Last week I talked about how to freshen up tired tropes in world buildling. How to look at what's out there and make conscious choices about which pieces of your world should be similar and which should be different.
And I realized that trusting yourself and your story is a huge part of that. Those doubt demons talk out of both sides of their mouth, telling you either that if you aren't copying the masters, no one will read your story AND, at the same time, that your work is too similar to the last bestseller, too derivative to stand on its own.
The best way to get those doubt demons to pipe down enough for us to get back to our world buildling is to trust our stories, and ourselves. But let's face it, trust can so easily be eroded by the sales/publication piece of the writing process. Sending our words out into the world (whether to editors or agents or readers or contest judges or reviewers, what have you) is so rejection filled and anxiety inducing that it can destroy writer confidence, especially for those who are writing outside the narrow and ever-changing sliver that is the Hot Industry Trend of the Moment™.
And yet, to create the best stories, the ones that are personal and richly resonant and moving, we have to trust ourselves, our craft, our experience, and trust that we’ve captured that in our story. This is exactly why the myth of getting thicker skin doesn’t work for me—that vulnerability and openness to exploring the human condition makes stories great and I find it incredibly difficult to switch back and forth between that vulnerability while I’m writing and that thick skin when I’m selling.
It’s not all about mindset/trust/confidence--there are craft reasons that stories don’t work. I make a living helping authors identify and fix those craft weaknesses. But recently I’ve realized that there’s a little more to storytelling than world building or snappy dialogue or how character arcs work. And that something more is all about rebuilding that self-confidence so that you’re able to take risks with your writing again. Even when things don’t sell. Even when the reviews aren’t what you want them to be. Even when you get passed up for the big award or the starred review. Trusting your gut to tell you when an unconventional idea is brilliant or when it’s leading you astray. Trusting your gut on which story to write and which one to save for later.
Sometimes the process of writing can feel like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks, a constant state of pivot, pivot, pivot until you reach the next milestone or find some measure of success. But even then, if you don’t have that trust in yourself and what you’re trying to do, you don’t know WHY a certain piece of spaghetti stuck or how to throw it next time so that it sticks in the same way, or a better way. Or what to do when the surface of that wall changes and the spaghetti no longer sticks at all.
I think I’ve beaten that metaphor to death now, so I’ll close with this: Find a way back to your writing self-confidence. A way to listen to your intuition, your gut, your muse, whatever you call it. Because that’s where the magic happens.
Hope to see you there!
PS - If your confidence is flagging and you're not sure what your next step is, send me a message. I'd be happy to help!