Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Confidence vs. humility

Finding balanceAlmost everybody struggles to some degree with achieving the balance between confidence and humility (although the latter is less fashionable than it used to be). Confidence tips so easily into into arrogance, presumption, and even delusion. If you doubt this, watch the early episodes of American Idol, any season. We all know how charming an arrogant jerk with an over-developed sense of entitlement is. There are few things more satisfying in life than watching him do a face-plant in the muck.

On the other hand, humility can tilt into discouragement, self-abasement, and even self-loathing. Misguided religious types have often failed to make this distinction and presented such unpretty things as an ideal to aspire to. Well, no. There is a world of difference between unworthy and worthless. Whiny self-hatred is not only unattractive, it's pretty much a guarantee of uselessness.

The sweet point in the middle of all this is evaluating yourself realistically, which is admittedly rather difficult. It's particularly difficult if you want to be a writer.

Why is that, you ask? (OK, so you didn't ask, but humour me a minute. I appreciate it.)

You'll always miss 100% of the shots you don't take; and, statistically speaking, 99% of the shots you doBecause for every open spot on a publisher's list, there are probably at least 100 completed manuscripts out there, trying to elbow their way into position. Those are intimidating odds. That means if you're writing, and you have any serious hopes at all of being published, you have to believe somewhere deep inside you, that you are better than 99% of your fellow aspirants (all of whom believe the same thing). That's got to be something close to hubris. And in most cases, delusional hubris.

Of course, a lot of them are unaware of the odds, so if they're talented, they toil in blissful ignorance, and if not, they live in a fool's paradise. The rest of us, well, we keep teeter-tottering between the feeling that we can actually do this and the opposite feeling that we are out of our minds. We can easily go through the cycle from elation to despair and back again several times in one day.

It gets better. Almost every successful author went through a string of rejections before hitting paydirt. So even if publishing professionals keep saying "thanks, but no thanks" that doesn't necessarily mean you don't have what it takes. Perseverance becomes a necessary part of the equation. But wait a minute, isn't the definition of insanity repeating an action and expecting a different result?

Maybe you have to be insane to aspire to authordom.

So, writer or not, how do you find the sweet spot where confidence and humility are in perfect balance?

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