It annoys me when people say “you have to believe in yourself!”
Do you? Do you really? I think of the people I’ve met who really believed in themselves. There’d be one in every writing class. They’d submit some unreadable, meandering block of prose with no plot, no characters, and often no paragraph indents. As a critic, I had a hard task to pull something useful, something constructive to say. So I’d say something like, “Well, maybe if you picked a point of view to follow through the scene, I’d be able to get a better sense of what’s going on?”
The Person Who Believes In Himself would smile, amused at my naivete, and say, “I write cinematically. You wouldn’t understand.”
So the next time, the next Person Who Believes in Themself, I would try a different approach. “So I get what you’re trying to do here, but I don’t understand what’s really happening? Why is this character doing this?”
“You don’t understand my VISION. It’ll all be explained in volume twelve. Just mark the typos!”
There are a lot of people who Believe In Themselves. It’s why, I think, a lot of writers are wary of offering critique.
Not to put it all on the other guy. There’s some bitter jealousy in me. I never had that kind of self-regard. Why did I spend the past forty years so sure I suck when these guys didn’t have to?
Well – I did suck when I was a newbie; I was right not to believe in myself.
Here’s the thing: It is not necessary to believe in yourself. I’m living proof. I don’t believe in my work, in my ability to do the work, or that anyone will want to read this crap.
It’s not necessary that a writer believe anything. It is necessary that she WRITE.
Those guys (and gals) I met who were SO SURE they had a vision? I don’t see them publishing. And I think I know why. Not just because a resistance to critique left them unable to absorb advice and improve their writing.
Eventually, they had to hit a point where they weren’t sure any more. Or they decided to write something ELSE and it wasn’t their vision-project they’d been daydreaming about since they were five and they didn’t know how to write without that surety.
Remember, it is necessary to write. To write uninspired. To write depressed. To write with the cold certainty that you are wasting your time. If I couldn’t do that? I wouldn’t have finished any project, because the shortest short piece I’ve written had at least one sentence composed in utter faithlessness.
Believing in yourself feels good. Too good. It’s a trap. Don’t rely on it.