Confidence can cripple or catapult your writing.

My son has stated more than once he wants to be a professional baseball player. But, hey, I’ve stated I want to publish books. I don’t judge people’s dreams.

His first step toward the major leagues and making millions a year was All Star tryouts for a U11 summer league.

There were 45 kids trying out for 15 spots. No pressure.

I cheered him on. Every time he fumbled the ball, a part of me was crushed. Every time he made a good catch I wanted to leap around and shout for joy.

At the end of the 3 hours, he was tired. The balls coming at him were harder and faster than he was used to. And his confidence dipped way below average. His shoulders slumped. He moved slower. And he couldn’t field even one ball. Not one. Even ones he normally could.

While he waited his turn, he’d wipe the tears with his shirt. I tried not to burst into a fit of blubbering on the sideline. My throat ached. My heart broke. I wanted to hug him so bad. I would’ve battled giants and slayed dragons to reach him.

With his confidence sapped, his ability to play dropped significantly.

Later that day, I used my mommy powers to encourage him. I said, “If you really want this and want to make the team next year then you need to put in more time. You need to sacrifice swimming time this summer and ask Dad to hit balls with you at the park. Twice a week, for an hour.”

I went on to tell him that the surrounding towns have better organized baseball programs. Other teams practice 2 times a week and hit the batting cages. His team had one practice a week due to lack of field space.

He perked up. He understood. He had a plan. And he was willing to make the sacrifice.

Are you?

44 Responses to Confidence can cripple or catapult your writing.

  1. D U Okonkwo June 17, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    Great post and very true! In order to do something and be successful at it, we have to strive for excellence, and be willing to work hard. I for one don’t want to do anything that’s mediocre or shabby – excellence is definitely the key. And it’s when we strive for that excellence, we do better, and our confidence grows. You gain more confidence when you know you’ve put the work in than when you haven’t.

  2. anne gallagher June 17, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    I’ve been hitting balls with my daughter, catching flies, practicing running the bases for the last 3 years. Believe it or not. This year, she was finally old enough to NOT play on the T-ball league. She was old enough to play real baseball. The kid has an arm like you wouldn’t believe. Do you think she would join the team after wanting to for so many years? Of course not.

    I have a feeling she’s waiting for something bigger, some extraordinary moment in the future to be able to use her obvious baseball ability.

    She’s a very scary child.

    As for me, I’m sitting on the sideline, banging away at my keys, waiting for my chance at greatness.

  3. Jennifer Shirk June 17, 2011 at 10:39 am #

    Good story. Your poor son. But you taught him a good a lesson about working hard for what you truly want. 🙂

  4. Sarah June 17, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    What I love here is how you link confidence to meaningful action. It’s not just, “I can do this!” It’s “I can do this because I will put in deliberate, systematic work.” (And, as a mom, I’m totally choked up thinking of you and your son going through that–part of life, of course, and it will be awesome for him in the long run, but it always hurts.)

  5. mooderino June 17, 2011 at 10:45 am #

    I think you’re right about confidence affecting performance, but often this gets translated into artificially boosting confidence as though that will improve performance.

    I think failure, especially at an early age is valuable experience. The only way to get that confidence is to train harder and put in the effort.


  6. Andrea June 17, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    Kudos to you for not running over and trying to make it better, and letting your son have this awesome learning opportunity!

    I take exception to the fact that you say you are “waiting for your chance at greatness” because I think it’s more like you are “working towards” your chance at greatness.

    • Laura June 17, 2011 at 11:02 am #

      Right, disappointment is def. important part of life but it’s how we react to it and what we do with it. I think kids are sheltered too much from failing these days. So yes, it was a great experience but hard.

  7. linda June 17, 2011 at 11:09 am #

    I admire you for the way you encouraged your son and provided him with concrete steps to pursue his goal, while being clear that reaching your goal takes hard work and sacrifice. Thanks for the reminder.

  8. Heather Sunseri June 17, 2011 at 11:39 am #

    This is so true, Laura! We had a similar experience with our son and soccer this year. It’s a good lesson in figuring out if you really want that one thing. Are you ready to make that sacrifice and a new plan to step it up? And, yes, I totally see the parallel into our writing goals.

  9. Ryan June 17, 2011 at 11:51 am #

    It all comes down to making that value judgment. Im finding it hard to make the right sacrifices because I just worry about whether or not im going to make it, whether i will see validation of my sacrifice.

    I know that im just putting the sacrifices off, procrastinating, because making sacrifices is hard, and i know that it will be worth it. I just need to take the leap and do it

  10. Wendy June 17, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

    There are certainly sacrifices to be made if you want to gain strides in ball playing and in writing.

