Confidence Zappers and Confidence Boosters

It is extremely hard to write when our confidence has been zapped. Has anyone been there? I have been. *waves hand* Sometimes the funk lasts for a week or so. I’ve realized one thing. No one is going to pull me out of it except myself.

Confidence Zappers:

  • A first critique of your first chapter when you figured you didn’t have to revise because your writing was so good.
  • A first form rejection letter from an agent or editor.
  • A first or second or third negative review.
  • A first, second, third or fourth pass on a full manuscript request.
  • A hard critique after you’ve revised a million times.
  • Every time you jump on Twitter or the blue boards, all you see are book deals and agent signings. (Okay, this mainly is hard when you’re already down to begin with.)
  • You read a super, awesome, terrific, better than licking-the-brownie-batter-off-the- bottom-of-the-bowl book. The kind of book you wish you’d written. And realize you might never be able to. Or you feel that way.

Okay, these are just somewhat valid reasons why a writer could feel discouraged. There are always the invalid reasons like: it’s raining or the kids squeezed the toothpaste all over the sink and peed on the floor or you don’t like your new haircut or the wind changed directions or you’re exhausted. The list could go on forever.

Confidence Boosters:

  • Pressing send for the first time.
  • A first personal rejection with some compliments.
  • A first partial or full request.
  • I’m just going to guess and say signing with an agent or getting a book deal.
  • A kind, encouraging word from a writer friend.
  • The idea that self-publishing is losing its stigma. And is a valid option.
  • Brainstorming and getting ideas.
  • Feeling that first draft love.
  • The realization that rejections really aren’t personal.
  • Learning to separate yourself from the process. (Hard. To. Do.)
  • Watching a great movie or book and feeling inspired.

And I think the biggest confidence booster is having realistic expectations. To be able to judge your writing and realize you’re learning but still have work to do. And to be happy and content with where you are on the journey.

What pulls you out of a funk of discouragement? Or what puts you there?

38 Responses to Confidence Zappers and Confidence Boosters

  1. mooderino June 20, 2011 at 10:31 am #

    I used to get into a real state when I was on a downer but after enough time I noticed there was a cylce, that no matter how awful a state I got into it always got better (eventually) and when I was convicned of my own greatness (someoen had to be) that too faded. Now I pretty much ignore what I think of myself as a writer and get on with the writing. I’m not sure if it’s good or not, but I save a lot of wasted time.

    Follow me!

  2. terry lynn johnson June 20, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    Yes. These are all things I’ve gone through too. Especially when it seems like everyone is getting a book deal all around you! So much good news – which is great! But a tiny part wonders if there is any room left for another.

  3. Pat Newcombe June 20, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    For me it is simply getting stuck into my next project. I am always full of hope at the beginning of a new book. This is gonna be THE one??? At least it lifts me for a while…

  4. Sarah June 20, 2011 at 11:13 am #

    Yes. Been there, done that, and am there right now. Writing has such ups and downs. You’re right–realistic expectations are most healthy and balancing, but it can be hard to hold onto them because there’s so much information out there to pull us one way or the other.

  5. Katie Ganshert June 20, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    I had to laugh at your first confidence zapper b/c that was totally me. I remember sending 15 pages of my 2nd manuscript into a profesional critiquing service. I also remember secretly thinking they would send it back with something akin to, “Wow! This is amazing! I have nothing to tell you. But I’d love to put you in touch with my agent.”

    HA! Okay….maybe I wasn’t that confident. But I was slightly delusional.

    Needless to say, that is not what happened. Not even close. I had a lot, a lot, a lot to learn. After I crawled out of my hole and shook off the dirt, I grew leaps and bounds.

    I seriously see that first critique as a major turning point in my career as a writer.

  6. Susan Sipal June 20, 2011 at 11:35 am #

    Actually, I find pressing send even after many, many times still gives me a jolt of electricity! And definitely getting that acceptance e-mail or phone call works wonders. Can live off that for months. But the absolute best are the personal reviews from people you’ve never met and who have read and liked your work!

    Even with a few sales (short stories mostly), still the rejections come. They never get easier. And you have to harness the strength to focus on the next project, get excited about it, and get it out there.

    • Laura June 20, 2011 at 11:40 am #

      I have to agree with Mooderino. It’s all a cycle. Certain things may start the cycle but I go up and down and up and down. It’s just part of the writing life. 🙂 Thanks everyone!

