I had a chat with a writer friend today about self-confidence. Or the lack thereof. I had written an article for my chapter’s newsletter (under duress, but that’s another story) and I sent it to her to read. She said one sentence in the introduction negated not only me as a writer but also the reader. She was right. I had added the sentence as an afterthought because I didn’t feel confident I had anything of particular merit to say to other writers.
So I’ve deleted that sentence and am re-printing the article here. Because I can. I retain copyright, even though the article was published elsewhere. At least that’s what it says in the fine print. It was published under my “real” name, but somehow I just don’t see me suing myself for plagiarism.
So here it is. I may not know enough to give actual writing advice to others, but I believe my experiences have led to a certain amount of knowledge and that there are some things of value I can share with others. This is one of them.
We have added many new members in the past year and I thought I’d share with them my perspective on the benefits of being a member of this chapter.
Writing a novel, the process of learning to do so, is not unlike stumbling through a forest in the pitch black of night. You venture into the thick undergrowth and, blind from the darkness, almost immediately run into a hard rough surface. A sympathetic voice comes out of the night, “Whoa, that’s a tree trunk, try not to run into those.”
“Oh. Okay, thanks,” you say and keep going — and promptly trip and fall to the ground, skinning your knees and palms. You stand back up, wiping blood and dirt on the back of your pants, and someone else calls out, “That’s a tree root, be careful to step over those.”
“Right, got it,” you say and continue walking. Only to be slapped abruptly in the face.
“Watch out for those low hanging branches,” someone advises as you struggle to regain your balance.
You make your way a bit more slowly now, feet probing cautiously, arms extended protectively in front of you. Someone comes along and hands you a small flashlight. It’s not very bright, but suddenly you can see not only the trunks and roots and branches, but also colors and textures. You continue on with increased awareness, inhaling the verdant life of the place.
You cross paths with someone who offers you a compass and shows you how to travel in a straight line instead of just wandering in circles.
After a while, you come upon someone sitting contentedly on the ground who gives you a torn corner of a map of the forest. You’re pleasantly surprised to see how far you’ve come, yet daunted by what’s still ahead of you.
You look around and realize there are many others wandering through the forest with you — all going in different directions and at varying paces, some hesitantly and some with great confidence.
It occurs to you to ask, “Where are we supposed to be going, anyway?”
The reply carries on a mingled laugh and sigh of experience, “Our destinations are as different as they are unimportant. The journey is everything.”
You finally find your way to a narrow path that takes you out of the forest and you stand in the sunlight — face turned up to the sky, arms spread wide — and experience a moment of pure triumph and overwhelming joy. Until you realize that you loved being in the forest and, in spite of the scrapes and bruises, the confused lonely wandering, you can think of no other place you’d rather be. Just as you realize there is no other group of travelers with whom you’d rather make the journey.
So you turn around and eagerly head back, looking for another path, another story to tell. Only this time, you’ll be on the lookout for someone who might be in need of a flashlight or a slightly used map.