Has the invisibility cloak of lack of confidence ever enveloped you as an author?
The year 1987 was a big publishing year for me—three books were published by three different New York publishing houses. All books did well and continued to add to my education as a publisher to be in my own right … something that didn’t happen until the year 2000.
It turned out that all three books did well. One was The Confidence Factor: Cosmic Gooses Lay Golden Eggs. The survey within it was underwritten by a Fortune 500 company—Bristol Myers Squibb. As the spokesperson for one of its products, I crisscrossed the country doing media, talking about where confidence came from based on the findings of 6,000 respondents, and polishing my media and speaking skills. And writing the book. When it was finally published, one of Bristol Myers Squibb’s publicity firms supported the book launch.
It was a good run—a successful run—and I learned a lot about publishing, working with a transcontinental team, and me. The virtual part with phone calls … and lots of plane trips. With gross sales of over 250,000 copies from combined bookstore and speaking, on-site sales, I finally got the rights back, buying the remainder inventory and knew I needed to keep The Confidence Factor alive. I just didn’t know how. Yet.
Many of the individuals I interviewed for the book were well-known. ABC’s Diane Sawyer. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Entertainer and entrepreneur Dolly Parton. Sales magician and businesswoman Mary Kay Ash … just a few of the hundreds I interviewed whose words still resonate in my mind 30 plus years later. Some, I still quote actively today.
One’s words resurfaced when her husband died in early 2021 at the age of 93—a former Vice President of the United States and presidential candidate. She introduced me to her husband when he wandered into their kitchen in Minnesota one morning. Taking in the scene of the two of us laughing and being comfortable with each other, he decided he wanted to join in on our conversation and pulled out the empty chair at the table.
As we had mug after mug of coffee that morning in their kitchen, the three of us spent a delightful three hours together—much more than the one hour I had scheduled for, and she had committed to. The topic: confidence, perseverance, and education. It was up close and personal time with Walter and Joan Mondale.
It was Joan that I came to see; not Walter—he was a bonus, but not the main event.
Joan Mondale was an artist and arts advocate and had been long before main stage politics entered her life. She felt that one of the keystones of confidence is figuring out just who you are. And that includes figuring out your strengths and weaknesses so that you can focus on your strengths and shore up the weaknesses. Joan felt one of those keys was music—they both were deeply concerned to what they saw was the erosion of music and arts in schooling and the over effect it would have on children.
In her words,
After you’ve figured out your strengths and your weaknesses, use your strengths and then look ‘in the mirror. There is always someone who is richer than you. Someone who is, prettier than you are and someone who is smarter than are. Confidence is based on the ability that you have and not What somebody else has.
My experience has been that the art world builds your self-confidence ‘in a more secure and stronger fashion than anyone can imagine. If you played the violin as a child in elementary school, you are special because you’re doing something that many others can’t do. It requires discipline to play a musical instrument. It requires concentration.
- You must make the brain work.
- You must read the musical score—it’s another language. And when you follow it, it’s like following a highway map.
- You work with other musicians.
- You learn to work with other people.
- You build a team.
- You learn to do math because music notes are divided into wholes and halts and quarters, sixteenths, even thirty-seconds.
When a child or adult gets involved with a musical instrument, they are getting an education from multiple areas that few really think about. So, when you are doing music, you are doing math. And in doing music, you can express yourself. You’re creative. Being in an orchestra is being on a team, you must work with other people. You may have an idea about how a certain passage should be interpreted, but you must work with the others. You can’t necessarily have your own way. An orchestra is made up of people who work together, not opposing one another.
Confidence is based on the ability you have …
not what somebody else has. -Joan Mondale
Hmmm. Successful artists or painters are often deemed eccentric and have been ostracized by others. In their quest to be who they are, they’ve been true to themselves. Ironically, as Joan Mondale points out, they learn all the basics that school offers—from the fractions of a musical score to the blending in and necessity of working as a team where each person brings something to the party. And as a group, they are whole. But as an independent, completion is not full achieved.
Diane Sawyer of ABC News shared,
I have a friend who begins each day by standing in front of the mirror announcing, “I forgive you, kid. ” It’s a sweet foolish nothing for moving on from yesterday’s mistakes. After all, this is not a forced march—the point is to laugh along the way.
Is that not so true? We have got to laugh along the way, even with all the snafus and mistakes we make as we travel through our authoring journey?
We writers and authors are artists as well. And most of us have some form of fear in us.
We believe that what have written is not good enough.
We will be criticized.
We become vulnerable to the outside.
Our storylines will be shredded—often by those by are envious that they didn’t have the guts to write and publish.
Our concepts and ideas will be countered or pooh-poohed.
And that fear can involve the necessary steps that are taken in knowing who you are. Competing with yourself, you need to probe for both the good and the bad. Many have been brought up to shield the good. Not only is it hidden from the outside, but it’s hidden inside from self. Have you been guilty of this?
It’s not difficult to participate in self-fulfilled prophecies. Many therapists discover that the unhappy and depressed people they see are not deficient. Rather, they have a great amount of potential and depth about them. But instead of being creative and able to work, they behave as though they are not good, quasi-deficient in everything. And they are not. Think of the student who is afraid of an upcoming test and psyches herself out that she guarantees her failure—one of those self-fulfilling prophecies of life.
The question becomes: why would someone want to hide good qualities and reinforce some of the negatives?
The answer is not complicated. The invisibility cloak surfaces. If no one knows about your skills and abilities, no one will expect much from you. Or badger you. You remove stumbling in front of others or tripping over actions and words. You aren’t vulnerable to the outside.
Once qualities are recognized, they need to be acknowledged—they need to be used. It’s time, maybe long overdue to start the shout out for you and your work.
Author confidence … where are you on your scale?
Judith Briles is a book publishing expert and coach. She empowers authors and works directly with authors who want to be seriously successful and has been writing about and conducting workshops on publishing since the ’80s. Judith is the author of 37 books including Author YOU: Creating and Building Your Author and Book Platforms, Snappy Sassy Salty: Wise Words for Authors and Writers, and How to Create a $1,000,000 Speech. Her personal memoir When God Says NO-Revealing the YES When Adversity and Loss Are Present is a #1 bestseller on Amazon. Collectively, her books have earned over 45 book awards. Judith speaks throughout the year at publishing conferences.
Throughout the year, she holds Judith Briles Book Unplugged experiences: Publishing, Speaking, Marketing, and Social Media. All are two-day intensive limited to a small group of authors who want to be seriously successful. Join Judith live for the “AuthorU-Your Guide to Book Publishing” podcast on the Toginet Radio Network HERE.
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