It's time for another blog chain and this time I'm not only starting it, but I get to choose the topic as well. The question that I want to discuss is something that I've been thinking about quite a bit lately, and that is:
How as a writer find do you find the balance between being having too much or too little confidence in your work?
Here's the thing, we sit in front of our computer screens (or in Jessica's case with her pen and paper) and make shit up. Sometimes it's sucks. Sometimes it's great. But (and this is the fun part) we never know for sure which one it really truly is. Whoooooo!!! Good times, right? RIGHT!??!
Okay, so we have crit partners and beta readers to help us sort things out... except when one loves the part where Cassandra kills the dragon, another hates it, and no one understands that the dragon is a metaphor for the first boy who ever broke Cassandra's heart!
Or even worse all your readers hate something that you love, or love something that you hate, or think that dragons are not metaphors.
That's when you start worrying whether you are like Kenley on Project Runway scoffing in the face of Tim Gunn's always astute advice or conversely are losing the authenticity of your own vision and voice to appease others.
Personally I struggle with this, but at the end of the day there is something that I try to remember and it's a lesson that I learned a long time ago.
Somewhere around sixth or seventh grade I specifically remember one day when our teacher gave us this fun little exercise. She gave us a printout with a beginning sentence on it and we had the rest of the page to write the rest of the story. I was the kid who at the beginning of the school year when we got our new language arts books I would frantically flip through it looking for the creative writing exercises that they scattered throughout the book. So, as you can imagine I was thrilled with this assignment (yes, my lack of popularity at this age wasn't entirely due to my red Sally Jesse Raphael glasses and tragic perm.)
While writing that story I was able to take a short break from wishing that I was anywhere but there at school, because I actually was somewhere else. I suppose it would be nice if I could remember that story and perhaps even scan the original copy of it so that I could display it here. Unfortunately, that story is buried way deep in a landfill right now and the only solid detail I remember from it, is that it ended with the shocking twist ending: "I'm telling this story from my grave."
Okay, so I wasn't exactly M. Night Shyamalan, but when we read them aloud the rest of the kids in my class liked it. In fact that they liked it so much that when a vote was held to determine the best story it was chosen as one of the top ones alongside the story by another boy in my class. Now here's where the (over)confidence thing comes into play, because I thought that my story was better. I might have even thought that compared to mine, his story kind of sucked.
But, but but. But when my teacher had the class do a final vote to determine the best (I think this teacher used to give prizes of pencils or candy to worthy students and that was the prize at stake, other than the obvious one, that is, of knowing that you were THE BEST.) story, and we put our heads down on our desks and raise our hands to vote - I voted for his story and not my own.
Yes, that's right - I voted against myself. I thought it was the polite thing to do. And I didn't want to look like I thought I was the best, even though I actually did think I was the best. And most of all I didn't believe in myself enough to vote for myself.
My story lost and I am not even making this up - it lost by one vote. In fact it was so close that my teacher even held the vote again to make sure that she hadn't miscounted and I voted against myself again. Although, to be honest the second vote against myself had more to do with not wanting to be seen as a flip-flopper.
Now, that was a long time ago. I've since traded the dorky glasses for contacts and straighten my hair instead of trying to make it curl. It's still hard though sometimes to stick my hand in the air and say that I believe in what I have written. And I have to do it when I send out query letters, or put something out there for a crit, or even when I just have to tell myself that it is worth it to sit in front of that computer screen for a couple hours instead of spend a little extra time with my husband just chilling and watching TV.
So there's the question and my answer. And I'm gonna go on the record saying that I think it's pretty damn good. I am certain the rest of the blog chain is going to have some great responses as well, and you can find the next one over at Archetype Writing.