I loved writing in high school. I finished all my required English classes early and then took creative writing and whatever else I could find. I loved writing almost as much as I loved reading. Then I took a class at the community college. The professor blasted my writing. I shook it off and wrote the next assignment. He blasted it again. I tried changing my style and everything else I could think of, but by the time the class was over I had a passing grade but little motivation to write.
Now, let me explain that I was shy in high school. People find it hard to believe, but I was painfully shy. Not a bad thing. But I was also really self-conscious. I had pretty low self-esteem. I’m not sure why. I had a good home base, a great boyfriend (who I married, we discussed this last week), and a lot of friends. The problem was me. I wasn’t comfortable with me.
When Mr. I’m-Incredibly-Critical-and-Unsupportive-College Professor came along, I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready for that kind of criticism. Looking back, he may not have even been incredibly harsh, I was just sensitive and all too willing to believe he knew it all. I had planned on going into photo-journalism, but I dropped the journalism part. I lost all desire to write.
During college, I slowly gained confidence. I took a lot of writing classes as electives, but never changed my major because I still didn’t think my writing was worth anything. When I graduated with my associates degree, I went to work on a resort for the summer. I loved working on the resort. I was a ‘wrangler’, technically a guide on horseback. I lived on the resort with a bunch of other college students and had a blast. There I realized I must be an alright person if people living with me 24/7 still seemed to like me. I finally embraced my confidence and, really, myself.
But I still didn’t have much of a desire to write.
Ten years later (yes, I’m old–although I prefer to think of myself as a weathered teenager), I had an idea for a book. An idea unique enough to stick with me. The story started developing in my mind, the characters coming to life, and their conversations playing out–all in the backdrop of my life. I was a stay-at-home mom with two little boys. (During my time writing it I became pregnant and had a little girl). It was not a great time to write, but I finally had the desire.
The rest is history–still in the making. I’m learning to love writing again, and I’m ready for the criticism. I know that some people won’t connect at all with my writing style. That some people will hate my use of first person present tense, characters, story, etc. I know that some people will find faults in my writing and I’m thankful for them. For reviews that let me know where I should focus and how I can improve.
Being a writer has so much to do with confidence. Heck, our lives have so much to do with confidence. I wish I had realized this as a teenager. That I had been okay with fearlessly being myself while knowing some people wouldn’t like me, that others would be there to help me find ways to improve, and that more people than I could imagine would embrace me without question.
My point is, don’t let other people kill your confidence or decide your future. Your voice is the one that matters. Do what you want, what you love, and if you aren’t good at it, have the tenacity to become good at it. All it takes is a whole bunch of confidence.