Monday, November 12, 2007

Seeds of Self-Doubt Versus the Fruits of Confidence

Of all the tasks I face as a writer, the most arduous and difficult is guarding my confidence.

Without a certain amount of confidence, I can’t face the work I need to do each day. Without confidence, I can’t write. I can’t scrapbook. I can’t move forward in any creative endeavor.

I don’t mean I need confidence that my work will be published. Or confidence that anyone will like it. And certainly not confidence that it will sell. The confidence I need is the confidence that I can eventually meet my own (limited) expectations. Garrison Keillor once said he never expected to write “the Great American novel.” He knew that was beyond him. With a set of diminished expectations, he kept working. But no one can keep working if they are busy wrestling with the demons of self-doubt.

Self-doubt is the most destructive roadblock to any sort of creative endeavor; confidence gives one the ability to move past that self-doubt.

Without confidence, I spend my time thinking, “This won’t work…it’s a stupid idea…I’m no good…this isn’t coming out right…this isn’t good enough.” With confidence I turn my energy to thinking, “Okay, I can fix this…it’s coming along…I can work with what I’ve got here...I’m learning…I’ll get better.”

Confidence comes from the Latin “con” meaning “with,” and “fidere” meaning “trust” or “faith.” Working with “confidence” means having the faith to trust in my abilities. Occasionally that means moving ahead without any sign that I’m going in the right (write!) direction.

If you travel Highway 64/40 going west in St. Louis on a sunny morning, there’s a rise in the road. At that rise, the sun blocks out everything you can see. For a few moments, you drive blindly. It takes faith to keep the car steady, not to panic, not to drive off the road. But with faith, the glare dissipates and the road magically reappears. But to get to THAT point, you must move ahead with confidence.

This Sunday in the NY Times actor Mercedes Ruehl, said, “The ‘jealous guarding of the inner life’ is an artist’s necessity and instinct.”

Today, I’m having a little trouble getting back in the groove because I’ve lost traction by working on Forensic U. And I had someone laugh at something I wrote.

But I will prevail. I know I will. I’ll get back my confidence…possibly by simply throwing myself into my work and letting it rebuild my inner core of faith.


Dr. Ellen said...

Having people laugh at what you wrote is excellent, if that's your strength. Since my strongest genre is "humorous technical" it's something I love.

Now if they were to burst into tears, I'd be gobstruck...

Camille Minichino said...

Joanna, one thing that helps me at times like that is to remember all the OTHER people who do have confidence in you. They can't all be wrong! lol.

And you've just come from expending an extraordinary amount of energy for others at ForU .. I hope you took a little time to refresh yourself.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Thanks for the support. I appreciate both of you weighing in! And yeah, I'm still tired!

Kathryn Lilley said...

Joanna, you have every right to have self-confidence! It shines from within you like a beacon. Best, Kathryn