Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Where do you find confidence?

Saturday night I had an interesting conversation at the wedding reception. This conversation has started a new train of thought and I would like your input. First, some background.

One of my greatest weaknesses is a lack of confidence. I don't know if it's low self-esteem, perfectionist tendencies that cause me to see every little mistake, a combination of both, or something else entirely. My hubby and I talked about it on the way home and considered false modesty and a desperate need for validation (ties back to self-esteem I think). Anyway, I spent three days making this wedding cake (see this post) and went through some major ups and downs with it. I won't go into detail, because I'm going to use the process in a series of posts and relate it to writing. :) I'm awesome like that.

The time came to deliver the cake, set it up and then rush home to get dressed up for the party. I had reached a point of calm with the product I had produced. A friend traveled with me to help and I had a moment of "wow, this is almost like a cake show on Food Network". Almost. I've only made cakes for family in the past. The receptions have always been in the gym at church. This reception was in a very nice reception hall.

Staff were running around (in a very efficient, well oiled machinery kind of way) getting everything ready. I felt very inexperienced and suddenly terrified. I had visions of local professional bakers bringing amazing cakes in to this same place.

The manager asked me, "So where are you based?"

"Um, my kitchen at home." The words stumbled out and I felt about one inch tall. What was he thinking about my cake? Then I realized I could have just said the name of my town and left it at that. I'm an idiot sometimes.

Then he asked if the couple were keeping the top tier and if I brought a box for it. A box? Um, I didn't know I was supposed to supply a box for it. *head slap* It does kind of make sense though doesn't it? I wanted to crawl in a hole and plead mercy for being new at this fancy world of weddings. Let's go back to the gym! I know what I'm in for there.

I set the cake up and decide I like it after all. The cracks and imperfections were nicely hidden behind flowers and leaves, and it didn't tilt nearly as much as I feared.

Later, at the reception...I felt the need to apologize to everyone I knew about the cake. Why? I was generally happy about it, but felt that I should not have made the mistakes that I did. (Once again, wait for the future posts.) No one else noticed. No one else cared. My biggest fear was there would not be enough cake to go around--probably my only valid fear.

Anyway, to the conversation I mentioned in the beginning.

This friend turns to me and says, "You should hang out with a consultant for a day."

"Oh, yeah. That would be great because I could ask all my questions."

"No, that's not what I meant. I mean they usually think and act like they have the greatest product in the world and maybe some of that confidence would rub off on you."

And the wheels started turning. He is so right! I rambled on and off all night about my worries with the cake. What was I looking for? Validation that I succeeded, or for someone to accept my apology for it not being perfect? Where was my confidence in my own ability?

I worked hard. I solved problems as they came up, changing when I needed to, sticking to the things I knew worked. In the end it all came together. Even if there were cracks hidden under the roses,  it didn't fall over and it tasted like heaven. That has never been one of my worries. I know my cakes are worth it simply for the flavor. {Oh, I found some confidence there ;)}

How many of us have the same problem with our writing? We must reach a point where we believe in ourselves and stop apologizing for our writing. So what if we aren't published yet? That doesn't mean our writing is substandard. It just means we haven't reached that goal yet.

I need to reach a certain level of confidence before I start querying. My wishy washy, needy sniveling is not going to get me an agent. Belief in my ability to sell myself and my novel will. End of story...or the beginning of the next one.

So, how/where do you find confidence? 

I find confidence in the comments on my writing, and in comparing my draft to the most recent revised scene. Seeing progress gives me confidence! That means as long as I keep trying, I keep feeding my own ego. Not too shabby! And of course I have some awesome friends that tell me I'm amazing at least twice a week.