Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Where does Erin Bedford's confidence come from? (Part 1 of series)

I met Erin Bedford through a random act of Googling. I can't remember what I typed in the search bar, but that magic combination brought up a blog post Erin wrote for the Humber School for Writers. I was so intrigued by her perspective and her writing ability that I bought her novel Fathom Lines and within pages became a fan and, soon after, a friend. But enough about Erin from me. Here is Erin writing about Erin, as she answers the question of questions: Where does your confidence come from?

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This is such a good question, Emily, and really a window into the writer’s soul. Writing for a living, or even as a hobby, is something we always seem to be justifying and if random people in socially awkward situations aren’t asking what it is about us that makes us think we're so special, then we ask ourselves!

For me, the one word answer is experience, but since I’m supposed to be a writer, let me elaborate!

When I first started writing fiction, I was so amazing. Every word that I typed was genius. Yes, I was also delusional. Because we all have to be a little delusional to start out on this path. We need to believe we have amazing things to say in entirely new and amazing ways, or we might never start writing, but we have not practiced yet, at this craft that needs so much practice to perfect. So, I was really very bad at writing but I had a lot of confidence in my untested abilities.

A few form letters from publishers and literary magazines blew that early confidence away, but I kept writing with the idea that practice makes perfect, and for a while, I kept submitting my writing to the usual journals and contests. There were a lot more form letters and each rejection crushed me. I’d cycle through the Kubler-Ross model with regularity. Eventually I stopped submitting things. And I was devastated when a very promising relationship with an agent didn’t go forward. Left to my own devices, the novel I’d been working on became an obsessive-compulsive disorder. I could not stop rewriting.

There’s a happy ending here though. I did not spiral completely out of control. I am not currently holed up in my mother’s attic with my laptop, my filthy writing sweater, and a commercial-use coffee maker. No, at some point during the seven years of rewrites, I started to see what worked in my writing, and what didn’t. I stopped saving my cuts, I stopped trying to copy and paste them into new places. I just deleted, knowing that I could write it over again, better this time. At some point during those seven years, I became a good writer. Not the best, not even my own personal best, but pretty good, and in another seven years, who knows?

Which is not to say that I don’t love my awesome cheerleaders, or that the awards and great reviews weren’t important to me. But I really do believe that half of this writing battle is sticking with it, and there are no cheerleaders or awards at 8:30 on a Tuesday morning. It’s just us, and our blank pages, and our belief that we can fill them up with good words.

Erin Bedford lives in Toronto. She attended and won a Certificate of Distinction for her completed manuscript from the Humber School for Writers. Fathom Lines is her first novel. Preview it here. You can follow Erin on Twitter here.

Stay tuned for the second "where does your confidence come from?" post coming next week!

3 comments:

  1. "I just deleted, knowing that I could write it over again, better this time."
    That is an amazing place to get to, Erin.

    Any advice for writers who don't have this kind of confidence? Any tips for how they can get more of it?

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  2. I'm not sure if a writer ever gets to the point where hacking off paragraphs/chapters/a whole character is a comfortable experience. The delete key is one I will always hesitate before using. We're writers, so we are kind of geared to be word collectors, right? But don't be a hoarder! Everyone has watched at least a few minutes of that reality show, and everyone has shaken their head and thought, "Really? That napkin you used at your cousin's wedding? Just get rid of it already. It is not doing anything for you!" I think we writers need to take a look at our word collections in that same way. Is that particular sentence doing your story any favours? If not, don't be afraid to get rid of it. And straight out to the curb with it ... no storing it in your literary attic for later. It will still be junky writing the next time you go looking for it. It can be scary to do, but if you've learned enough about your story and your writing to recognize the parts that aren't working, I guarantee that you will be able to write it better the next time around.

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  3. Letting go of the cut and paste. Yes. Yes. Yes.

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