Michelle Goode (Twitter: @sofluid) kindly included one of my posts in her The WritesoFluid Daily today (thank you, Michelle!) – and my post was on Confidence. I wanted to expand a bit more on that here, because it’s something that writers often have a hard time developing.
First off, confidence is not to be mistaken for attitude or arrogance. It’s not thinking that you’re better than someone else. Humility is always an element of true confidence, because it allows you to interact with people as human beings and not see them just for what you stand to gain from them. Confidence comes from knowing who you are and that’s not always an easy thing to do when you’re a writer (at any level of the profession).
Knowing who you are involves seeing your work as valuable. It’s also about being able to separate your sense of self-worth from opinion. Writers work in a media that is highly subjective (all art is) to opinion; and while there are ways to clearly improve craft, at the end of the day, only the writer can say whether or not he or she wrote what was intended. I don’t know who to credit for this quote, but it’s one we should all memorize: “Don’t let others opinion become your reality.”
As a writer, you alone have the right to decide the value of what you’ve written. You alone know the Story. You alone get to decide whether to continue writing or marketing it, or not.
What I often see is that we tend to put too much power in the hands of others. It’s true that business executives have the power to buy or not buy our work. And that will always be the case. Executives and deal-makers of all ranks have the power to make commerce decisions about our work.
But what I see too often is that writers place their worth and credibility as a writer in the hands of others. As if someone else gets to decide whether or not we get to be writers? Does that make sense? If you are a lawyer, you’re a lawyer – no matter what others think of you. If you’re a doctor, you’re a doctor. A teacher, a teacher.
If you’re a writer, you’re a writer. Right? No matter what others think of you? Right.
Confidence comes by deciding that you are the one who gets to decide who you are. Others will always be judging our work – some rightly, some wrongly. But you have to know and believe in who you are.
It’s that confidence that leads to professionalism.
Professionalism means you value yourself as an equal contributor to your field, your industry, your art. You meet others – executives, colleagues, networkers, readers, assistants – as peers, with respect. You treat them with kindness, not because you want something from them, but because we’re all human beings just trying to do our work and none of us knows the full backstory we each bring into the room. It means you assume goodwill. (Mark Sanderson (Twitter: @scriptcat) wrote a great post on this and successful meetings yesterday – read it here.)
Will you get nervous? Of course, we all do, every time. But you’ll calm your nerves by reminding yourself that no matter who the person you’re meeting is – he or she is, after all, a person just like you. You’ll remember that when you’re talking with them. You’ll remind yourself that no matter what they decide, you are still a writer, your work is still your work, and you have the courage to take the next step. They don’t get to tell you who you are. You do.
Confidence comes from courage. Being willing to say “yes, I can” even when you’re plagued with doubts. It’s stepping up and taking a risk. And knowing, that your worth as a human being has nothing to do with your work as a writer. Your worth as a human being cannot be changed by anyone’s opinion. It’s fixed, by a benevolent Universe.
So, you really don’t have as much to lose as you fear, do you? What’s the worst that can happen? Someone who could say yes, says no. So? Does that mean your life as a writer is over? No. Only if you decide it is.
What will you decide?