Thursday, June 10, 2010

Confidence Conundrum

I'm musing today about confidence. Specifically, it puzzles me that we can be entirely confident in some areas of our lives and quivering, breathless fearnuts in others.

What's up with that? I'll use myself as an example. It is not rampant egoism to say that I rock my day job. My bosses regularly reinforce this and I have quantifiable results. Moreover, I know that I'm knowledgeable, strong, sure, efficient, forward thinking and creative. I can't leap tall buildings in a single bound, but I'm darn good at what I do. Ask me to write a newsletter article or press release, coordinate a media shoot, do a stand-up interview for television, or produce a script for an in-house video? No problem. I am confident in all those situations.

Now let's consider my career as a novelist. A few years ago, I wrote and sold a couple of books. They received great reviews and reader feedback was terrific. Unfortunately, they tanked at sales. It doesn't matter how much I consider that I was with a smaller, independent publisher with limited distribution. When I saw the royalty statements, the actual numbers were overwritten in my mind's eye with FAILURE blinking in bold, red, print. Not only did this depress the hell out of me, it also obliterated my confidence. Clearly, I could not produce a successful book.

That self-inflicted shot to my confidence progressed untreated. I'd start a new project, be excited for a little while, and then lose interest. That happened at least four times, which means I have the beginnings of four books, none longer than 50 pages. I'd go to conferences and conventions and feel like I should write Unsuccessful Loser on my name badge under my name. I felt like a fraud, and wanted to duck my head every time someone asked, "When's your next book coming out"?

I was honestly thisclose to closing the door on that part of my life. Hey, I have a dream day job that I adore, so giving up the other dream wasn't a big deal, right?

Wrong. The truth is that at heart, I am a storyteller and I want to write books in addition to my day job. To anyone who thinks, "It's better to have published and not done well than to never have published at all" let me say, "Think again." Yes, I will always have two books to my credit, but giving up and walking away means I will always have an unhealed, bleeding wound. It's not okay for something, or someone to make me feel inferior -- not even myself.

Maybe I shouldn't be so focused on the financial side of publishing as a measure of success. Truthfully, I wrote two good books that entertained readers. This IS successful. I could be happy with that if not for the lingering feeling that I am not giving my dream its best shot. It's like I'm packing up the balls (double connotation) and bats and refusing to play the game because I'm afraid of further failure.

I can't live that way. It's damaging to my psyche, to my emotional health, and to my identity. I won't live that way. So, I've decided to give it another shot and commit to writing a new book all the way to completion, revision and submission.

And I'm scared that I'll fail.

I do not know how I can write every single day of my life with complete confidence in my talent and ability and worry that I won't be able to develop a readable story with great characters that will entertain readers. It's not like someone plunked me down in an operating theater, handed me a scalpel and said, "Perform this appendectomy, Mary, or the patient's gonna die." I'm a writer. I can write.

My solution for all this is just to do it. Look the fear and shaken confidence in the proverbial eye and tell them to kiss my ass. I'm a writer and I will do this. I said recently that one should never underestimate the power of acting "as if". For today, I'm telling myself that I am not a failed novelist. I am a great writer and my new book is going to be excellent.

1 comment:

Hope said...

I can't wait to read your new book! :)