This post, from mainstream-published author Laini Taylor, originally appeared on her Grow Wings blog on 3/1/09.
I’m not quite sure why I got started thinking about this today, but I did. I have an acquaintance who is a very gifted writer but suffers crippling self-doubt that has, so far, prevented her from achieving her dream of writing — and publishing — a novel.
She soul-searches a lot and goes in cycles, up and down, and the ups are beautiful and full of epiphanies, the kind of epiphanies out of which beautiful writing blooms. Just, so far the ups have not been sustained long enough for an entire book to make its way into the world. Doubt rolls back around and derails her.
I suffer cycles too. Really, every writer I know has them: the peaks and troughs of good writing days versus bad ones. Euphoria to despair and back again.
For those of us who have made it through and finished a book as well as we possibly can . . . how did we? I was thinking about this acquaintance, rooting for her and wondering what it might take for her to pull it off, and the word "confidence" entered my mind.
But no, I thought. That’s not it. Confidence is not what it takes to finish a book. I mean, it’s great if you’ve got it, but you don’t need it. What you do need is determination, and that’s something that’s easier to come by. I think, anyway. Confidence is this kind of full trust in one’s abilities, and I most certainly did not have that when I was writing Blackbringer. I did, however, have a mulish determination to do it. It wasn’t that I knew I could do it, it was that I really really wanted to. I mean, really really. Really.
And that, as it turned out, was enough. You don’t have to believe in yourself all the time; you don’t have to read self-help books and fix your self-esteem problems before you can succeed. You just have to be stubborn and keep on and keep on. Instead of the Little Engine saying "I know I can, I know I can," you can, to be cornball, instead be the Little Engine that says, "I won’t quit, I won’t quit." It’s kind of easier. For me, anyway.