Friday, 17 June 2011

Confidence Trick

I have nothing at all to say this week.


That's the blog I want to write every time I sit down at my laptop on a Friday morning. The one that lets me read Metro, or suck down a cappuccino or stare out the train window. The one that frees me from the tyranny of the blank page and sticks two fingers up at the reader. Look at me! It's Friday and I don't care!

Except somehow I'm writing a blog post about how I don't want to write a blog post. Because writing something, anything at all, is a victory over that tiny voice at the back of my head that tells me I'm worthless. The voice that was taunting me all yesterday, stopping me from writing the book that could one day be published. It's taunting me even now, reminding me of how no-one commented on my blog the other week – as if that really means anything.

Writing is the ultimate victory of confidence over reason. It isn't reasonable to spend your day living in imaginary worlds full of invented people. It isn't reasonable to think you'll get published when more talented people than you have failed. It isn't reasonable to think that you'll sell any books in a crowded marketplace or get nominated for awards or even win one. A lot of people drop out of the race when they realise how far the odds are stacked against them. But isn't it amazing how many people stay in the game?

I could spend a hundred blog posts speculating on why people choose to write. Some will claim they do it for love, or to satisfy a burning urge to share their stories with the world. Many, I suspect myself included, do it to gain approval (I blame the parents!). Whatever their reason, these writers manage - for hours at a time - to quiet those voices and push forwards. First drafts often seem to exist as a way of managing imperfection, a parole agreement that allows you to get away with all the bad writing and glaring inconsistencies with the promise that you'll fix it in the edit. In many ways, writing successfully is a trick, a way of telling your mind that what you're doing isn't important, but knowing somewhere deep down that it's utterly vital.

The game changes up when you win a competition, get an agent or find a publisher. Now you feel the weight of genuine expectation on you, whether real or imagined. Simply writing any old crap is not an option anymore – you really have to deliver. This achievement can be empowering, a confidence boost that helps to temper your more "artistic" impulses and guides your work closer to the market. But I've also seen the genuine anguish of writers who have been signed to an agent for a while, but not yet sold a book – the unspoken fear that they will get dumped and be further back than when they started.

So that's where I am right now. Maybe I need to stop writing this and get back to that tricky chapter full of exposition that I've been avoiding. Perhaps this wasn't the best blog post in the world ever, but I have – in just over an hour – made something out of nothing. And that bit of alchemy is a trick worth celebrating, I'd say. Now where's my cappuccino?



  1. I write because when I just told people about my ideas they tried to lock me up or burn me.

  2. Like I said in my last blog post, being worried and nervous is a good thing. It will give you the energy and grip to get there.

    (You might go into a caffeine induced coma the next day, but let's hope not:)

  3. Hang in there with all four paws Nick! You can do it!