Thursday, April 10, 2008


Posted by Lynne Griffin

Confidence sits in the precarious place between self-doubt and egotism. Having faith in yourself takes work.

Yesterday my daughter called from her college campus. With exams, projects, and juried performances right around the corner, she was understandably stressed. The subtle catch in her voice told me she doubted it was possible for all of it to get done, and for her to do well. I could have offered her a standard mother daughter lecture--don't take things too seriously, make sure you get enough sleep, be sure to eat right--but how many of those helped me when I was in her shoes?

Instead I told her a story.

"Remember when you were in third grade and your big book report involved getting your summary of characters, setting, and plot to fit on an ordinary cereal box? And you had to do it creatively? You didn't struggle to read the book. You didn't mind analyzing the story. In fact, I recall you loved those parts. I watched as you learned, by trial and error, how to make the decisions that would make your project unique. You wanted to follow the guidelines set forth, and impress the teacher. Sure you worried that maybe you couldn't do it, or that it would take so long you might not finish on time, but that didn't stop you from doing what had to be done. The stress motivated you, it didn't immobilize you. Of course you completed it, and it was a job well done. Looking back, I don't remember a single project you didn't finish or one that you handed in late."

"That's true," she said. And then she went on to list some really overwhelming projects she worked on during her formative years. Projects I remember all too well. The invention. Building a Mayan civilization out of clay. The twenty. (You don't want to know about this one.)

Telling her a story helped. Experience builds confidence, if you remember to look back and appreciate it. Like my daughter, if you've done something before, why not be confident you can do it again. Have you written one chapter? You can write another. Sent out one query letter? Send out another. Introduced yourself to a writer you admire? Introduce yourself to another.

I can't give my daughter the confidence to sail through her final month as a freshman in college. And I can't tell you that you'll achieve your goals either. What I offered my daughter was what she and I call, mother's pearls. Those tiny bits of wisdom generously given to support, encourage and motivate. Even with those, she must find the door to the land of confidence--east of doubt and west of egotism. And once there, only she has the key to the door.

You're the only one that can find your confidence, too. It isn't always easy, but here are a few things I've learned in finding my own.

Looking at previous successes inspires you to believe you will find success again.

Whether you think you can or think you can't--you're right.

Experience is something you get, even if you fail.


Larramie said...

And take it one step at a time.

Trish Ryan said...

Oh, I love this post. Thank you! This should be on a poster.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Yes, Larramie. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Thanks, Trish. So glad you liked it. I look forward to meeting you in person at the Muse.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the "writer's" pearls, Lynne. As I make my way through the writing process, they hold a lot of truth.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Joanne, glad you like them. Years ago I found a little gift book called, Mother's Pearls; it was filled with all kinds of life lessons. Whenever my daughter was having a challenging time, I would take a post-it note, flag a page, and leave it on her bed. When I went to find it in her room to include it in her first college care package, I couldn't find it anywhere. When I went to visit her at her dorm, I noticed it, loaded with post-it notes, sitting in the bookcase next to her bed.

The writers' pearls of which you speak are offered freely here. And I am just delighted to leave some because certainly the good will comes right back to us. Our readers comments mean so much.


Lisa said...

This is very wise advice. Staying east of doubt and west of egotism is a tricky proposition and no matter how many days I find myself somewhere in the middle, I'm always surprised to wake up some days squarely mired in self-doubt. Those are the days I need to re-read this post. Thank you.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

You are not alone. It is part and parcel of living a literary life. But when you write that great page or nail down that elusive character, there is no better feeling. If only this work came with a compass!


Anonymous said...

Lynne, as the mom of 2 college age daughters, your dorm story struck a chord with me. Those little gestures mean so much. You must've been very touched when you saw that book on her shelf.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Joanne, you bet it meant a lot. I miss my girl everyday, but it's her time to spread those wings. Lynne