Every so often, I’ll read a line in a book that strikes me so deeply that I have to stop. And think. And let it sink in. This happened to me about a week ago when I was reading Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote. It was going along fine, and I was enjoying the story but not totally enthralled. And then, the line, spoken by Holly Golightly in a rare moment of wisdom:
That may be the only line from the book that stays in my memory. The whole story is fascinating (although not totally my cup of tea), but I’m glad Capote wrote it for that line alone. I put the book down and sat there, stunned and touched and totally grateful.
As writers, we ride the confidence roller coaster. It is fascinating to watch beginners at workshops who are supremely confident in their writing ability (which is great!), and to hear the honest and heartfelt expressions of self-doubt from even the most celebrated and successful writers. It’s a little like that amazing level of confidence we have as kids (see photo) that’s harder to hold onto as adults.
I think I do my best writing when I’m at or near the top of the confidence roller coaster. But the roller coaster analogy breaks down (which is much safer than an actual roller coaster breaking down) when we realize that we can take some control over our confidence level. We’re not just harnessed in and destined to follow the rails. We take control partly by changing our own attitude, and partly by recognizing the wisdom in a quote that bears repeating:
When I read that line, the first people I thought of were my parents. I was so lucky to have parents who made me believe I could do anything, and still seem to think it’s true to this day. And the second people I thought of, in all honesty, were my critique partners.
We’ve had some great posts recently by Erin and Helen about finding writing friends and making connections with other writers, and it’s hard to overstate how important this can be in keeping your confidence up. Real writing friends will give you real confidence, the kind that comes not from empty praise but from honest assessment and encouragement. The kind who believe in your talent and your stories and your ability to make the time for writing and help you believe in those things too.
If you haven’t yet found the writing partners who give you confidence, keep looking. And if you have found them, let them know how grateful you are for the profound gift they’ve given you; the one they continue to give.
Like, maybe write a blog post about it. 🙂
To Tasha, Rosalyn, Erin, Helen, Jenn, Ann, Jennifer, Jeannie, Kari, Dee, Hay, Jeni, and especially Joan: Thank you, thank you, thank you! I owe you a lot. *enormous, confident hugs*
Elaine Vickers is a mom of three (including Supergirl from the photo above, who is much more grown up now but still very confident.) She writes middle grade and chapter books and teaches college chemistry. Elaine does, that is. Not Supergirl. Elaine is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of EMLA. The real Supergirl likely represents herself.