Monday, 8 August 2011

Confidence R Us...is I... Me... oh, you know what I mean

On my list of worries there sits:
1. Getting older
2. Getting wider (from the typo ‘wiser’)
3. Getting Alzheimers
4. Getting up. As in Not Liking It Very Much.

I don’t like to set goals because when I don’t achieve them I never heal from the bruises I get after beating myself up about it. And the bruises never make way for thicker skin. They just make me feel madder – with myself. Hence the absence of New Years Resolutions - never make them, never break them.

And although I like to blame my parents for most of my shortcomings (which makes it doubly easier when they’re somewhere they can’t take issue – hint: rhymes with Devon, letters – 7) I’m not sure how much longer I can realistically expect them to shoulder the burden of my lack of self-assurance.

I mean, surely BY NOW I should have grown up, moved on,  accepted things and dealt with these issues of self-confidence?

SURELY?

I became an adult – meaning I got through adolescence which is a battlefield in itself, right - all those wrong turns, all those difficult choices? I have married - twice but who’s counting? I have given birth - once and that was quite enough thank you - I'm not good with pain. I have been bereaved so many times it’s going to take me a l-o-n-g time to get through the welcome committee at the end of my own particular tunnel of light come My Time....
And I have made decisions in my life.
Not all of which turned out… well, brilliantly (see puberty back there). But who knows? Maybe bad decisions are rubbish for a reason – for a higher purpose than we can ever know in this world?

And one of my decisions was to write a book. Something that I know without even having to consider it for a millisecond, my parents would BOTH not believe me capable of achieving.  Much less add another 5 to the list.

I still remember the euphoria of typing ‘The End’ at the *ahem* end of my first attempt (see, even now I doubt calling it a real ‘book’ because it didn’t make the Grade and get published – but does that make it any less a proper ‘book’? I don’t know). (Is this like the tree falling in a forest and nobody there to hear it or am I mixing my metaphors again?). Anyway…
The euphoria….
Was short-lived it has to be said. I’d love to say I remember tearing the page out of the typewriter with feverish hands and leaping half-naked around my garret making squeaking noises that would shame the squeakiest of creatures (I’m so good with these analogies - I’m SUCH a natural, right?).
But not really. I simply watched the cursor cagily spit out out the letters ‘t’ ‘h’ ‘e’ ‘e’ ‘n’ ‘d’ and half a beat later, deleted them.
I sat back, thoroughly puzzled with what I thought I’d done.
Surely not?
I must be mistaken. There’s NO WAY I could’ve written a book.
Word count beamed at me from a bar and announced I had written in excess of 120,000 words so I must have.
Well, hadn’t I?
I tried typing ‘the end’ in a different font then deleted it.
I capitalised the first letters and deleted it again.
It was too easy to type ‘The End’. Surely if it was this simple, then everybody would be doing it?
And no Tippex was harmed during this particular execution, therefore doubly doubtful.

And there was nobody around to confirm or dispute the fact that I was ALLOWED to write ‘the end’, much less decide that this. Was. It. The End.
*gulp*

Maybe I’d got confused and had just written a really long shopping list without noticing the absence of bread and eggs.
Perhaps I’d just had one v-e-r-y l-o-n-g moan about how sh*t my life had been; aren’t most first attempts/books meant to be more memoir-y than subsequent? I couldn’t very well produce that as a bonafide Book, surely?

Briefly I allowed myself to imagine it already published in it’s shiny mauve cover with a rat wearing a wedding dress peering dolefully through it’s Perspex cage on the front – oh, it was called “Labrats” in case you’re thinking my imagination has gone way past the over-active stage and into the realms of proper Psychosis. And I also allowed myself a little shiver of anticipation at the thought.
I already had a desk in the corner of Watertsones – WHSmith at a push – and I was gaily scribbling my signature on the first page for my expectant readers. My Readers. My God! And I was in the local papers. Not front page you understand, but three or four perhaps. With the heading of ‘Local author signs books for local people in her local bookshop’ or something like that. I’m not good with headlines.

I wanted, no, needed to tell somebody. Of course the first to come to mind was my mum and dad. But even if I’d had a decent connection, I swear the conversation would still have gone something like:
“I’ve just finished writing a book…. (reply) you know, the book I said I was writing? (reply) well, I've been writing a book (reply) um...three years actually but…. (reply) no, no, it’s probably not a real book…(reply) yes …(reply)… no (reply) no… (reply) okay I can hear the adverts are finishing now, sorry … no, you don’t have to call back later, it’s fine."

So this happened anyway – but in my head.

Because I’m not good with the self-confidence thing. And I know precisely why but for the life of me I still don’t know how to grab it by the scruff and shake it up until it becomes my best friend. Or at least doesn't cross to the other side of the road when it sees me waiting.

How do you find it?
How do you get it and how do you keep it?
And is it fully self-supporting or does it require external validation?

Answers please.

14 comments:

Derek said...

Hi Debs, thanks for voicing on paper (okay, screen) what many of us think in our heads from time to time.

I think the 'grade' is completing the book? What happens after that is not entirely within your control, so it seems folly to judge your success by factors we can't influence 100%.

It helps to have a supportive community who know what it's like to write in isolation and then edit in isolation and then submit... well, you get the picture!

(And it's 6 letters to rhyme with Devon - although we do have St Levan here in Cornwall!)

