Back when I was pre-published, I was convinced that while I didn't have an abundance of confidence in my writing now, publication would fix that. Or maybe just having a literary agent. After all, an agent is an industry professional who reads tons and tons of manuscripts, who only makes money when one of their writer's makes money. How could you not be bursting with confidence after you signed with a literary agent?!?
Confidence in your writing cannot come from other people. Same as it's a bad idea to measure your self-worth based on another's opinion, it's a bad idea with writing too.
At the moment on Go Teen Writers, we're focusing on what I lacked as a high school writer, what it was that prevented me from being published. One of the biggest things I lacked was confidence.
There were certainly times in high school when I felt confident. They were when my friends read a chapter and gushed about it. "Oh my gosh, it's the best thing I've ever read. What happens next? I have to know! Can you go write it right now?!"
And there were times when I felt like my writing was horrible, that I was doomed for failure. They were when conversations went like this:
"Christina, did you like chapter two?"
Christina shrugs. "It was okay. Chapter one was better."
Insert me plunging into a 3 day funk.
We've talked on here about a betrayal I had in high school, and why I now have a closed-door policy on works in progress. In short, my best friend called my writing - ahem - "poo" and not only was our friendship never the same, it took me years to recover writing-wise.
Now, we are all different people, and what's right for me in this situation might not be right for you, but here are a couple thoughts I have on what would have helped me in high school:
To not let people read as I'm writing.
When I wrote the dandelion story, I was finishing a chapter, printing it off, and passing it around to all my friends for them to tell me how good it was. My motivation was not to grow as a writer, to hone my craft. My motivation, seriously, was for them to boost my confidence by gushing over my characters and prose. That is a bad motivation. If that's your motivation when you send a work in progress (WIP) to someone, I encourage you to not do it. Because when one of them doesn't like it, you're in emotional trouble. If your name is Stephanie Hines, anyway.
When I read this quote of Stephen King's in On Writing, I cheered out loud: "...if no one says to you, 'Oh, Sam! This is wonderful,' you are a lot less apt to slack off or to start concentrating on the wrong thing ... being wonderful, for instance, instead of telling the ... story."
I needed to focus on telling my story. Not on being wonderful.
Get comfortable with the idea of a first draft being bad.
I very, very, very rarely let anyone see any part of my first draft. Over the weekend, my husband and I were sitting on the couch. He was editing photos, and I was writing. I saw him glance at my screen, cringed, and said, "Don't read my book!" Because it's a first draft. Because I know it's not good.
Sometimes, maybe once or twice in our 4 years of friendship, I will send my critique partner, Roseanna White, a snippet of my first draft. When I did it recently, I'd had a lousy week, but had something beautiful happen that day when I was writing. I really wanted to share it with someone, so I emailed the two paragraphs to Roseanna and said to her, "Please read this and tell me how clever it is." Which she did.
Otherwise, first drafts are my own stinky secret. They aren't good, I know they're not good, but I don't have to care because no one will see them but me. And maybe, on occasion, my husband if I'm typing next to him on the couch.
On Friday we're going to talk more about healthy ways to build your confidence.
Don't forget - the writing prompt contest is open!