Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why Writers Lack Self-Confidence

If you are a writer, and you are not yet published, I'd be willing to bet good money on one thing: at least some of the time, you lack confidence in your writing, and, thus, in yourself as an author.

It's only natural. As children in school, our first writing efforts may have been 'rewarded' by having our little stories returned full of corrections--- sometimes unneeded ones. Like the time my mother as a child had been assigned to write about an imaginary country. She created one called Boland--- which the teacher corrected to 'Poland'. Mom's lacked confidence in her writing ever since.

Or perhaps you went to the kind of school
where your first writing efforts were met with paeans of insincere praise--- as were the efforts of the illiterate child in the class who simply copied random letters. A clever child (all of my readers were clever children), you concluded if your work were the equal of the illiterate child's paper, your writing wasn't worth much.

My own experience as a child with undiagnosed Asperger Syndrome shows how lack of confidence can be created. In grade school the school authorities decided I was 'unhappy' and ordered my parents to take me in for counseling.  I remember my mother telling me I had to go to a new doctor, who wasn't the kind who gave shots. He was a doctor you just talked to. My interpretation of that was that the doctor was a shrink, which meant that I was crazy.

I was lucky I suppose that at that time, one could go in for appointments on a weekly basis, or even twice a week, rather than the standard now of only 20 mental health visits a year unless you are suicidal or some other form of homicidal.

But the result was that I learned to interpret some of the things that were good and writerly about myself as pathological--- a symptom of my unnamed mental disease. For example, I had been making up stories, usually about my favorite fictional characters, during much of my free time for as long as I could remember. One shrink I went to during my teen years--- after I had already decided to become a writer--- told my parents in my presence that he could 'cure' me of my compulsive 'fantasizing'.

Now that I'm a grownup I know intellectually that being a writer is not a mental disease, and that making up stories is what writers do. But our minds have subconscious parts as well as the wide-awake intellectual parts. And in those subconscious parts, all these negative beliefs we've held over the years, are stored lovingly away for the dreaded 'Inner Critic' godzilla to use to stomp our souls flat.

Self-confidence can be a problem even for published authors. Even published authors get their work rejected, and they often are confronted with hostile, even hateful reviews. And authors that are not going up in book sales may find their writing career threatened by market forces, leading them to fear they are not good writers, or that their good writing is doomed by their lack of marketing skills.

What can you do about lack of self-confidence? The answer I have found involves a horror--- positive thinking. (AGGHH!!!) This is a technique of countering the bad, unconfident thoughts we have with deliberate positive ones.

Some time ago I decided to look for a book on positive thinking, but didn't want one with a new-agey, magical thinking approach. I remembered there had been a book by a Christian pastor, Norman Vincent Peale, called the Power of Positive Thinking, that had been quite popular. I figured that a Christian pastor back in the old days wouldn't have been pushing the whole 'if you chant this affirmation, the universe will be forced to give you a Cadillac' magical thinking.

Reading the book, I was pleased to see I was right about that. I was also pleased that the old pastor was very keen on making use of scientific advancements--- in the form of psychotherapy--- to help overcome confidence problems such as 'inferiority complex'. He also advocated for prayer and trust in Christ--- well, he WAS a Christian pastor--- but he was aware of the fact that many readers would have problems with him offering Christ as the only solution, either because they weren't of his faith, or because they had fallen away from it and didn't see it as a solution. So he often goes out of his way to frame his advice in a more universal way, speaking of a 'Higher Power' sometimes, so that these other readers can connect with it, too.

Since my own thought patterns run to the negative--- I love creating dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories--- it's hard to embrace positive thinking. But my writing needs it, just as my body needs the prescription medication I take every day. So every day in every way, I tell myself my writing is getting better and better. And maybe it is.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...