  7. Heather Sunseri June 20, 2011 at 11:59 am #

    I love those lists. I’m just grateful that the positives balance out the negatives. We have to experience both to make the whole process worth it in the end.

  8. Sheri Larsen June 20, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    I’ll be honest. As much as I adore critiques, when a beta or CP finds something in my manuscript(s) that isn’t working for them, I tend to get down on myself–questioning my choices to high heaven. It’s worse when I really loved the element they’re questioning.

    To get myself out of that slump: to continue writing. That’s what I’ve done and through that I’m learning how to decipher what parts of critiques benefit me and those that I shouldn’t pay attention to. I think I’m strengthening my writer’s ear.

  9. Stina Lindenblatt June 20, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

    The big one for me is reading a book and realizing you’ll never write like that. Huge confidence zapper.

    The booster comes when you read a published book and think, “Hey, I write like that. I have hope.” 😀

  10. Susan Kaye Quinn June 20, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

    This last week at a writer’s workshop/retreat has really boosted my confidence – partly from the amazing positive energy of the class; partly from making headway in discovering flaws in my MS and how to fix them; partly from the praise of the instructor, a published author whose writing I admire.

    Thanks for the wonderful reminders that all those slumps are temporary!

  11. christine danek June 20, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    I kept nodding my head at each point. So true. Been down in the dumps a million times, but I bring myself out of it at some point. Writer friends help the best because they understand completely.
    I also keep writing, or if I think it’s absolutely needed, I take a break. Very. Hard. To do.

    • Laura June 20, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

      That’s true Stina, there are plenty of books out there that I read that are comparable to my writing or my friends’ writing. Regardless, I think shooting high is always the best thing! I’ve loved plenty of books that didn’t blow me away and leave me speechless.

  12. Creepy Query Girl June 20, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    those are all perfect examples. Getting possitive feedback from betas helps boost my confidence too!

  13. Louise June 20, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    How about sending out several queries and not getting any requests for a full? That sent me into a full-blown funk, until I had the brilliant idea of having people look at my query and tell me where it was going wrong – the problem wasn’t necessarily the story idea, just a query that made it sound dull!

    The whole self-publishing option has been encouraging for me. I know full well that my writing style and chosen genre are not what’s currently popular, so telling myself that even if no traditional publisher picks it up, I always have the choice of self-publishing to at least get a start on things, has encouraged me to keep on even if I’m not writing angst-y paranormal YA!

  14. Ava Jae June 20, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    So true!

    Any of those things can easily bring you down. I’ve also found a lack of ideas when between WIPs can be particularly crippling (which really doesn’t help when you’re trying to be especially creative at that stage).

    Confidence boosters! All of the things you mentioned of course are great confidence boosters. Talking to other writer friends helps as does reminding yourself the things you love about writing or your current WIPs.

    Great list!

  15. Ansha Kotyk June 20, 2011 at 1:48 pm #

    Great post Laura. I’ve been there with the toothpaste in the sink and the pee on the floor. 😉 recently as a matter of fact. I’m just getting over my first big rejection letter. And today I’m forcing myself to write the next book… although I’m finding excuses left and right. But I’m going to do it today… maybe after I get a new keyboard…

  16. MG Higgins June 20, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    Wonderful post. I wish there was a way to force the universe to provide a confidence booster right after a confidence downer. You know, ten minutes after getting a form rejection email, you get a partial request. That would be cool.

  17. Lydia K June 20, 2011 at 2:06 pm #

    Oh Laura, I’m so glad you wrote this! I really needed to hear some of the positive stuff. Writing. Is. Hard.

    • Laura June 20, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

      Oh and I agree. The first big rejections that really mean a lot to you are the hardest. I do think it gets easier after that. It’s like falling in love. You learn to protect your heart and guard your mind so the Rs don’t hurt as much. In that regard, it does get a little easier.

  18. Patti June 20, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    Positive feedback definitely helps my confidence. Also reading good books can either give me confidence, because I remember why I wanted to be a writer or it can zap because like you said you realize you will never be able to write like that.

  19. Tana Adams June 20, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

    Hearing from people who love my books is a HUGE confidence builder. Reading that people didn’t does rather deflate my budding ego. 😉

  20. Donna K. Weaver June 20, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

    Realistic expectations. That is so very true. AT a writing conference I attended in May, they gave an award for the person who received the most rejections. It was in the 300s.

