Jodie Llewellyn recently wrote about confidence in writing, which got me thinking.
I vacillate between having too much confidence in my writing, and not enough. In my comment to the post I noted that one of the things I think I lack confidence in is my ability to take my ideas and translate them well to the page. I know that I have the ability to write well, and I know that some of the ideas I have are good ideas, but I feel like perhaps I am going to lose something in translating the ideas onto the page. And I get very nervous about sharing what I have written with others. This blog is proving to be a good exercise in trying to break through that fear. Though, I have to admit, I am still cringing before each and every post and having to reassure myself that it will be okay. I tell myself that the worst that will happen is … well, okay my imagination can come up with some pretty spectacular “worst,” which I will refrain from sharing, but somehow I manage to talk myself down from them.
Perhaps that’s why I often preface my work with some sort of disclaimer. I know that I shouldn’t — that it betrays my own uncertainty, lowers the bar of expectation, and is dictating, in some ways, how I want others to approach my work. I don’t want to do this — I want people to come to my work honestly and openly. Ideally, I want people to find something in what I write that speaks to them on some level, to identify with my own experiences, or to be challenged by them, or to provide counter-points. But it is hard to resist making the statement that, “This is a draft,” or “I’m just going to ramble a bit.” Making excuses, in-case someone decides to be critical in a way that I have a hard time handling. So that I can say to myself, “well, I warned them.”
There are moments when I get little boosts to my writing confidence: when I get published in some way, when someone complimented my style, when I got chosen to be “Freshly Pressed” (yes, I’m certainly still riding on that high!) And I try to remind myself to carry humility with that confidence, because certainly with every “up” there are “downs.” And every time I begin to feel that I’m just that good of a writer, and allow myself to build up an ego about it, life conspires to keep me humble — to remind me that I may have some talent, but that doesn’t mean I can just slide by and not put in honest effort and hard work.
And, as with so many things in my life, I see a clear connection between my writing-world and, well, the real-world (as though I can differentiate the two, that’s like tearing apart my writing-life and my spiritual-life, or my spiritual-life and my everyday-life…. all pieces are interconnected…). It’s important to have confidence, but we have to walk that fine line between being over-confidence and just-confident-enough. And it’s important to learn how to separate out the compliments, and the criticisms. To find the constructive feedback in both, and to accept the compliments as they are intended.
Do you know how hard it can be to simply say “Thank You?” Think about it. Think about all the times someone has given you a compliment and you’ve tried to minimize it in some way. Or the times you’ve given someone a sincere compliment only to have it brushed off. (“Oh, it was no big deal.”)
How do we balance confidence and humility? How can we learn to really accept the compliments we are given, without allowing ourselves to get too caught up in them (or too caught up in a need for that external validation!) How can we learn to embrace the productive feedback that can come with criticism, or with negative reviews, without letting it chip away at us until we are too frightened to share of ourselves?