    I have friends that call and insist I get out b/c I’m ususally so wrapped up in a novel. And we won’t even talk about what doesn’t get cleaned around here. 😉
    ~ Wendy

    • Laura June 17, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

      Ryan, you bring up the most scary part about this. We make the sacrifice not knowing if it will pay off career wise. But we’ll never know until we try!

  11. christine danek June 17, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    I am and am working my butt off to get it. Some things do get sacrificed around here and my hubs is finally understanding why.
    Sounds like your son will get there.

  12. Donna K. Weaver June 17, 2011 at 12:08 pm #

    Way to go, Mom! I’ve got kids who’ve inspired me to persevere. Some of us are late bloomers, I guess.

  13. Nelsa June 17, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    Great post, Laura. And the best part about making those sacrifices, putting in that time, if you really love what you’re doing – it won’t seem like sacrifices. Good luck to your son as he puts his dreams in motion! And as you continue to keep yours moving as well!

  14. Creepy Query Girl June 17, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

    it is SO hard to see our kids fall or have their confidence pummeled. I know how you feel. But it sounds like he has the right attitude (thanks to a great mom) and hopefully both your dreams will come true. Yes, I am one of those ‘do the time’ people too as I suppose most of the long term writer bloggers around here are.

  15. Stina Lindenblatt June 17, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

    This is a lesson I’ve been teaching my kids too. If life was so easy, where would the satisfaction be? I believe it’s the hard work and sacrifice that makes success sweeter. But this concept is difficult for kids to grasp, which is why it’s our job to guide them to that conclusion and encourage them not to give up if they really want something. 😀

  16. Ansha Kotyk June 17, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    A good friend who pursued his dream once said to me, “It’s all a matter of how bad you want it.”

    How bad do you want your dream? Enough to sacrifice for it? Yup. You don’t find dreams in the couch cushions while watching TV. 😉

  17. Sheri Larsen June 17, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

    My heart breaks for your son, but you handled it perfectly. I’ve been there with my kids, too.

    My husband sells this pitch all the time: belief in yourself leads to success. He is all about that. Positive thoughts breed more positive thoughts and draw good things to you. It’s easy to get down, though, during personal trials. That’s why having sound advice from a wonderful person (aka Mom) is vital. This post totally intertwines with the writing community. 🙂

  18. Louise June 17, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    It scares me sometimes, the way a lot of my generation assumes that we can *do anything we dream of!* without making any effort or sacrifice. I think a lot of us are going too far in the opposite direction with out own kids, telling them outright that some dreams are impossible. Me, I MUCH prefer your approach – that if you want this, you have to make sacrifices, and I will make whatever sacrifices I need to help you, but it has to be you doing the work, giving up other fun things to follow this dream.

    Because yes, we can accomplish our wildest dreams (like being published!), but ONLY if we are willing to work, and work HARD, for them.

    Awesome post!

  19. Marcia June 17, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    Great encouragement on your part, Laura. He’s so fortunate to learn NOW that his own effort has everything to do with making it happen.

  20. Laura Marcella June 17, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

    Wow, awesome post, Laura. Such a simple two-word question at the end that gives lots to think about!

    Good luck to your son and I hope he has fun with it, too!

  21. Lydia K June 17, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    I wish you and your son lots of luck in reaching your dreams! It’s true, you have to put in a lot of work, especially for a dream that isn’t easy to achieve.

  22. MG Higgins June 17, 2011 at 1:48 pm #

    Lovely post–my heart was breaking for your son (and you) but you ended on a beautiful note of hope. And, yes, this is a great analogy for wanting a writing career.

  23. Angela Felsted June 17, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

    I hope so. It’s always easier to dream than to put in the work.

    • Laura June 17, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

      Thanks everyone! I think as writers we all know about sacrifice. As a mom, I just want to protect my kids from life but in reality they need these trials to grow and become stronger teens and adults. They don’t realize that it’s just as hard on us!

  24. Susan Sipal June 17, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    Wow, what a great post and wonderful comments! This is obviously something we all face not only as writers, but those of us who are parents as well. And it’s such a delicate balance, because in my family and with my kids, overconfidence can also be a problem. I know I’ve sent my work out too early because I was so in love with it that I couldn’t see the flaws. And my son definitely slides on the overconfident side when he misjudges his need to study for exams! 🙁

    • Laura June 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

      Susan – so is that over confident? Or naivety? I think when writers send queries out too early it’s lack of experience. Lack of knowing how to truly judge your writing. And letting dreams blind reality. Thinking that I can be the one that bypasses the hard work and makes it the first time. I don’t know. What do you all think?

