05 February 2010

Know Yourself

Hey, Friends! Happy Friday!

This week we've talked about the importance of knowing our audience as writers, whether it's the general reader or someone in the biz. But there's another thing we need to know, something else the presenter last week taught me. He not only knew his product and his audience--he knew himself too.

We could probably talk about confidence for weeks and not reach an end to that discussion. I know we'll probably come back to it. But I thought it was important to talk about today.

The coolest thing about this presenter was his unique voice. His accent was one I couldn't place and for someone who studies people, that's so much fun! I never asked him where he was from because I thought that might be rude, but I had my guesses. He spoke clearly, succintly, but in his own way. Because his voice was so unique, I'll remember it for a long time.

He didn't apologize for his different pronunciation or make any attempt to cover it. He came as himself. He was confident in his product, his ability to "sell" it, and in who he was. He did a great job--my mind didn't wander once.

How often do we approach writing (not personally, but professionally) with confidence? What about when we step out into the industry? Did anyone catch my qualifer on Wednesday, the paragraph where I felt I needed to explain that while I hadn't yet written a successful query, maybe there was something worthwhile in my post about querying? I always feel like I have to qualify myself to others as a writer--that I'm published but not in book form, but I'm trying to be, have written five novels, and have been pursuing publication for the past year. Why can't I just say, "I'm a writer" and be confident in that?

I have a beautiful friend who encourages me so much with writing. In front of me she'll tell others, "Kristen's a talented writer". She calls me "author". Every time something inside of me leaps in excitement and then what happens? I interject my qualifying statement about how I'm not published in book form yet and then mentally berate myself because my friend gave me something so priceless--her vote of confidence--and I want her to know it means the world to me. I'm learning to smile and accept the happy feeling of being known as a writer. I'm learning to claim that title. And you know what? It feels really good!

Do you do this? I'm trying to break this practice now, because I have a feeling it never ends. There are ways to qualify ourselves as writers even post-publication. Most of us know the insecurity of wondering if we're good enough, if we'll ever be published, or if we are, if we'll ever produce something equal in quality again. That alone might save us from being that idiot who's convinced he/she is God's gift to Art and wastes everyone's time (think certain auditions from American Idol). But lack of confidence won't sell our books to general readers, a publisher, an agent, or even to us. This is where I really went wrong last Spring when I queried. I wasn't confident. And it was clear in my query.

We need to know our stories and our audience. But we also need to know ourselves and trust our abilities (and the years we've spent honing our craft). I'm still learning how to do this and I don't know if I'll ever be all there. Maybe confidence is the achilles heel of most writers (whether too much or not enough). I know it's mine.

Do you qualify yourself? What have you learned about presenting yourself with confidence in the writing industry--and life in general?

See y'all Monday!

22 comments:

  1. I have two books I read when I get wobbly in the confidence department, Ralph Keys' The Courage to Write and The Writer's Book of Hope. So fantastic.

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  2. I really have very little confidence when mentioning I'm a writer. I'm trying to do better. The first question I get (and I have a friend, Martin Edwards, who has a blog by this name) is "Do you write under your own name?" or "Should I know you?" Understandable question, but no! So many thousands of books out there...unless you're an avid cozy mystery reader then you wouldn't know it.

    So we all have our insecurities as writers...but I think that really we're our own worst enemy.

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

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  3. I have a current situation trying to tackle and take down my confidence as a writer (and it has nothing to do with the industry). Life situations have a way of doing that. I believe it is probably happening so I rediscover my confidence in God alone.

    I agree though...if we invest time and attention in writing and developing our craft, I see it fitting to call ourselves writers.
    ~ Wendy

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  4. I think confidence definitely matters in a lot of different areas of writing. :) And deep down, writers are confident - they are just afraid of coming across like a snoot. What do you think?

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  5. I have a hard time qualifying myself. My confidence wavers too often. Thanks for this post, I do need to grow in this area. This is God's gift and He would want me to believe in it wholeheartedly.

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  6. I can say I'm a writer without a nod. It's true. I am. I can't say I'm a "successful" writer because I "only" have two self-published novels, five more waiting in stasis. two more in progress. I'm confident in my work until I ask someone else to read it. ;)
    I can say I love my work only because I write what I love. Trying not to play the comparison game is a never ending battle but not a worthwhile one to play.
    Having confidence in the Lord as to what he wants from me and doing just that is where I need to focus my energy.

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  7. I'm working on building up my confidence! I cycle through these moments of self-assuredness and painful insecurity. It's horrible but sometimes I feel that publication will give my writer status a certain validity, at least in the eyes of people I tell. Working on being proud just for the fact that I write and adore doing it!

