Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Confidence and the writer, continued

I am not the only person that has confidence on her mind right now. (Click here for my recent post on this subject.)

J.A. KonrathJ.A. Konrath, author of police thrillers, has a somewhat provocative post on this subject, called "I'm Better Than You". You might enjoy the comment trail, as there's a bit of dissension among the ranks. While I do get his point, I also think he's overstating the issue. I don't have to think I'm the best to feel confident enough to persevere. I do have to think that I'm pretty good, mind you, but I can sincerely think that somebody else writes better than I do, and still feel I can produce quality work. There's a lot of room out there, and I don't have to feel that I'm at the top of the heap to believe I have a place on that heap. Mind you, I want to get as high as I possibly can, not for bragging rights, but just because I love good work. My second response to a really good book, after "wow", is "what can I learn from this?"

J.A. does believe in a lot of hard work, both to improve your craft and to market your work, so he's not one of these starry-eyed types who thinks that merely believing will make it so. He just thinks that believing will help keep you motivated to put in the necessary work.

Editor Alan RinzlerEditor Alan Rinzler also addresses the question of how authors can keep their confidence up, but in his case he is proposing concrete measures to take to keep your morale afloat.

Most of this has applications to a lot of people other than writers. But since writers work mainly in solitude, with no physical audience to provide immediate feedback, they have to be a lot more pro-active in maintaining a positive mindset.

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Melanie Avila said...

Interesting comments here - thanks for sharing!

Jen said...

I completely agree with your thoughts about confidence, meaning that you don't have to think you're the greatest thing since sliced bread to keep your confidence up.

Thanks for the link to JA's post...I can't believe I missed that one!

Janet said...

Thanks for stopping by, ladies. May all your self-confidence be merited!

amba said...

I find the problem to be something different. Writing is at least hypomanic-depressive. Once you break through the sludge and get warmed up and get going, the process has its own drug-like, delirious confidence. You are just so amazed that this stuff is coming out of you, or through you. It all seems precious and magical.

Then, one of two things. Either you remain uncritically in love with it until some editor or critic breaks the spell -- and then you're shattered -- or you look at it in a colder moment and your soaring belief in it just looks delusional. Either way, you crash. How to find a realistic middle ground between being possessed by the conviction of your own genius (or the genius of that which possesses you) and complete shame and defeatism?

Janet said...

I don't know, amba. It doesn't work that way for me. Sometimes I think it's crud even as I'm writing it (that's hard) and when I read it after it's had time to cool off, I'm pleasantly surprised. It needs fixing, sure, but it's fixable. Other times I thought I was doing OK and yet when I reread, I groan. That's when I get depressed... ;o)

Not thinking in superlatives helps a lot, I find. My writing is not the best thing since sliced bread, neither is it the work of a hack. I think it's good enough for people to connect to it.

I know my MS has room for improvement, I also know that will also be the case. I think it's good enough now to query. If I wait till it's "perfect" it will take ten years. I'm sure I'll go into a bit of a funk the first time an editor pokes holes in it, but I've been critiqued before. I can take it.

It was the abandonment of superlative thinking that helped me get going, actually. Among other things.

amba said...

The abandonment of superlative thinking is a very good thing. When it comes to almost anything, not just writing. "The perfect is the enemy of the good."

Janet said...

Precisely. Perfectionism paralyzes. A love of excellence does not. I don't think I've reached the standards I set for myself with my first book, but hopefully it will be good enough to publish and I will be able to do better next time.

As for producing classics, I'll let posterity decide. I'll just do my best.

Have you found a kind of bipolar perfectionism to have been a major hindrance in your own case? Did you confront an editor for the first time without the benefit of beta readers or a critique group? (For the benefit of those who don't know her, Amba is a writer/editor who runs one of my favourite blogs. Click over to take a look.)


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