When I was in high school, I was incredibly shy and insecure. At least that’s how I remember myself; people sometimes tell me I was boisterous and funny, and maybe I was, but it was an act. Since I didn’t think I was thin or pretty (and, at the time, I thought my entire value rested on those two things) I didn’t think anyone would like me if I wasn’t funny, so I made a point of being as entertaining as possible. Inside, however, I never felt the way I acted.
Then I went to college, and I met loads of new people, and it sucked. I felt shy and unworthy and scared and it was hard for me to know how to be funny because these were different people, with different senses of humor, and how was I going to entertain them all?
Then, I started drinking beer. Not in a sad, throwing-up-and-doing-the-walk-of-shame-every-morning way, but in a, “Hey, I’m having fun!” kind of way. And when I drank, I relaxed and finally was myself. I was still funny, just not desperate-to-please funny, and people liked me more than ever. I was popular with my dorm hall, made loads of friends both close and casual, got dates, and most of all, had fun.
And one day toward the middle of my freshman year, I thought about it and realized that I was the exact same person sober as when I was drinking. All I had to do was relax when I was sober, and my winning social streak would continue.
And it did. To this day, I behave when I’m sober the way I did when I’d had a few during my freshman year; I am myself. (Most of the time; everyone has off days.) And the key is not beer.
And what does that have to do with writing? Everything.
Confidence is not false bravado. It’s a genuine knowledge that you’re kind of awesome. It’s knowing what it is about you that makes you awesome, and it’s being comfortable with that awesome. It also allows you to enjoy the awesome of other people without being threatened by it.
Confidence is what makes your writing work. And without it, the writing falls flat on the page. Pffffft.
The problem with confidence is that it’s tough to fake, so when you don’t have it, you’re kind of screwed.
Until you step back and look at those times when you were confident, when you did great work, when you were awesome. What’s the difference between you then and you now?
Nothing except relaxation.
That’s the key. You don’t need beer, or external validation, or for everyone to love you. (Trust me, that will never happen. If no one hates you, you’re not getting out enough.)
You just need to relax. Relax into your awesome, accept it, be confident in your abilities. It doesn’t mean you’re perfect. God willing and the creek don’t rise, none of us will ever be that. It only means you have to be you, and you can do that in your sleep. You’ve had the ruby slippers all along, Dorothy.
Now click them three times, and do your thang.