Guest Bloggers

I wanted to connect with others.

Guest Blogger Lois Lavrisa writes about the lack of self-confidence and doubt amongst writers.

My husband and I attended an event featuring the bestselling financial guru, Suze Orman. We chatted with friends as my husband’s coworker approached us. Beth, a perky lady with a huge smile, approached us.

Beth shook my hand. “I’m a huge fan.”

I nodded enthusiastically. “Me too. I love Suze. I can’t wait to see her.”

Beth’s face froze for a moment, as if registering what I said. Then she gently squeezed my hand. “I’m a fan of yours.”

For a few moments, I didn’t know what to say. I finally said a quick thank you to Beth. She was sweet and I was completely flattered. It’s just that I was just taken off guard because I don’t have great author confidence. Instead I have loads of self doubt, maybe it could be called author angst, which makes me work triple time to make sure what I write is as good as it can be. However, self-doubt doesn’t lend itself to being prepared for a compliment — ever.

Perhaps my doubt began many years ago. The first time my name was in print (eighth grade in a four page mimeographed newsletter) I felt both thrilled and vulnerable. The public (okay maybe thirty of my peers and their families) read what I wrote. That was somewhat cool. Yet I also felt vulnerable.

If I stayed hidden in the shadows with my stories still tucked away in my imagination, I wouldn’t be susceptible to ridicule. Yet I had this desire and overwhelming need to tell my stories. I wanted to connect to people outside of my head. I received lukewarm reception to my first byline. Since no one out right ridiculed my story, and some even liked it, I was encouraged.  Coming from a home where no praise was given (recently my mother admitted she did this on purpose so that my four siblings and I wouldn’t get big egos) the lukewarm reaction from my peers was better than nothing. I soaked it up like a sponge. I felt pulled. I didn’t know how to accept praise but at the same time when it happened it felt so good.

And I needed to write.

I wanted to connect with others. This meant my words needed to be out there for all to see. This also meant that my stories could be rejected, accepted or ignored.

In a very tough Southside of Chicago suburban public high school, I was tormented and bullied unmercifully. Being a shy, passive, nerdy honor student in a sea of black rock concert t-shirts and pot smoking— I stuck out as an easy target.

When the high school newspaper announced a poetry contest, I decided to enter. However, for fear of further tormenting, I signed my poem as Heather. My first (and so far only) pseudonym. My poem appeared in the school newspaper.  Overhearing some students talking about Heather’s poem made me (secretly of course) jump for happiness.  Yet I couldn’t tell anyone that was my poem for fear that if I did, my name would leak to the bullies and could possibly multiply the attacks on me. So, I stayed silent. Yet, I knew I had something to say that connected with people. I wanted to do more of it.

Following graduation, I attended a college a few hours away from my hometown. I loved the anonymity. No bullies. No history of who I was. Freedom to reinvent myself.

During the first semester I realized that I was not cut out for pre dentistry (I do brush and floss twice a day, I haven’t given up on teeth entirely.) I signed up for journalism classes and began to write for the school newspaper. This time I used my own name. And guess what? I didn’t get ridiculed nor beat up. Instead, friends came up to me and commented on my front page story, or on one of my featured articles.

Flash ahead to the Suze Orman event I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, when Beth said she was a fan of mine. My lack of confidence left me flabbergasted when she complimented me. Yes, I work tirelessly on my craft, trying my best to make sure it is as perfect as it could be. So why do I still have those nagging doubts about my writing? When I see a new review posted I hold my breath.  Will they say terrible or terrific? Here’s the truth, I believe the terrible reviews more than the terrific ones (thankfully there are way more good reviews than negative, but still those nasty comments -ugh!)  I’m hopeless right?

I’m thrilled and honored that readers post great reviews and seem to connect with my stories. Yet, part of me feels unworthy of the accolades. I have such angst you’d think I was a teen, not someone in midlife.

If there were a special workshop to boost author confidence, I’d sign up today. Have any of you experienced author doubt? If you have, how do you handle it? And if anyone wants to share some ideas for boosting author confidence- please do!

Lois LavrisaLois Lavrisa writes Mystery with a Twist. Her first mystery, Amazon Top 100 Bestselling and Amazon Hot New Release, LIQUID LIES, is set in an affluent lake town in Wisconsin, and asks the question “Would you tell the truth, even if it meant losing everything?”

Originally posted May 22, 2013, The Writer’s Guide to E-Publishing Update. This post is slightly edited and paraphrased from the original post. Re-posted with permission.

 

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4 comments

  1. Ke11y

    The Booster of this writer’s confidence!

    There is never a golden day, only days that shine. There are, however, days when nothing in the world seems brilliant, or clever, or ordinary. My day can begin in several different ways. It can begin with me getting out of the proverbial wrong side of the bed, or it can begin with something incredibly wonderful, and following that, just disappear down the drain. Then there are those days that just have to be got through, like cutting through tough steak, trying to make it look tender for the sake of the hostess.

    This is life, isn’t it? Days made up of tough meat, chewing and wondering if it will ever tender up enough to be got through. It’s hard to write a beautiful story on days like this, in fact it’s hard to write anything at all.

    But the job of a writer, this writer anyway, is to write, and waiting ’round for some infusion of inspiration is a certain way for any writer to starve. So that’s why I’m here. To write.

    That’s why God gave me this brain, these perceptions, this ability to see something different in everyday things. That’s why I must write. This computer stares back at me, and on the screen there’s a blank word document. It’s my job to fill it, and more than that it’s my job to fill it with something beautiful, or interesting, or worth drawing attention to. So what am I to write?

