Sunday, October 25, 2015

Where does R.L Saunders's confidence come from? (Part 4 of series)

R.L Saunders is one of the coolest people I have never met. We were agency mates back in the day, and I developed my girl crush on her after reading her blog. There's a special magic to R.L that's hard to measure. Because she writes YA, I picture her in elementary school, the kind of kid who was cool but would sit with you at the nerd table anyways. The kind who stuck up for you on the bus. The kind who'd share her lunch if yours sucked. But I can't really do her justice. So here's R.L on R.L and her answer to Where does your confidence come from?

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The vast majority of trick-or-treaters are decent, respectful kids who've put careful thought into their costumes, having stupid goofy fun with friends and family. But once in a while there's a group of jerks suffering mob mentality whose parents would be mortified at their evil behavior. They make you want to kick your jack-o-lantern off the porch, turn off your spooky music and special orange landscaping lights, and lock your door forever. Likewise, the vast majority of treat-givers are kind people who love being part of making it a fun night for the neighborhood kids. But once in a while, some psychopath puts glass shards into the caramel popcorn balls and makes all parents everywhere want to cancel Halloween (or worse, make their kids go to some safe party with the church youth group). 

That's a painfully long analogy to writing with confidence. It's a delicate balance, trying to have a good time without swallowing shards of glass. If I lose that balance it can crush me and make me feel like a sell-out and a failure as an artist. I’m fiercely protective of the remnants of gross overconfidence and blind creative whimsy that pushed me through the process of actually completing a first terrible manuscript, then a better one, then a better one. I’m constantly working to prevent the destructive and unhealthy type of self-doubt from creeping in when I open the door to the good stuff, like scary but crucial constructive criticism. I can also only handle small doses of researching what’s going on in writing and publishing, but it helps me evaluate where I am, where I want to be (genuinely, and not just because everybody's trying to get there), and how my work compares with whatever's making it through that tiny, elusive pinhole to publication.

Several years ago, R.L Saunders quit her job teaching English at a university in the Midwest and moved to the island paradise of Key West, Florida. On the island, she spent a couple years teaching, then had a boat load of fun as associate editor, advocacy journalist, and columnist for one of the island’s newspapers. Now she writes YA fiction and unschools a kid full-time. Her work is represented by Linda Epstein at the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency.

Stay tuned for the fifth "Where does your confidence come from" blog post coming soon! 

2 comments:

  1. "I’m fiercely protective of the remnants of gross overconfidence and blind creative whimsy that pushed me through the process of actually completing a first terrible manuscript, then a better one, then a better one."

    I want to put that on a t-shirt, R.L.

    My follow-up, though, concerns this line: "I’m constantly working to prevent the destructive and unhealthy type of self-doubt from creeping in..."
    How do you keep that self-doubt from creeping in? Do you chalk it up to getting constructive critiques? Or do you find other things helpful as well?

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  2. Well, now I'll do that by rereading the nice stuff you said. You know I feel the same about you. I just hope you don't ever actually talk to anybody I went to elementary school with. But also, I think I have to actively remind myself that there is room for me in publishing, someday, some way. That what I'm writing is worthy of reading. That every time I read a book I wish I'd written, it doesn't narrow my chances. If that makes sense.

    Thank you for including me in this! It was surprisingly helpful to try to articulate these things.

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