    Yet the book just came out last week.

  21. Lisa Green June 20, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

    Oh what a perfect post! Yes, yes, yes! For me, I’m not sure I’ll ever REALLY separate myself from the process. And the best cure is writing something, I just have to force myself to start, then it takes over.

  22. Linda Gray June 20, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

    Laura, what a perfect list of zappers and boosters. I’ve felt every one of them!! The biggest, most important thing for me has been to separate myself from the process, as you put it. Or as one of my all-time-favorite writers on writing, James Scott Bell, puts it, develop rhinoceros skin. We’ve got to. It’s the only thing that lets us stay objective at all! Those kind words from writer friends make a huge difference, too, and I’m finding the blogging community to be a wonderful source for that.

  23. Kristen Wixted June 20, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    In boosters I could add first RT on Twitter and first blog follower/comment…then more and more of those.
    Good idea for a post!

    • Laura June 20, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

      Thanks for sharing everyone! I think publishing blog posts and getting responses from it definitely helps with confidence. And the blogging community is always helpful and encouraging!

  24. Dean K Miller June 20, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    I carry a copy of the magazine that my one, and only, (so far) published article appears in. When needed, I’ll browse through it and remind myself I can put words in the right order. I recall the process I went through, even with that one short piece. What a jazz that was!

    If that doesn’t pull me out completely, well there’s always chips and salsa!

    Great Post. Nice to be sharing the grief, and the joy, of the writing life.

  25. LynNerd June 20, 2011 at 5:06 pm #

    Wow, Laura, you sure hit the nail on the head. I think we can all relate. I get more discouraged when I’m exhausted, so a good night’s sleep does wonders. And those encouraging comments really do make us feel better. I agree that having super high expectations can set us up for disappointment, so we need to keep it all in perspective. Nice post.

  26. Ghenet Myrthil June 20, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

    I completely agree with these lists, and your final point. I’ve tried to manage my expectations when it comes to writing and publishing. So far it’s helped me feel much better about myself as a writer. 🙂

  27. Marcia June 20, 2011 at 5:57 pm #

    Reading a great book boosts my confidence. And yes, the idea that the publishing model is changing and may allow more people a chance does too.

  28. Theresa Milstein June 20, 2011 at 6:33 pm #

    I get in that lack-of-confidence place too, for the same reasons you give. It can also happen if I’m feeling low about other aspects of my life. Your list of getting out of it is a pretty good one. We have to keep at it to change our fortune.

  29. Leslie Rose June 20, 2011 at 6:34 pm #

    You hit the nail on the head with these lists. Betty Edwards in DRAWING ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BRAIN talks about a crisis period in art. When a child’s picture is criticized or misinterpreted it may cause them to stop drawing for the rest of their lives to avoid repeating that moment of hurt and rejection. I think as writer’s we go through a mini version of this with your zappers. I find validation from the outside – my critique group or beta readers boosts me out of a funk. A double scoop of Jamoca Almond Fudge never hurts either.

  30. Anna Staniszewski June 20, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

    Soooo true! I feel like the writing/publishing process is a constant back and forth between confidence zappers and boosters! No wonder we’re all a little nutty. 🙂

  31. Corey June 21, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

    Oh, this is SUCH a great post. Laura! (I tweeted) For me, I feel better getting a rejection if I know I have multiple manuscripts out. Right now, all my eggs in one basket (my publisher gets an exclusive because it’s int he contract) and it’s killing me!

  32. Dawn Simon June 22, 2011 at 2:10 am #

    It’s so important–and sometimes so hard–to be content with where you are on the journey! And yes, rejections are NOT personal! It sounds so obvious, but a thick skin can take time to grow.

    Something inspiring? When a talented friend who has worked hard signs with an agent or gets a book deal!

  33. linda June 22, 2011 at 3:09 am #

    Love the closing paragraph. Thanks for the great reminder.

  34. Margo Berendsen June 22, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

    I love how there is a positive to every negative! First draft love and reading a great book or a seeing a great movie are definitely big pick-me-ups!

    The only time a great book is confidance zapper is when it’s uncomfortably close to one of my ideas… so far it’s only happened once. Phew.

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