“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it people like me!”
For those of you who are fans of Saturday Night Live, you’ll probably recognize that quote from one of the many episodes of ‘Daily Affirmation with Stuart Smalley’ that ran on the powerhouse comedy show throughout the 1990s.
Comedian Al Franken played Stuart, who in a nutshell, was a pretty insecure dude who dedicated his life to self-help (he was in several 12-step programs but not a licensed therapist as the voice over on his cable network television show explained).
With this in mind, Stuart would spend a few minutes each day looking into a mirror and telling himself (and his viewers) that he was in fact a good guy, a worthy guy.
Long story long, it was pretty darn hilarious. YouTube it if you don’t know what I am talking about. You won’t be disappointed.
By this point you’re probably wondering what the heck a past SNL character has to do with writing fiction. I can see that the connection isn’t that clear so let me explain.
Writers, or at least most of the ones that I’ve met, don’t always have the highest level of self-esteem and this is especially true when it comes to promoting themselves and their work.
Conversations among writers are littered with comments like “sorry” and “work in progress” or “wow, your piece is so much better than mine” as well as the ever so popular “I’m still working on it.”
Rarely does the language navigate into positive territory like “I am so proud of this piece, I can’t wait for you to read it” or “I wrote an awesome chapter last night” and never “an editor would be lucky to work with me.”
There’s a lot of self-deprecating humour too.
We put ourselves out there or share a piece we’ve been working on but only after it’s been laced with a joke about how terrible it is or how no publisher will ever take notice.
I am guilty of this myself sometimes.
I read a quote recently that said, “Don’t be too hard on yourself. There are plenty of people willing to do that for you” and that’s basically my point with this latest blog post.
I think as writer’s (and human beings for that matter) we have to do a better job at presenting our positive qualities.
From a professional perspective this makes total sense.
There are many writers out there applying for the same fiction contests or emailing the same editor that we have to make ourselves stand out.
I, like Mr. Smalley, am no trained therapist but I have a feeling that the person who steps forth with self-confidence will go a lot farther than the person who is afraid to even admit that they’ve written something worthy of being read.
Self-confidence will come in handy too when we get that rejection letter or when a reader posts that poor review (because it’s bound to happen and I am sure for most of us it already has).
There is no way we could possibly please every person who picks up our work and that’s okay. Or at least it has to be okay especially in a world filled with Internet trolls and endless online reviews.
Never read the comments. I repeat, never read the comments!
Seriously though, often times our self-put downs are simply habits. Something we’ve done our whole life and in certain cases something we might not even realize we’re doing.
So I am encouraging all you writers out there to really think about how you’re presenting yourself and your work to the world. If it does not have some kind of ‘kick-ass, I rock’ energy to it, I think it’s time to change.
And yes, change is hard but you can start small.
Ask someone to read your chapter without insulting it or listing everything that you think is wrong with it first.
Pat yourself on the back when you know deep down that you’ve just written something amazing.
And easiest of all, when someone compliments your work simply say “thank you” and stop talking.
If all else fails, fake it ‘til you make it! There’s no shame in that either. It’s what Stuart Smalley would do and how could a fictional character on a fake cable network program be wrong?