Over the last two weeks, I’ve had the honor of interviewing via e-mail four authors, all in different phases of their career on the subject of confidence. Much could be written about how to publish or developing craft, but I wanted to address something I see little about, (and an area in which I struggle). That area is confidence.
I don’t know a lot about confidence, why some people have it, why some people stuggle with it and why some people have so much, they’re borderline delusional. I do know that my own journey from non-writer to hopeful novelist has been strenuous. I do not naturally come from a confident place. I’m sure I am not alone in this, and that is the purpose of this series.
The authors I am inteviewing are from different genres and places in their careers. Matthew Meadors, Deborah Vogts, Gary Murning and Susan May Warren were all very gracious with their time to help me with this project.
My first interview is with Matthew Meadors. I’ve known Matt for over twenty years. This are his thoughts on confidence:
1. Did you ever have a time in your life that you thought, “oh, I could never be a writer”? How did you go from that place to your current one?
Let’s see, when was the last time I sat down to write? Boy, that’s one I still struggle with. I know of well-known, published authors who still fight against the doubts to some degree. I think for me it’s been a matter of understanding that I do have a little bit of God-given talent, and believing that God has not only blessed me with some ability, but has also called me to write. If He truly has called me to this, then what do I have to fear?
2. The path of a writer is filled with rejection letters. How have you handled the pain of rejection?
Fortunately I’m a drummer, so I get to work out a lot of aggression there! Actually, I think it’s very good if you can understand that it’s nothing personal. Maybe there’s not a market at this time for the story you choose to write. Or maybe a particular agent or publisher already has a writer in their stable that writes your kind of story. Or maybe, your writing doesn’t quite hit the mark. I think the best kind of rejection is the one that gives you a clue on where you missed the mark. You can then focus on that area to get stronger. Getting published is a process. One I have yet to conquer, but one I believe I will. I’ve seen my writing improve in each effort. When I do get those nuggets of wisdom or experience, rather than being defensive, I try to take them to heart. I make a list of areas I could improve on and focus on those the next time. Not saying this has worked yet (lol) but that’s how I handle it.
3. Sometimes I read a book and get miffed that it is so poorly written. I find it difficult not to be resentful of their success. How do you handle the inward battle of comparing yourself to others — or am I the only one who feels this way?
You know, I’m not one that really focuses on what’s poorly written. I’ve read many a successful author that break one or more of the “rules”. I try to focus on what’s good in a book and learn from the positive areas. Why was this book published? Great plot? Snappy dialogue? I think we all have a tendency for comparison. I can think of many authors who I can’t imagine ever being mentioned in the same breath as them – Randy Alcorn, Rene Gutteridge and James Scott Bell just to name a few. For me, it’s a matter of not being them. The Lord doesn’t need another James Scott Bell. If I’m truly called to this, then he needs my voice and my Christian world view.
4. Where have you gone to find encouragement in your writing? Or, how do you know that it’s good?
Writer’s conferences are a great place to find encouragement. There are many successful authors who go teach at those things, and really want to see us hacks succeed. I guess I rely on instincts to help me know if something’s good. If my story doesn’t move me, then chances are it won’t move others as well. Beyond that I count on an editor to help me in those areas. I’ve been fortunate enough to hook up with a couple of free-lance editors who are great. They’ve taught me a lot, pointed out strong areas as well as weak areas.
5. Have you experience unfavorable public criticism of your work. How did you take it? What did you do to move beyond it?
I once had an acquisitions editor read the first page of one of my stories in a class at a conference. Fortunately she found some good things, but she also said that because of some other issues she would reject it. Of course it stings, but once again, I remind myself that this is just business. They’ve got to find stories that will sell. Once again, I focused on some of the things that I can do to “fix” what was wrong. I even asked her after the class if I rearranged a few things in the opening if it would work better. She said the thought it would, and encouraged me to look at it. So, I guess I just worked my way beyond it.
6. Have you ever attended a conference and met an agent, editor or publisher face to face? How did you handle your nerves?
Yes, I have. I handle my nerves by reminding myself that all they can do is say “no”. They can’t take my family from me. They can’t take me out back and shoot me. I remind myself that many an artist have been snubbed and turned down early in their career. Elvis and Garth Brooks both experienced rejection. To this day, the first six (I believe it’s six) Stephen King novels remain unpublished. I guess that helps me to remember that agents and editors are human too.
7. What advice would you give to the talented writer who is struggling in the area of confidence?
I don’t know that I’m one to give advice in this area! I struggle like anyone else, and I’ve always kind thought all that motivational stuff was kinda hokey. I do know that combining talent with hard work will always come through. Maybe not now, but eventually it will. Believe in God’s plan and put your faith and trust in the Lord. Beyond that, we’ve gotta keep feeding the lake. Keep writing. And pray. A lot.
A mild-mannered computer programmer by day, Matthew received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Tulsa in 1989. Matthew lives in Sand Springs, Oklahoma with his wife Martha, and his two girls: Courtney 11, and Cassidy 6. He’s currently agented by Joyce Hart at Hartline Literary and he’s written and self-published one novel entitled When You Come Home. He’s completed another novel that is currently being reviewed by my agent, and he’s working on a third. No blog site. Other than writing, the last thing he wants to do when he gets home is spend more time on a computer! Web site is matthewmeadors.com.