collide. Wait. How did we get on Seinfeld? Well, since we're there, have a look.

My favorite line: "A George divided against itself, cannot stand!" I so feel like this. We can't be our own worst enemy.

Let's get back on topic. So I've got all these different personas I maintain. Each one has a different layer of confidence. It takes an insane amount of confidence to teach. Not only do I have to know something, I have to believe that I know it so well that I can teach it to you. I have to have the confidence that when I get up in a room of 40 (no, that is not a typo, I have 40 of them at once) 12-year-olds, that what I'm going to say is worth listening to. I have to have the skills to get them to listen to it. The confidence in myself to know that it's worth listening to. That's insane.

I have that confidence. When I go to work, I am the queen.

Other areas of my life, I'm less confident in. Cooking. Uhhh, maybe it'll come out right, maybe it won't. Sewing. I hemmed some pants the other day. Not so even. Crafting—I'm confident in this. I can make a cute card, no problem.

Then there's the whole writing thing. This has been the craziest roller coaster of my life. Sometimes I feel like I'm the awesomest writer on the face of the planet. I've just put my characters in the worst possible situation, and they have no way of getting out. I've tied up all the loose ends (or so I think) and typed THE END at the end. It's phenomenal. Everyone's going to be salivating over it.

Yeah, right.

Those times are good, but they're fleeting. Then the Confidence Annihilator comes in and shatters my carefully constructed fantasy world. He whispers to me that my story isn't good enough. That it's nowhere near as polished as I think it is. That so-and-so's story is so much better, and why are you even trying to do this?

That I can't write.

Worse than that—that I shouldn't.

When I listen to the Confidence Annihilator, the many layers of confidence I've built up crumble. In order to continue writing, my confidence must be rebuilt. This takes time, bolstering from good friends, and the annihilation of the Annihilator. And this is almost as hard as the writing itself. At least for me.

So what do I do?

1. Read good things. Books, articles, magazines, blogs, whatever. Anything to help me keep the writing "bug" in my head—the one that bugs me to write.

2. Put the manuscript away. There's no need to commit manuscript manslaughter during a rebuild of confidence.

3. Vent to my writerly friends. They know. They understand. They uplift. They believe.

4. Listen to music. My favorites during a confidence rebuild? Video by India Arie.

"I'm not the average girl from your video
and I ain't built like a supermodel

But, I learned to love myself unconditionally

Because I am a queen"

I love that part. Then there's this too. Same song.

"So get in where you fit in go on and shine
Clear your mind, now's the time

Put your salt on the shelf

Go on and love yourself
'Cuz everything's gonna be all right"

I especially love the "love yourself" part.

5. Try something new. This last dip in confidence has been, um, taxing, to say the least. I decided to write by hand instead of on the computer. This has helped me find more confidence in my writing ability.

And so, don't divide yourself against yourself. You cannot stand. The Confidence Annihilator will come, that is inevitable. It's what you do to get rid of him that matters.


Michelle McLean said...

Oooo, oooo, it was Shrek!! The conversation between Shrek and Donkey!! :D Did I win?

Awesome post, Elana!! I love the "annihilate the annihilator" part :D Very good advice. And any time you can bring Seinfeld into a post is good for me :D And you are so right about the different layers - like I have confidence in my non fiction writing self, but the fiction writing lady....not so much :) Excellent insights!

Anonymous said...

Oh, my ms was barley saved from manuscript manslaughter! This is a fabulous post. It hit the nail on the head in so many respects.

And Seinfeld...well, need I say more? LOL, LOL, LOL!


Anonymous said...

Yes, you win, Michelle! Gifts at Rally!

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Awesome post! I love how you talk about having confidence in different aspects of your life - that is so true!

Although, I have to say, if you can stand in front of 40 12-year-olds and teach them - then I am pretty certain you can do anything! A few years back I taught a year of religious education to about ten eighth graders and I was pulling my hair out by the end of it!

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Good post! I agree that you have to love yourself in order to build or keep your confidence. We all have these voices in our heads telling us not to love ourselves, but that's the Annihilator talking. And if you let him or her divide you, then you cannot stand.

TerriRainer said...

Oh crap! I hate following you guys, because THERE'S NO PRESSURE!

Egads, I can so relate to the "CA".

:) Terri

H. L. Dyer said...

Fabulous, funny and heartfelt post. I love it!

Big bonus points for tying in Independent George!

You are beyond awesome, and I am available to tell you that anytime. ;)

Carrie Harris said...

I love that India Aire song. It's way up on my inspire-yourself playlist too. :)

ali cross said...

Excellent Elana, thanks! I'm oftentimes an Ali divided too, so I totally hear ya.

Mary Lindsey / Marissa Clarke said...

You crack me up! Loved this post.

"There's no need to commit manuscript manslaughter during a rebuild of confidence."

Anonymous said...

I'm having the worst time trying to post a comment! Hope it works this time! Love the post! Yay for Seinfeld!


Carolyn Kaufman | @CMKaufman said...

I liked when you talked about the many layers of confidence. Some things you're extremely confident about, some not so confident, and then some...you go back and forth on. And it's tough, because that's one you REALLY want.

I think part of what makes being a writer so hard is just how subjective it all is. In a way we all want to be told, once and for all, are we any good at this or should we put down the pen and never pick it up again? But as soon as someone tells you you're amazing, there's a rejection letter that suggests you aren't. And just as soon as you close that, there might be another email asking for a partial. It's all SO subjective, and that's what makes it so incredibly hard!

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