Monday, February 5, 2007

Writing with confidence (but not too much)

This morning I found myself in an interesting conversation over on literary agent Nathan Bransford's blog. The comments on his most recent post are all over the board, but one thing that came up was the issue of confidence. In essense, how much ego should there be in writing? Writing well is certainly something that one can legitimately feel good about, but my thought is that there is a "magic" amount of confidence that is most conductive to 1) being able to write at all, and 2) continuously improving your writing ability.

To my mind, you need to be arrogant enough to press onward in the face of the nearly insurmountable odds that all new writers face, and yet you also need to be humble enough to recognize that everything you write isn't gold. There seem to be some writers who almost think of themselves as being godlike just for having finished writing a book at book at all, but they don't know just how many other people have also already finished unpublishable books. I certainly didn't know. I guess I kind of assumed that if you finshed a book, it would probably get published.

At any rate, arrogance like that means one thng: you'll never grow, because you'll never see your faults past your own ego. If you're going to be that touchy when anyone makes a suggestion to you, people are going to stop offering suggestions--but you might find that no one is offering representation, either.

On the flip side, I've seen too many people who just assume that writing a book is impossible, and so never even try. Or those who find out that writing is harder than they thought at first and then just quit. I hate to say it, but there are probably even people who complete legitimately good, publishable books, but who give up when they see the mountain of work, stress, and probably rejection that comes with actually getting it published. Or those who let a rejection or five stop them in their tracks.

Well, I don't think anyone claims that writing is easy. Lots of people in the business have written that it takes a "certain amount of insanity" to actually become a writer, and I think they are right. It's a special breed, that kind of person who is so weirdly confident and insecure at the same time. But that's the only type of person who's going to make it through the publishing gauntlet, save those with uncanny natural talents or unusual (possibly celebrity) connections.

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