A nice Twittery person asked me about low confidence during a writing day, and if I had any words of encouragement, and I answered there, but I feel like it deserves a special call-out here, too:
Your first draft does not require your faith in it.
A lack of confidence is a bummer, but a lack of confidence in yourself or the work is so accursedly common that I’m not sure I’ve ever met a writer who didn’t grapple with it from time to time. And if I did, I think that person is probably a sociopath. Or Pierce Brown. Handsome devil, that Pierce Brown. Maybe the actual devil? I present to you the evidence:
Regardless, my point stands:
The work doesn’t need your confidence.
The work just needs the work.
What I mean is, if you can manage, push through. Recognize that we all have those days where we don’t believe in the thing we’re writing, but all it takes is to persevere and continue the effort. Your faith in it is invisible and illusory — words on a page are not ensorcelled by how much you believe in it. It’s not a fragile little sprite, it doesn’t require your clapping to come to life. Now, the caveat here is sometimes you still have to take a break and walk away — and that’s okay, too. Don’t walk away too long, but a short, non-permanent vacation from the work is super-cool, and sometimes essential. But then come back to it. Come back to the narrative and renew your effort.
Listen, some days where I’ve had the highest level of faith in what I was writing? The work wasn’t worth the keystrokes required. Sometimes the best days of writing actually result in the crappiest yield of quality words. Sometimes the worst, hardest, hardiest, most miserablest days make the best. Sometimes a bad day means bad words, and a good day means good words. You never know. All you can do, sometimes, is divorce the reality of words made from the unreality of author feels.
We are often the worst judges of our own work. Especially as we’re eyeballs deep in it. It’s like trying to figure out if you’re going to die while lost in the woods. You are or you aren’t; worrying about it isn’t gonna fix your problem. What will fix your problem is picking a direction and moving in it.
Just like writing.
Your first draft can be shit. That’s okay.
You always, always have a second draft if you need it.
And a third, a seventh, a seventh-seventh.
Your faith is not the keystone.
Your work, your thinking, your typey-typey writey-writey fingers?
That is what forms the backbone of the work.
Now go write, willya?
* * *
DAMN FINE STORY: Mastering the Tools of a Powerful Narrative
What do Luke Skywalker, John McClane, and a lonely dog on Ho’okipa Beach have in common? Simply put, we care about them.
Great storytelling is making readers care about your characters, the choices they make, and what happens to them. It’s making your audience feel the tension and emotion of a situation right alongside your protagonist. And to tell a damn fine story, you need to understand why and how that caring happens.
Whether you’re writing a novel, screenplay, video game, or comic, this funny and informative guide is chock-full of examples about the art and craft of storytelling–and how to write a damn fine story of your own.