Saturday, August 13, 2011

Writing Lessons from "The Help" (Part 2)

The Help You often hear that writers need to develop a tough skin in order to deal with the looming rejection and criticism of the writing life. This is true, but even before you learn to cope with the reaction to your writing, you have to be brave enough to write, and then have the courage to share your writing. In this installment of writing lessons culled from “The Help”, I discuss a crucial element to the writer’s state of mind as she decides to share her heart and soul through her writing. No matter where it comes from, whether it is perfect or not, it sets you up to take the necessary risks.

Lesson Two: Confidence

Skeeter's attempt to secure an editor's position at a big-time New York publishing house without prior experience, clips, or understanding of the traditional career path may have been misguided, but it still got her foot in the door. She was young, and a hard worker in school. To her, it only made sense to apply to just one job, her dream job in New York City, a huge step closer to the ultimate dream of being a writer.

Whether she realized it or not, this was a risky move. Or it would have been, to someone who didn't have some confidence in herself. How many times have you considered an idea for a top magazine, but let the idea fade into nothingness rather than sending a query because you felt you were not yet qualified? You may not be ready yet, but if it's a great idea that you are interested in, you can GAIN experience by writing the best damn query letter ever. If it's that good, you owe it to yourself and the world to submit it. If you do this enough times, your own confidence will build--possibly not at first that you will land the assignment, but that you are brave enough to take the first step. Like Skeeter, you may come across someone willing to offer you a break. But you have to show up for the game to ever have a chance to play.

Confidence cannot shadow reality, of course. If you are still struggling with grammar, spelling, sentence structure and the like, the confidence that an agent or a publisher will help transform your big idea into a masterpiece is way off base. Take an honest look (or ask an honest critic) at your current writing. If it needs work, redirect your confidence to the task at hand: improving your skills to meet your goals.

The best way to gain confidence: Try. If you succeed, you prove that you can do it. If you fail, you prove that you can survive it.

Do something in the next week to express or build your confidence. I would love to hear about it!

Happy--and Confident!--Writing!



  1. She sure did take a risk! I'm not sure I'd have been able to lie like that just because it was so up in the air whether the maids would help or not. But she believed in her idea, and I think that confidence showed through to the maids!

  2. I was a journalism major in college so I have had dreams of submitting stories/pitches to a "big" magazine for ages (I won't say how long). Somehow, I always think exactly what you wrote... "I'm not ready yet." That's ridiculous! I accept your challenge to submit something in the next week. I AM ready!

    I'm currently training for a women's half marathon (my 4th) and have been reading Runner's World magazine a lot. In the process, I have thought of 2 good story ideas I should query.

    I'm posting this here for you to keep me accountable for doing so in the next week. I WILL PITCH THOSE 2 STORIES TO RUNNERS WORLD magazine.

    Next... actually sitting my butt down to write my collection of essays so I can begin the agent search. I am ready! THANK YOU!


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