Do you have a confidence problem?
Is there something you’re passionate about doing but that you keep to yourself?
We’ll come back to that. Put a little bookmark in your brain.
My grandfather was a large, authoritarian man who’s hearing had gone. We usually only saw them at holidays when he and my grandmother insisted we come to their house even though my siblings and I protested to our parents. I can still smell the combination of burning coffee and pork roast.
He couldn’t hear very well and this, combined with a loud voice starting point, made it sound like yelling when he addressed our family. He’d welcome us, get choked up and have to wipe his nose with a thin hanky, and frequently before the prayer he’d include a brief poem he had written.
I’ve come up with three reasons to excuse my reaction to his poems:
- Maybe it was his presentation, simultaneously bossy and emotional or
- Maybe I was an ornery teenager or
- Maybe I was hungry and felt that he was holding our dinner for ransom.
The way I remember it, though, his poems were a lot of clichéd, rhyming schlock. (I hope I’m wrong, because this is so ungenerous, and that if I read them now I might be able to find some value or beauty in them.) But if my grandpa ever had any doubts about the merit of his work, it didn’t show. He subjected us to his poems against our will, and was convinced of their quality.
All of this is conjecture, since I never took the time to ask him about the poems. We didn’t really talk in that way.
As I’ve rediscovered writing in the past four years, my family has been supportive. My husband doesn’t understand my drive to write, but he tries to ask me questions about how it’s going, tries to relate. My parents talk me up, tell other people that I’m writing, call me a writer. They sound proud of me.
While I appreciate their votes of confidence, I feel bashful and self-conscious.
My secret fear is that my writing will be self-indulgent, that I’ll subject people to hear it who have no interest in it.
Even though people have encouraged me, people who write and know writing, I still have a hard time not making disclaimers about my writing.
My sister called me out on it.
She asked me why I talk down the writing I’m doing, why I sound like Eeyore when I tell her about the writing contest I entered but probably have no chance of winning, for example. I tried to remind her that I’m charmingly self-deprecating, but her question was a good one.
Why do I dismiss my writing? Why do I lack confidence?
I think a lot of people get nervous about using the descriptors “writer” or “author” (or, eeek! “artist” which conjures up its own images and pressures) because it sounds presumptuous since how can I call myself a writer if I haven’t gotten that novel published, if I haven’t received a check for that article, if I haven’t gotten an accolade that distinguishes my work from that of someone else.
Should our confidence hinge on external assessments?
While internal motivation and drive are absolute requirements, getting outside validation can be helpful and…validating. Writing is something that requires self-starting and especially if you are at the beginning of building your writing into a career, no one is checking up on you to make sure you’ve written X number of words today.
In the end, if you can take safe risks with your writing (or painting or DIY project or collection) it will give you a measure of confidence you may not have been able to get on your own. Enter that contest, submit something to your newspaper or offer something to a like-minded blog. Make a little foray to share your work with someone other than your dog and you will gain confidence that comes with letting your work see daylight.
As a little fun, this clip from SNL totally exemplifies the fear I have about being inappropriately confident/self-indulgent. It’s from the episode with Daniel Radcliffe and is pretty clean (mostly). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSjLiQxEZlM