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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Canned Confidence

Gillette used to run a commercial for Dry deodorant and it always ended with the catchphrase: Never let them see you sweat. 

I should be their poster child.

I am probably the most insecure person you will ever meet. Everything scares me, or at least sends my anxiety meter off the chart. I worry about every little detail. And nobody loses sleep like I do when I'm trying to figure out a problem.

If you know me, I'm willing to bet that confession surprised you.

The only person who knows my living hell is Greg and he's been good about keeping my secret. I'm only telling you now because it troubles me when I see new writers agonize over a review or a beta-reader's critique.

Writers, both newbie and seasoned, are regularly beaten into a state of jellied insecurity. It makes me sad how easy it is to destroy our confidence. It happens to me two or three times a day.

But do I look downtrodden to you? Pfhht!

Confidence is a broad label. Some of it has to be innate. You have to draw from your well of tenacity, and if it's empty, it's a terrible drain on your well-being.

But a certain amount of confidence can be learned, or at least faked until your well has enough of a reserve to sustain you.

Remember that:
• Almost all attacks, rejections, or passive-aggressive rejoinders are SUBJECTIVE. They do not identify you. It's a manifestation of someone else's opinion--an opinion that could be mistaken, malicious or simply misinformed.

• Bad things, (and good things) don't last forever.

What can you do to improve your confidence?

• work on projects that create little building blocks of success
What good is waiting on that halo-wearing agent if you're still sitting on a book you wrote ten years ago? Try publishing in smaller markets or different venues, like nonfiction, short story, or flash fiction. Every little success adds to your self-esteem as a career writer.

• name your demon
In folklore, knowing the true name of someone gives you power. Start by naming your demon. What is it that scares you the most? What's the worst thing that can happen if you failed? Once you identify it, it won't scare you near as much as it did before.

• never let'em see you sweat
If something hurts me, I ignore it completely. I learned this in grade school. Bullies look for weakness. If you let them think something bothers you, you've already shown them the chink in your armor. By ignoring a rejection or a bad review, you've released yourself from insecurity's dominion.

• get proactive
I never sit still. If one door didn't open for me, I look for a window, a sun roof, a doggie door--I don't care. Give me a few sharp tools and I'll jimmy the lock.

I'm far from impervious. I have the same self-confidence issues everyone else has. But I've learned to take everything I hear with a grain of salt and a shot of tequila. (Your brand of devil-juice may vary.)

Wonderful reviews are good for the ego, but I never let them go to my head. And rejections might nick me, but I never let them get to my heart.

In a hundred years, what will it matter? I'll just be a footnote in a great grand-niece's family album. 


Homestead update 

No chicks yet. I might have lost the whole batch. If you follow me on Facebook, you know that ten days ago, I lost power for up to 24 hours. That incubator might've fallen to room temperature for too long.

I am a mass-murderer of grasshoppers.
I'm pretty sure I saw a wanted poster in one of their little nooks. A couple of scorpions and a snake were checking it out for the bounty money.


Renee Miller said...

This is weird, I was just working on an article about confidence and self-esteem. You've summed it up nicely. It's not about never getting discouraged. It's about getting on the horse anyway and pushing through all that crap.

Also, I kill spiders and flies in mass quantities. So far, they haven't caught up with me. The fleas on the other hand...

Maria Zannini said...

Renee: With the mass genocide I've committed I have to sleep with one eye open.

Ref: confidence
That's it, exactly. And you've got to keep trying different things too. There is no one size fits all.

LD Masterson said...

Okay, I want a credit listing on this post. I know one of those examples was based on me.

Or maybe not. But it sure hit home.

In the area of finding the confidence to keeping moving forward no matter what - you frequently amaze (and inspire) me.

Maria Zannini said...

Linda: Aw, thanks.

Actually everything I listed is universal. I've lived it and I don't know a single person (whether they admit it or not) who hasn't gone through the same thing.

One thing I didn't mention in the post is that the greatest gift any writer can have is the the support of friends. Even when you're tough as nails, we all have moments of weakness and doubt. That's where friends come in. :)

Angelina Rain said...

Oh honey! Your confession did come as a surprise but... (shh, come closer) I'm the same way!

My confidence is non-existent and every little failure bothers me a lot more then it should. But in life, you have to pick up the pieces and get over it before it drives you mad.

Mike Keyton said...

In a hundred years, what will it matter? I'll just be a footnote in a great grand-niece's family album. Yes, but what a footnote!

Maria Zannini said...

Angelina: Life either makes you or breaks you. Sounds to me like you're going to be just fine.

Mike: Ha! My nieces and nephews already know me as the crazy aunt who lives in the woods.

Raelyn Barclay said...

Wow, confidence and self-esteem seem to be themes this week. And insecure, yep, that surprises me. (Not the losing sleep over a problem cause I think we all do that and I don't necessarily see that as insecurity.)

Never let them see you sweat. Get back on that horse. Let it roll off you like water on a duck. If a door closes, open a window. Oh so many sayings to wrap our minds around. Great post Maria.

Sorry about the chicks. Have you put the Scorpion Hunter on high alert?

Writer Pat Newcombe said...