      Though it’s extremely hard not to send queries out early. It’s always better to err on the waiting side.

  25. Lisa Green June 17, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

    OMG Laura – you are the BEST Mom ever. You did just the right thing. My heart would be broken too. I hate watching my kids fail even though I know it’s part of life. But YES having a plan can really bolster confidence. I always tell mine that if you work hard enough you can do it. But you have to put in the work! 😀 Guess that goes for us too?? LOL

  26. Susan Sipal June 17, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

    I think it’s a bit of both, Laura. Naivety definitely plays a part, but speaking only for myself personally, I was a bit overconfident because I DID sell the first thing I ever wrote. In the end, it was not a blessing.

    • Laura June 17, 2011 at 5:00 pm #

      Susan – Yes, I guess an early acceptance would definitely skew reality. 🙂

  27. write-brained June 17, 2011 at 6:13 pm #

    Without a doubt, ABSOLUTELY!!!!!!!!!

    “I would’ve battled giants and slayed dragons to reach him.” <—oh yeah, me too, for my baby boy!

  28. Alex J Cavanaugh June 17, 2011 at 10:11 pm #

    We get zapped enough, everything about us drops.
    Glad you were able to raise his spirits.

  29. Jemi Fraser June 17, 2011 at 11:08 pm #

    It’s so good to have a plan! It does help us focus on our goals and take those positive steps towards them! Hope you son enjoys practising and moving forward.

    PS – I tagged you over at my blog today 🙂

  30. Pam Torres June 17, 2011 at 11:23 pm #

    OMG I remember those heartache moments as you watch your own child struggle to succeed. Great reminder that we have to keep the goal in sight. I have a question, oh wise one, how do you combat the anguished impatience telling you that if you don’t get it done, someone will take your idea? I’m always reminding myself that I’m the only one that can tell this story. The truth is that anyone can tell this story but perhaps not the way I do. I sometimes feel myself drowning in cyberspace in a self-imposed race for a publisher. What are some of your woe-Nelly tricks? 🙂

  31. Jennifer Hoffine June 18, 2011 at 1:45 am #

    Aww. My heart was breaking right there with you and him. My daughter struggles and works to improve at her sports while others seem to have it come naturally…it kills me to watch sometimes.

    The good news is that positive feelings can improve performance as much as the negative can bring it’s hoping his plans for improvement have that effect.

  32. Carolina Valdez Miller June 18, 2011 at 9:35 am #

    Yes! That’s what makes it a dream. I’ve always said that. If you aren’t sacrificing, then it’s probably not really a dream. Just something you like. That was a great lesson for your kiddo.

  33. Traci Kenworth June 18, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    More than one time I’ve wanted to give up, but somehow I’ve always managed to hang on, to continue my dream. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that I’m stubborn. I don’t walk away without a reason. I LOVE what I do and that gets me through all the fears, shattered confidence, and stalled moments. I will succeed someday, I’ve seen proof of that from the people around me. You just can’t go at this job half-hearted, you have to give it your all. And continue the dream.

    P.S. I hope your son’s dreams come true!!

  34. Rosalind Adam June 18, 2011 at 11:58 am #

    I’ve arrived via Jemi’s blog. I really felt for you standing on the sidelines as well as for your son and his tear-stained jersey.

    Confidence is relevant to so many parts of our lives. It’s a shame it’s not taught as a separate subject in school… and talking of schools, the kids all know if a member of staff is less than confident and they don’t hesitate to ‘slam those balls’ at the teacher.

  35. Susan Kaye Quinn June 18, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

    Amazing how easy it is to see in someone else (and god my heart would have been smashed on the floor), and so hard to see in ourselves. But so true.

  36. Gina Blechman June 18, 2011 at 8:43 pm #

    Great post. So encouraging. Your son is lucky to have you to cheer him on. I hope you have some cheerleaders of your own.

    <3 Gina Blechman

  37. Ghenet June 19, 2011 at 11:02 pm #

    Good for you son for picking himself back up and agreeing to do the work to make his dream come true. 🙂 We all have to do this as writers.

  38. Samantha Verant June 20, 2011 at 7:33 am #

    Amen, sister! What an awesome post! And very true. When my confidence wanes, I can’t get anything done – even with a team of cheerleaders (writers) rooting me on. It’s hard to snap back into the “zone” and it takes training and dedication.

  39. Leslie Rose June 22, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    This is so true. Confidence is our foundation. One of my students was giving a speech in front of the school and she had a little glitch in the beginning. I watched her stumble through the rest of a speech she’d practiced flawlessly for a week. It’s scary how fast confidence can wane sometimes.

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