When I (Don’t) Have Confidence in Me
Every now and then I’ll get multiple emails in one week that contain the same question. Whenever this happens, I’ll write down a little reminder to write a blog entry about whatever that topic is later on. Because if three or four people just happened to ask me the same question within a few days of each other, obviously it’s something that will probably be important to a lot of my readers. Well, probably.
So, I guess by now you’re wondering what that semi-frequently asked topic is that I’m going to be discussing today. I guess I would sum it up as a blog post about believing in yourself. A lot of writers, both teens and adults, have written me asking for advice on how to have confidence in their writing and how to vanish any self-doubts they may have about their abilities and their stories.
To tell the truth, these questions kind of crack me up. Because I don’t feel like I have much confidence or self-assurance at all. I’m always looking at my writing and cringing and thinking I should change this and that or just delete it all together. I nearly died of shame when once I found a typo in Interrupted, and then considered hunting down every single person in America that had bought a copy of the book to explain myself to them. Yes, I am really that insecure. (And once again I’m realizing that I’m obsessively paranoid about typos—which I don’t think is normal) I don’t know if it ever seems like I have it all together, but let me assure you that I most definitely don’t. I have doubts and issues with my work, just like every other writer out there. Book reviews make me nervous and explaining my plot line to someone at a signing always psyches me out.
Well, while I still battle with maintaining confidence myself, I do feel like I have something to contribute when it comes to giving advice on this topic. Though you may or may not like it. Anyway, here is my ground-breaking advice to those who have doubts about their writing: You’re never going to be a perfect writer. Get over it. Harsh? Yes. But true! That’s the only thing that gets me through the writing process, especially in crummy first drafts when everything seems so raw and sloppy. It’s just remembering that I’m never going to be perfect, but that is okay. It’s okay to not be perfect, you guys.
I mentioned a little earlier that I’m not one hundred percent satisfied with Interrupted. It literally makes me cringe to flip through the pages and read some of the scenes. Because, as the writer, I see every little flaw. I look at a passage and think, “Oh, she should have said this instead,” or “Yikes. That was cheesy,” or “If only I had used a different word to describe that!” All of that being said, I still realize that Interrupted is a good book. It doesn’t make much sense, but it’s true. I cringe when I re-read my old work and wish I had done things differently, but I still realize that, in the end, it’s a good book. I can look at scenes and think, “Well, if I were writing it now, I would change this and this, but you know what? It’s still pretty good writing.”
They say that no author is ever one hundred percent satisfied with his work. That is so true! But there’s a difference between being satisfied and being okay with something. I realize that I’m always growing as an author and my tastes are always changing, but hopefully I’ll always be happy with my past work. Because I’ll remember that, at that time in my life, that was my absolute best effort and something that I was really passionate about. You don’t have to always be extremely confident in your writing. But you do have to remember that you write for a reason, because you love it and are passionate about it, and that will give you the strength to always be improving and giving it your best effort. And how can you not be happy with something that you honestly know was your best effort?
I don’t have that much to say about self-confidence and assurance, because it’s something I’m still struggling with myself. But I do know that viewing things in this light has helped me a lot, and hopefully it will be an encouragement to the rest of you who have been wondering about this lately. Even if you’re struggling to believe in yourself, remember that I believe in you all! I just know that you are a group of fabulous and talented people.