Debs Riccio said...

Aaaargh - THIS is why I have a calculator too, Derek! Heaven's above (did you see what I did there?!)

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Debs, I feel really moved by your post. I WANT to see your mauve cover - it sounds wonderful and I can visualise it, with that great title. And yes, this confidence thing is soooo hard.
Susiex

Julia said...

What a lovely post - humorous and poignant.

No idea what the answers are to the last bit (let me know if you find out, please!) but I'm guessing external validation somewhere along the line is crucial.

Julia

Fionnuala said...

Debs, your posts always move me and make me laugh, not something every writer can do. As one of the few people who got to read some of Labrats way back when - I remember feeling the same ie it was both funny and moving.
You are doing something right. Hang onto that.
Try walking down the stairs and on each step tell yourself something positive about your writing. This exercise HAS to be done out loud! x

Dan Holloway said...

fabulous post. I have no idea about bottling self-confidence. I see writers on twitter all the time who seem to have it. They can't *really* believe it, I find myself thinking. Maybe they do.

I think the opposite of what Julia says - that self-confidence probably has to come completely separately from external validation. I think it's rather like getting clean - help from the outside will smooth your path, but ultimately it has to come from a place inside you. I wrote a long, rather agonised, ipece about it at the start of the year in a resolution-y kind of spirit (http://eightcuts.com/2011/01/03/dealing-with-your-moment-in-the-sun-the-writer-and-self-belief/) and I think I concluded that the essential foundation from whcih you can start to build self-belief is sticking to telling your own personal truth, whatever that may be, because if you can tell yourself you've done that, there's nothing left to undermine you

Debs Riccio said...

Wow Dan, that's some positively uplifting stuff you're saying there - thanks.
Fi, bless your heart, I remember those WW days with such fondess, and I'd never have even thought about getting published if it hadn't been for you guys (and that's a double-edged sword, eh?!)
Susie, mauve - I know - and that little Rat's face has always been at the forefront of my mind - I should paint the pesky blighter out of my head, shouldn't I?!
Julia - thanks for saying nice things - every nice thing counts as far as I'm concerned...
YOU GUYS ..... ! *sob*

The Time Sculptor said...

Hello Debs, just wanted to add my voice to all those saying that your post is touching and hil-flippin-arious! Deliciously dark humour at times - and Heaven may only be 6 letters, Derek, but Debs was obviously employing artistic licence with 7... for the love of rhyme!
Jane Gray

Marilyn said...

Hey, Debs, there you go again, being in my head! (Except for the whole, y'know, writing a book thing... I still have to do that...) I am DYING to read the book, where is it??? How much is it?? Will you sign it for me? The most confident people I have ever met are, quite frankly, absolutely RUBBISH at what they do. And the people with no confidence? Absolutely brilliant. Why is that? You have probably hit the nail on the head when you highlight your upbringing - my parents would have said exactly the same things. It's really funny but I was discussing the subject of confidence over the weekend and the conclusion reached was - well, to be honest, there wasn't one. Even a best-selling, well-published author can be daunted. ('Oh yes, I was successful THEN but what about next time, eh??!) It is one of those thingies, a conundrum. I think all authors are very very brave indeed. They are ALWAYS going to have critics, and some really bad reviews, even if their work is brilliant. (Jealous peeps, you see.) I'm not an author, as yet but I am always mortified if a comment I've left anywhere online is criticised or scorned. It bothers me for days. Maybe the answer is that there is no answer. Or you could try yoga? I've yet to try that but have heard great things about it. Thanks for making me laugh today, and you keep at it, your writing is brill!! xxx

Debs Riccio said...

Marilyn, bless your heart - my day-apart-twin... did you see Ronnie Corbett's thing on TV over the w/end? I was incredibly warmed with what David Mitchell was saying about how thin the line is between terrible self-confidence and outright megalomania (although he worded it slightly better than me) and that he didn't think he could've become a comedian without the support of someone with the same mad dreams i.e. Robert Webb.
And Jane thank you for saying that, you've made me flush with pride, no you have! (You're right, there WAS a bit of poetic license going on somewhere in my brain I'm sure).
YOU LOVELY PEOPLE!

Jane Lovering said...

Debs, my mother has been presented with each of my (now four) novels and has accepted each with a shudder and the comment "why can't you write *nice* books?" as though I write about serial-killing paedophiles, rather than light romantic comedies. But I still keep giving her a copy. She's even told me not to tell anyone she knows what I do, in case they connect us...
It just makes me even more determined to write, which is sometimes useful.
And yes, finishing a novel is 'being a writer'. Publishing that novel is just the icing on the cake. Be proud. So many people would love to do it, but just can't be arsed - you are the queen of 'arsedness'.

Marilyn said...

No, I didn't see the Ronnie Corbett thing but I will watch it now - thank goodness for Replay/internet/iplayer thingies. Confidence is so variable though, here one day and gone the next, in my experience. It all seems to hinge on our perception of our own abilities and other people's opinions of us and our actions. Your post has given me something to really think about today (and my head is hurting now!)(A lot.) :) x

Fiona Faith Maddock said...

Great post, and touching. I sympathise. The self doubt thing affects us all, I'm sure.

Debs Riccio said...

Thanks Fiona, and Jane - our mothers must've been from the same generation - if it ain't Mills 'n' Boon it ain't proper fiction!