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  8. This is a great post! For years I waffled about describing myself to others. People who know me well would say to other's 'she's a writer' to which I'd add how much I haven't done yet, like being published. And I've had two short stories published. I just never thought of them as counting. But they do. Every word you write counts, even if the 'public' never sees it. You know why? Because someone, somewhere, WILL see it.

    My turning point came when one of my great aunts died. Much after her passing, I was helping her sister move furniture and I found portfolios and portfolios of paintings, pastels, pencil drawings and other art. My dead great aunt was an artist. And no one knew. Because she never said it. Older members of the family said 'Oh yes, Dina was an artist' when I asked. But us youngers never knew. She never talked about being an artist because she rarely ever sold anything. But that didn't change the fact that she was an artist. All of us kids still call her an artist. How could someone who produced hundreds of pieces of art NOT be an artist?

    So now I just say, 'I'm a writer' because if I died right this moment, there are at least seven finished books that my niece might read some day. That SOMEONE might read. And how can you write, and not be a writer?

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  9. Kristen, I qualify myself too. I want to develop the confidence to call myself a writer without giving "add ons." It is scary to say it but maybe it gets easier the more you say it.

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  10. I love to give God the glory. Learned this from our pastor, who answers, "If it's good, it's God," to compliments...and means it. It's important for me to acknowledge God's talents in my life, because they are really HIS talents.

    Blessings, dear one!!

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  11. I am doing much better. I acutally put it on my resume when I was job hunting because there are alot of skills involved with it. The woman who just hired me asked me on the interview if I ever made it big with writing would I leave. I had to laugh and said it doesn't pay enough:)

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  12. My confidence comes and goes. Those votes of confidences are wonderful, aren't they? Glad you got one from your friend. :)

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  13. Oh, that confidence thing is a wobbly friend. I find it helps if I think about how I came to be a writer (it feels very much a calling to me), and if I keep my heart focused on that. This was helpful to read - it's always nice to know we're not alone.

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  14. Hi Kristen -

    I needed this post today. Thank you.

    This is an issue for me. When someone mentions I've written a couple of books, I feel a necessity to point out they haven't been published yet.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  15. Yeah, I do this too sometimes. I have a couple of friends that cheer me on, even though I've not published a book that's gracing major bookstore shelves:) They are a blessing. Keep moving forward; we are writers, and we are good at what we do. God's called us to this, and He continues to equip us.
    Hugs and blessings,
    Karen

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  16. Yes he has, Karen! Thank you!

    You're welcome, Susan R! I'm glad it encouraged you.

    Remembering our calling is a great tool, Deb!

    They definitely are, Katie!

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  18. Me too, Patti Lacy!

    I think it might, Diane! I hope so!

    Thank you for pointing that out, A. Grey! That was so encouraging!

    Ha, so true, Terri! Employers no need worry!

    I understand, Julie! Sometimes I feel that book publication will bring validation as a writer. But I don't write for that, you know? And I'm a writer even without publication. And I know you don't write for that either. Publication is the sole source of validation--although it does feel like it might help!

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  19. I agree about placing your confidence in the Lord, Nicole!

    You're welcome, Tamika!

    Ha! Maybe that's the secret, Laura! (Not me!) :0)

    May you find your confidence there, Wendy!

    Oh, that's a hard question, Elizabeth! I agree--I know I am!

    I need to check those out, Rebecca! Thanks for telling me about them!

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  20. Kristen: What a wise post. I'm proud of you, that you are overcoming your bent to qualify your writing gift.

    We are writers because we write, not because we publish.

    I help my confidence by saying on a regular basis: "I am a prolific writer. My writings go all over the world, touching lives for Jesus. I have fun writing." Since my Father created with words, I follow His example and create my confidence with words.

    You believe more in what you say about yourself than what anyone else says about you.

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  21. This is tough. I think sometimes our qualifying is a product of presumed humility. When I get a compliment, it's hard to just accept it. If someone likes my dress, I'm prone to say, "this old thing?"

    More to the point, the more often you admit you're a writer, the easier it gets.

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  22. Ah confidence. I read another post on that just this morning. It's a balance. We must be confident in our work. If we're not, others may think it's not worth their time. I struggle with this too. I think we all do, as writers. We're so despearte for our words to be read but...what if no one likes them? What if we're seen as not good enough? It's hard to be confident but it's something we must do.

    Maybe we should commit to looking in the mirror every morning and saying, "Good morning, you fabulous writer, you!" Wouldn't that be fun?!?

    Happy Monday, friend,
    Jen

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