Confidence is such a fickle thing! One minute it's there and the next you're a quivering wreck without it! Keep keeping on and on... It's the only way to go!

Jenna Cooper said...

Yes, I'm very familiar with insecurity, especially with writing. Thanks for the advice, I especially like naming your demon.

Sarah Allen said...

These are such fabulous tips! And very needed. I especially like the little building blocks of success idea. When I'm in between projects and don't have something to work on I go crazy! This seems like a good solution :)

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Maria Zannini said...

Raelyn: Yes! Iko has been extra vigilant too. He started digging to China when he caught a whiff of a mole underground. LOL.

PS Thank you for the RT!


Pat: I think it's what keeps me grounded too. I don't think too highly of myself because I know at any moment all that glory can evaporate.


Jenna: I learned this long ago. I lost a promotion at my first adult job because I was too afraid to apply for it. I learned later it would've been mine if I'd only asked. What the heck was I afraid of? The worst that could've happened is that they'd have said no. Lesson learned.


Sara: The building blocks I learned by accident. As I was busy sending out queries, a friend talked me into a writing contest and I won. It was the boost I needed to keep going.

Barbara Ann Wright said...

For more grasshopper murder, you can borrow my cat. He'll work for the day, and I can bring him home at night. ^_^

Vero said...

This is a great post, Maria! Absolutely wonderfully said, and true to the bone. Self-doubt is a writer's greatest enemy, and should be caged and doomed to starve in a spider-infested cellar, if not shot down.

Cheers to keeping your chin high up above the murky waters of doubt!

Jackie Burris said...

Confidence you have in spades, otherwise your post would never have seen the light of day Maria. Insecurity is woman's middle name, we second/third/fourth guess ourselves into panic mode over things that seem to not only not bother men but never enter their minds to worry about in the first place.

Sad to hear about the chicks, hope next batch makes it as love those chickie photos you share. :-(

Iko come to my house, three scorpions so far and more to come!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Great post. Sometimes it's difficult to keep your chin up.

Maria Zannini said...

Barbara: A cat! Yes. They'd be less destructive than the chickens. My chickens don't distinguish between grasshoppers and my veggies.

Vero: It's a fight that bloodies us all, but it also makes us more sensitive to our peers.

Jackie: Oh, no. Not scorpions. I'm sorry to hear that. I hope your little chihuahua never gets stung. It's very painful.

Susan: Difficult but when it gets that bad, it helps to have a strong support group. I have friends who've talked me down off the ledge a couple of times. :)

Jenny Schwartz said...

All true ... and what I really resent is how much energy anxiety takes. The time I spend worrying could write a whole 'nother chapter!

I agree 100% with the whole post, but I need another 100% to agree with how important friends are. Writer friends understand how scary the send button is :)

What I tend to forget, though, is how brave I already am (bear with me on this brag, I'm going somewhere). I can't remember the formal psychological term for it, but there's apparently a human tendency to constantly create new baselines in our understanding. Maybe an example will make it clearer. When I started writing, just writing was a huge risk. It would have been easy to stop and go do something sensible. But now, writing isn't scary at all and I forget (totally) that committing to writing is a small mountain I've already climbed. I guess what I'm saying is, when we're feeling anxious, we should look at our lives more objectively and see that we're heroes.

Ok, enough babble from me. Great post, Maria!

Maria Zannini said...

Jenny: My friends are who keep me from opening a vein. :)

But I know what you mean. If we examine the obstacles we face daily, we are heroes. No one else (with any common sense) would do this willingly.

Shelley Munro said...

This is such a great post, Maria. Sleep is the first thing to go when something is bothering me. I think we all have insecurities. Some of us hide them better than others.

Maria Zannini said...

Shelley: Insomnia is a big problem for me when I'm troubled. I don't know why either, cuz I know there's nothing I can do at that moment to change things. All I get are dark circles under my eyes. :)

Clarissa Draper said...

You are so amazing with your ideas. I know that many writers suffer from confidence issues. I like the small confidence building idea.

Nadja Notariani said...

Such wise advice, Maria! :}

As you read...I definitely have to smack down Inner Critic when she gets too bossy. But she scares me, too, if I'm to be totally honest. It keeps me on my toes. Ha.

Savannah Chase said...

Fantastic post...We as writers are our worst enemy when it comes to doubt and putting ourselves down. We are blind to what is really there at times.

Maria Zannini said...

Clarissa: It's called the school of hard knocks. LOL.

Nadja: I've always said a little fear keeps us from becoming prey.

Savannah: Thanks and welcome! And you're right. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.

Southpaw said...

It's nice to get those reminders every now and then. I think sometimes we lose track.

James Garcia Jr. said...

Yes, but it will be one hell of a footnote!!
I'm sorry to hear of your incubater issue. I laughed when you mentioned the scorpions and snake. In my head I was thinking, "Maria! Don't be ticking off members of the animal or insect community! Isn't it bad enough that you have had some nasty visitors already?!?".


Maria Zannini said...

Southpaw: I know sometimes I have to step back and look at the bigger picture.

Jimmy: Oh, Lord. I think it's too late for me now. If there's a mob family for grasshoppers, I could be toast.