I had a conversation with the mother of a basketball team member the other day and she said something that stuck with me. I commented on the fact that the basketball team seemed to play better at the beginning of the season. She agreed and said that must mean the problem was in the players' heads rather than with their skills. By this, I'm assuming that she means the boys' confidence level.
Of course, it's hard to feel confident when the coach jerks you out of the game at the first mistake and screams at you, but that is a different blog post.
The confidence thing got me thinking about places where lack of self-assurance could be dogging me.
"What?" I can hear my husband asking, "when do you ever think you're wrong?" But being right and being confident are different things.
I began to wonder whether confidence affects my writing: not just my novel writing, but the letters that I send to agents asking them to sell my novels.
Do my query letters crawl into agents' offices begging for a scrap of attention? Should they instead stride in, throw back their shoulders and proclaim: "This is your lucky day!"
Writing is a lonely endeavor. No one looks at my work daily and suggests these parts are good, these parts need work. And then when a writer begins to send out work, the rejections hover, waiting to fall like dominoes in a line.
If a writer feels sure of herself at the beginning, those dominoes slowly collapsing, beat down the writer's self-assurance, til she looks up, holding out her manuscript and says "Please, sir, may I have another?" and the agent she dared to ask smacks that stack of pages out of her hand.
A friend at work, the very pessimitic, literary writer Jeff, admits that he feels like his friends in publishing are doing him a big favor when they read his work. He knows that the young turks who earn huge advances brim with confidence as they present their manuscripts, which may be no better and no worse than his own.
We need to act like we are doing those agents a favor when we permit them to look at our novels.
Of course, I've only added more of a burden to myself. Now I need to scour my query letter so that it not only sells my book, but sells myself as well.
It's either that or go to a hypnotist who can convince me to believe in myself more.
Wouldn't it be easier to just send the agents to the hypnotist and have the hypnotists persuade them that I'm the next Dan Brown or Barbara Kingsolver?
Maybe a hypnotizing query letter. I'd better work on that.
Photo from: http://www.hypnotizeyourselfhere.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/spiral4.jpg
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