Putting your work out there for a stranger to read is one of the hardest things for a writer to do. You get a million what ifs that run through your head, what if they hate it, what if no one reads it, what if someone makes fun of me, etc. Over at the Writer’s Coffeehouse on Google+, a couple weeks ago, we were conversing about self-confidence as a writer. A lot of people struggle with this idea of having confidence about their own writing.
That first time I put my work out for someone to read was nerve-racking. I had not written anything other than personal dialogues for years, when I handed Avy my work in progress. We worked together at Citibank in the anti-money laundering department. The environment was set up like so many of those corporate offices, row after row of cubicles. This place was a bit different from I was used to as they were shared cubes with half walls, when I stood up the tops were at about my elbow. Avy sat in the in the cube caddy-corner from mine. I handed her my 10+ page unfinished story first thing in the morning. I could see her periodically look away from her task of reviewing bank accounts to look down at the printed sheets of paper. When we were walking to get lunch the first thing she says to me is, what happens next? This was a huge lift in my writer self-esteem. That little chance I took on sharing my writing with a friend developed into a writer / alpha reader relationship. She became my soundboard for ideas and we developed an even better friendship than we already had. It has been three and a half years since I left that job and moved away, and Avy and I are still great friends; something I don’t think would have been possible if we hadn’t connected over my characters.
But it was a long journey to be able to get to the point of feeling comfortable letting someone read my work. My opinion is it all goes back to how confident you are in your life. It’s a never-ending process that takes constant maintenance. I haven’t always been confident, in my writing or in my everyday life. There was a point in time in which I second guessed every decision I made, and always thought about the worst case scenario as if it were the only outcome, and occasionally when I am having a really bad day or week I will revert back to that person. It took a lot of work to be who I am now. The short answer on how it is possible to go from being a meek and mild person to feeling confident, is it truly matters who you associate with.
It seems to me, sociologist Robert Merton’s concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy is very accurate in many aspects of life, happiness, confidence, love, the lists go on and on. If you perceive you will fail than you will do precisely that, but if you think you will succeed, your chances of success are much better. I gradually started surrounding myself with people who made me feel good about myself. This change was started by my boyfriend at the time, this man now is unsurprisingly my husband. He left me realize my own potential and help me start along the path to become the person I wanted to be. Over the years we have taken turns on who is leading whom, but we are constantly attempting to travel the path to self-improvement.
Once I started surrounding myself with people I enjoyed being around, I started gravitating towards people I wanted to be like. At the time I didn’t realize I was taking this step, but looking back I can see exactly why I started talking to Avy. She was constantly upbeat and always saw the bright side, she knew how to make everyone around her smile and her happiness radiated off of her making me want to be closer to her. At the point in time when I met her I was already starting to change into that type of person myself, but with her unknowing guidance I was able to cross that bridge into a different view-point.
When I left Florida to return home, I was met with the old expectation of who I used to be, making it difficult to continue on my path of self-improvement. I get lost along the way and my self-confidence falters. I again attempted my known steps. I started looking for people I wanted to be like, but my pickings are slim, so I resorted to finding these people online. The first time I “stepped” on to the Twitter platform it was to look for inspiring people, that’s all I follow on my personal feed, people that make me happy, make me laugh, or make me think.
In writing it was a bit harder, I was having difficulty finding a willing audience to talk about my stories and ideas. I used my husband, but it just wasn’t the same as my Avy. So again I decided since I couldn’t find anyone I personally knew, why not try online again; it works for my personal life. It was nearing November and I decided to participate in my very first NaNoWrimo (2010). I didn’t do well on the writing aspect as I had a terminally ill pet, and found it more important to spend the last bits of his life with him, but I did notice there was great blogging community to be found that would provide the support I was looking for. So I started a blog.
I figured I would build my confidence and inspiration at the same time. What better way than jumping into sharing my thoughts, ideas, and writing, head first? It was rejuvenating, scary and disappointing all at once. I found my very first troll on Reddit, on a sub-reddit of writing. He/She criticized my work without even reading it, the comments were rude and not constructive at all. Reddit is still a platform to this very day, I haven’t gone back to. Though I have had great luck on Twitter and Google+ finding supporting individuals. I feel confident sharing my writing, but that doesn’t mean I am still not frantically checking my comments on social media or looking at my stats on my blog. I still wonder if people like what I wrote, but it’s not a debilitating fear any longer.
I guess what I am trying to say, is if you doubt your writing ability, share it. Start with someone you can trust, but you know will be honest with you. Then once you build a little callous up join a writing group, if one is available, if not jump online and find a group of supportive and understanding writers. We all know what it’s like to put your work out there. Then join the blogging world, you might find a few trolls, but that’s alright, you might actually learn something from them.
But ultimately keep your head up and never give up, writing is a talent that will grow with practice.