Confidence

Last week, I made a statement about how my confidence was boosted by a comment made to me. Today’s topic, I’d like to revisit confidence.

From New Oxford American Dictionary (thoughtfully provided by Apple’s Dictionary Mac application) the word confidence is defined as: a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities. The feeling is good, and it relies on appreciation of abilities—something I know people tend to lack (and others overly exaggerate) their abilities.

So, back on track. I’ve noticed that my poetry is more often accepted than that of my prose. Naturally, I then write more poetry and submit more, and then more acceptances come in. I have confidence in my poetry that has lacked in my stories. Something I think it finally coming back. My critique groups appreciate the fiction I write, find such minor flaws as they say, and argue the meaning of the story. I think this bodes well for my fiction (though never fear, I will continue with poetry!).

It is never very easy to get off scot-free when writing fiction. There are millions of opinions on the form, with millions more changing and contradicting every moment—often in the same person. Perhaps this is because I’ve immersed myself in the culture of fiction for so long that I see these opinions every day. You have critique groups, beta-readers, critique partners, cheerleaders, agents, publishers, all talking about what is “correct” and “right” and “acceptable” in fiction. Should you use flush left the first paragraph? Should you indent with a tab or 5 spaces? What font to use? Contractions? Even what happens in a story. All of these can undermine the writer. Did I do that correctly? a writer might think. For me, I think that translated into not trusting my instincts, not trusting myself that I’d made the right word choice. This undercurrent of doubt will pervade the work, a subtle hint that the work is not good enough.

I am lucky in that I found poetry and friends that have encouraged me to continue even if I thought my writing was lousy at best. Thankfully. Poetry has no rules. Try to enforce a rule on a poet. No seriously, try. They will subvert the rule, while using it and breaking it AND write a great poem. As they say,” In your FACE!” I think we writers of prose are too timid, too reluctant to push the envelope like poets do. People who read poetry (usually) like pushing envelops. People who like fiction sometimes do. I say push it.

Ignore the nit-picky silly rules (for now) and write what is inside. The story will reveal to you how it should be. Find people you trust to help you reveal those secrets. Trust yourself and write, write, write. I only became a better writer through writing a lot of crap and revising a lot of that same crap into okay writing. Then I wrote lots of okay stuff, and that okay stuff became pretty good stuff. I think I’m writing pretty good stuff now—but no doubt, I still write crap. But I am now seeing confidence in my own writing, a voice that has emerged and says, “This is me, this is a story, and you will want to listen. Trust me.”

That feeling has been worth it.

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