If it seems I've been blowing my own trumpet a bit loudly of late, please let me explain. This has nothing to do with ego and everything to do with attempting to boost my confidence, a writer's most fragile asset. Mine took a serious drubbing recently and if I've resorted to roll-calling every small success it's only because I need to feel I'm making progress, no matter how minor it might seem to the rest of the world. The real success story has been my new routine of rising at 6am to write for two hours every morning. This has meant the new novel climbed to 22,000 words in two weeks with the result that it now feels like a novel and not a series of randomly related words under a title I keep changing. I'm not saying this first draft is great or even good. I'm under no illusions about the hard graft which lies ahead. But I've turned a corner, got stuck into something new, started over. Alongside this, the small successes themselves count for much in terms of my confidence; they validate my decision to pursue this craft. Perhaps they shouldn't. Perhaps the craft ought to be enough in itself. But I can only rely on my own judgement up to a point. After that point, I need other people's judgement. I am selective in how I respond to this. I don't ask friends or family to pat me on the back. Nor do I hold all editors in the same high esteem, but I am getting better at telling when a judgement is sound. This too is all about confidence.
I can recall more or less precisely the moment when I put aside the textbooks on how to write and learned to trust my instinct. I had listened to enough of the right people saying enough of the right things (and sometimes enough of the wrong things) for me to know when I was on the right track. I realised that I could trust my instinct rather than the opposite. But it doesn't take much to knock that confidence for six, even now. I try not to molly-coddle it too much. I make sure I expose it to knocks which will test it for soundness, the way an expert in fine china will ring a bell with a flick of her fingers to be sure it isn't hiding a hairline crack or three. I'd prefer it didn't get whacked by a hammer, but I don't hide it in bubble-wrap on the top shelf.
I have started to sub to big places, punching above my weight when I can, always raising the bar. But I also sub to venues I've come to trust and like. I hoard the small successes because they give me the confidence to keep punching higher up. Let me give you an example.
A week ago I was despondent about my writing. In a mood that was nine parts masochistic, I subbed a story in anticipation of a rejection. It hit. And another, which also hit. I took my courage in both hands and pitched an idea to the editor of a magazine. It was a cold pitch. I sent him a sample of my writing, the non-fiction piece about my mother's childhood in a prison camp. The editor loved it, asked permission to publish it. And now I'm going to have a headline feature in a respected print magazine with a wide readership in my new city where I'm trying to make my name as a writer. I won't say any more than that until it's published, and I do realise I've come full circle back to my own trumpet, but the point I'm trying to make is that confidence begets confidence. Hoard ye small successes while you may, if I can say that without sounding all hey nonny and a bit insane.
A last word to the lovely Jennifer Stakes, whose blog Writer in the Wilderness invited readers to nominate a collective noun for synopses. I suggested a SOD IT! of Synopses, and Jen was kind enough to award me a beautiful virtual espresso cup as my prize. Perfect for that first strong cup of coffee at 6am. Thanks, Jen!