    I don’t need a shack on the side of a mountain, a study overlooking the ocean, drugs, or alcohol, because nothing creates the imaginative juices easier than my wife telling me she loves me, or the way she looks at me, the sometimes hug, and the way she says my name makes my heart race.

    I know I can write. My arm is well oiled, and the words will flow because of her; because even if the words fail me I know she never will.

    1. mcullen Post author

      Yes! I love how you make the tough steak days chewable. Those dreary days that we get somehow get through, and writing like yours, makes those days bearable. Now, I’m going to fix my lunch and read a fun novel while eating. I’m so glad your arm is well oiled and your wife inspires you, Kelly. A lovely note, encouraging us to keep going.

  2. Ke11y

    I cried today, silly tears. Just some longing I can’t get right in my head.

    Thunder, my nine-year old stallion, strides mightily through the shallow water. He’s such a character, head so proud and fully aware that people are looking at him. Once away from the scatterings of people, I let him go…give him free rein and ask him to move on. I feel his anticipation under my legs.

    For close on a mile I let him move easily, steering a path. I know he wants to go more, but I hold him up. He has a powerful heart, and that transcends to his rear quarters. I’m sitting on a keg of explosive. I let him kick into second gear. Dear God, is there anything this animal loves better. His mane flying, silver sparks from his hooves. My heart is racing, missing every other beat. I’m talking to him all the time. Whispering into his ears, encouraging him to stretch out, keep it even. This is everything. To be a part of energy at full gallop. To sit on his back knowing how brilliant he looks, and feel the salt wind in my face. Still another straggler up ahead, I ask him to slow. His response is so immediate, the power slackens off, and his hind quarters relax. I can feel his disappointment. We turn, and slowly begin our walk back up the long, now almost deserted beach. Just one family remains, clearly out-of-towners, for they are inadequately dressed for the shoreline. As we walk along the ragged edge of water, two children come running.

    “Hello,” I said, “you look like you’re having a good time.”

    One, the boy, maybe seven, with short, brown hair, and eyeglasses, shoves out a sandy hand holding an apple. Thunder, seeing the apple, snorts loudly, asking to have it. This display of pleasure sends the boy scurrying, the apple is dropped into the surf, as the older girl chases after him. The children only stop running when the boy reaches the arms of the man, someone I assume is their father. I raise my hand, hoping it signals my dismay that his children were frightened. The man picks up the boy, taking the hand of the girl, and begin their walk toward me. I bend down, picking the apple out of the surf.

    I speak up as he approaches, apologizing the children have been upset. He smiles, understanding the situation, and asks if they can touch Thunder. I offer the boy back his apple, and slowly his arms are released from our around his father’s shoulders. Shyly, tears drying, he accepts the apple into his pudgy hand. Thunder again begins to agitate his legs in the surf, wanting the gift. The girl says to her brother, their likeness plain to see. “You have to let the apple sit in the palm of your hand, Nicky. Keep your fingers flat, okay. The horse will take it from you, just don’t grip the apple.” She has beautiful wavy locks, and these locks blossom and fall around her shoulders. She is wearing black patent shoes, with white ankle socks. Dad is wearing a suit, his tie loosened at the collar.

    I look down at the beautiful child, so out of place on the shoreline, but knowledgeable about horses. “You know how to handle horses, young lady,” I said, half asking.

    “I sometimes rode with mommy.” She responded. “Our mommy, she died you know.”

    The father grimaced, placing his hand on her head. He’d clearly not expected that information to be revealed quite so quickly.

    “I’m sorry. Truly sorry.” I said, getting down on my haunches. “But she taught you a lot, right?”

    The child, nodded.

    “Can I sit on your horse?” She asked.

    I looked immediately to the man holding the boy, my eyes asking the question.

    “If you don’t mind,” he said.

    I steadied Thunder, shortened the rein.

    “Easy, lad. We have a new friend.” I stepped my right boot into the stirrup, hauled myself up, patting my guys neck. Steady, big guy.” I asked the father to let the child in his arms hold the apple up to Thunder’s mouth. The daughter reminded him how…tentatively he pushed the apple closer, his fingers opened slowly, till the apple was sitting in his open palm. I slackened the rein, letting Thunder stretch his neck, and with curling lips, took the entire apple from him. The boy turned and buried his face in his father’s shoulders.

    “Okay, young lady, you ready?” She answered with the simple raising of her arm. I leaned sideways, pulled her up and over. She giggled.

    We set off for a walk along the beach. I wanted to kiss the child’s head. I didn’t, do you understand, just the urge was so great. When we got back the father offered his thanks for allowing her a ride. I thanked him for having two beautiful children. He just smiled, and only then did I see his heartbreak, so fresh, so real. So lost, being afraid. I wanted to say something, anything that would tell him things would be okay, but they wouldn’t. They’d be different.

    I rode back toward the cottage, toward my wife, my photos, old memories and new. The simple thing of a child in your lap. Maybe the reader will understand, anyone grown older, maybe with grandchildren. Daniel used to sit with me in the saddle when I rode out across the Scottish hillsides. His tiny, chubby hands holding the reins. It could have been Daniel’s head. That’s all.

    I cried today, silly tears.

    1. mcullen Post author

      Wow, once again, wow. I am transported into this world of horseback riding – something I know nothing about, and yet there is an understanding and comfortableness in this writing about horses and riding, that I feel confident I could experience what the narrator experiences, allowed the opportunity. And the exchange between inhabitants of this story, perfect, excellent, touching, brilliant how yuo bring these people to life on the page. Well-down, Kelly. A pleasure to read. Satisfying.

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