Sunday, April 12, 2015

Arrogance Versus Confidence

Writers are an interesting study in duality.  We tend to be among some of the most conceited people on the planet - of course I'm an awesome writer...most folks couldn't hold a candle to what I put on paper!  We can also be exceptionally insecure with an ego of crystal when it comes to what we write, and if someone tells us our stuff sucks, we're crushed.

This duality creates a blurred line that many of us have trouble finding, and that line is the one that separates confidence from arrogance.  I've found that most of the arrogance exists in newbie writers, while it moves towards confidence as one grows in experience.

Most newbies started writing more for two reasons - they love it, and other people have told them they have talent.  Therefore, once we start taking this more seriously, we're convinced that our work is awesome.  An editor?  Who needs one?  Beta-readers?  No one can check my stuff any more critically then I can!

Of course, this arrogance leads to disaster.  Our first novel or two, the ones we poured our hearts into and were convinced would change our lives, end up sucking.  Sure, our friends are nice about it, but it's pretty obvious that they hated it and only finished because they felt obligated.  Once we realize this, it hurts.  A lot.

At that point, we have a choice.  Many choose path A - we stink and we're never writing again.  We give up in the hopes of never getting stepped on like that in the future.  Much like our first relationship, it simply hurt too much to be worth the pain,  Sure, we console ourselves with empty words about not being that into it in the first place and how people just didn't understand us(it was their fault!), but deep inside we feel this overwhelming sense of failure.

Path B, on the other hand, is the one taken by those who might eventually become successful.  We try to figure out what went wrong, and we use that experience in our next work to make it better.  We put ourselves back out there, once again risking rejection, and see if we've improved.  Our skin gets thicker, and we find that criticism can be incorporated to enhance our skills.

Path B is hard, but it creates that confidence I spoke about earlier.  Getting stomped on, as anyone who has ever written has been, turns our arrogance into despair.  However, time and experience turn that despair into confidence.  Once you've written enough to know what works and what doesn't, you gain confidence.  Almost no one succeeds on the first attempt, and it's only through being bad that one gets good.  Even the most talented among us have been terrible, and they knew it.  But they grew in skill and became more confident with success, while putting the occasional setback, which will happen, in perspective.

Reach for your confidence, and be careful it doesn't slip back into arrogance.  Your readers can tell the difference, and they'll let you know in no uncertain terms.

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