Confidence is a must, no matter the situation, but there are some things I feel less confident about than others. For example, although I know I’m a good mechanic—certainly not as fast as the guys who work diligently at flat rate in the repair shops—my confidence always wavers in that arena. I recall one of my teachers once saying, “Rosa, what do you mean you don’t know how to do that? I’ve seen you do it before. You’re good at it!” But even if you know how to do something—even if it’s damn-near instinctive—a lack of confidence can kill that. Confidence is essential when you’re writing non-fiction.
I feel uncertain in an arena where I have less experience. This is natural; there are always those we look up to, those who have more know-how when it comes to certain things. In the realm of non-fiction, I think of authors I know whose work I admire greatly. And I balk, wondering if I can follow in their footsteps—or if trying would be wrong somehow.
I’m working on two non-fiction books. One is a book on writing, editing, and publishing that incorporates interviews with other authors, editors, and publishers, to give the book a well-rounded feel to it as I explore the perspectives of my colleagues in the industry. Write to Right: Focus, Edit, Publish is what I like to call an alternative guide, because it also touches on things that can make a writing or publishing project suffer—haste, impatience, lack of confidence. I offer ways and advice to center yourself, focus, and be patient.
Lack of confidence. Hmm. I have a lot of confidence in this project, something I’ve been working with for quite a while. I have confidence in it because I’m a published author, I’ve been editing for eight years or so, I’ve just started freelancing full-time, and I feel I have words of wisdom I can offer fellow writers. Does this mean I know everything? Certainly not. But one of my weak points is I worry that people will think I’m a know-it-all.
I used to be one of those people who would prefer to pretend to not know anything, rather than go against the scrutiny of others. But now I know even a bad review is more publicity than no publicity, and I’m willing to stand firm by my work and say, “Hey, I don’t know everything, but I think I can help you out a bit, and here’s why.”
My other non-fiction work is entitled Treasures on Our Coast: A Snowbird’s Guide to Southeast Florida History. Research has been ongoing since 2010, and the book is in its final stages. I hope to entice a history publisher with it, but here’s where I lack confidence. I worry I’m repeating what’s already been said a thousand times, and I don’t want anyone to think I’m copying them. My biggest fear is that I’ll somehow accidentally plagiarize someone—and I don’t know why. I’m very careful. Maybe too careful. But the fear remains.
I write what I know—which is why Treasures on Our Coast is what it is, a “guide for snowbirds”. I wish to interest outsiders in Florida history, because it has its roots in the beginnings of our nation. It was where the war to protect slavery took place, but it was also where the first free black community stood, until it was destroyed during the Seminole Wars. There’s only one Florida, and only one Everglades. But when I realized my confidence in myself was waning, I changed the title and rearranged my focus so I was aiming to inform snowbirds. Because I am not a native Floridian, I can only offer my perspective, which is essentially the perspective of an outsider. A snowbird.
So, if you’re not feeling confident in what you’re writing, ask yourself these questions:
Am I writing about what I know?
Even if I am not a true expert, do I have some knowledge to offer that is unique, perhaps a perspective I feel is important to share with the world?
Is it worth it? Oh yes, it is.
Get your confidence back. Stand firm in what you believe in. And write to your heart’s content.