Friday, April 13, 2007

It's Called Confidence

By Lonnie Cruse

Yesterday morning I was returning home from an appointment in Paducah. As I reached Metropolis and headed down the shortcut that leads through town, I spotted a young boy walking on the opposite side of the road, his back to traffic. My first thought was to say a quick prayer that he'd stay safely off the shoulder, away from the edge of the road, and not get run over. Then I saw him glance over his shoulder, obviously keeping an eye on traffic. As I drew closer, I was struck by several things about him.

He was young, probably eight to ten years old, walking on a busy street by himself. But it's a small town, and kids here do that. He reminded me of my boys at that age, blonde hair, large eyes, cute as a button. But what really got my attention was his attire and what he carried in his hands.

He wore large rubber boots that came to his knees and a jacket to guard against the chilly spring wind. In one hand he carried a large empty bucket. I wondered about that bucket for a brief second or two. Was he picking up soda cans to recycle/sell? Then I saw the fishing pole in his other hand.

I tried to remember if there was a pond at that end of town (we're a rural area, here in Southern Illinois, lots of farms, lots of ponds) but I couldn't remember any in the direction he was headed. There IS, however, a very large creek at the end of that road where it runs into Highway 45, and the Ohio River also backs into that area when the river stages are high, as they likely are now (recent heavy rains) so my guess is he was headed that-a-way. With a fishing pole and an empty bucket. I didn't see any bait, but there might have been a plastic lure tied on the end of his pole, or he might've carried some bait stuck down in his pocket.

As a longtime fisherman (fisherwoman?) I was awed by his confidence, for obviously the purpose of the bucket was to carry home whatever he could catch via the pole. Apparently it didn't occur to him that he might not catch any fish. Confidence. A wonderful thing.

Many writers have that kind of innocent, steady confidence. I'd already decided to write this piece when I happened to read a post yesterday on a writer's list by my Poe sister, Sandy Parshall. Sandy, apparently in response to something an unpublished writer had written to the list, said she wrote her second book before her first was even accepted or published. I did the same thing, wrote the second before the first in my Metropolis series even found a home. A lot of authors do that. We don't wait to see if someone will publish our first highly polished and ready-to-submit manuscript because we believe in it, not in a haughty or superior way, but in a confident way. Confident about our stories, that someone will want to publish them, and confident others will want to read them. It's what keeps us going, through difficult critiques, harsh criticisms, doubtful head shakes from friends or family, rejection from agents or publishers, and other difficult times.

Confidence. Yeah, it wavers a bit at times. We want to move to a cave some days (sans computer and Internet) and hide. Or toss our work-in-progress in the trash. Or kill the person who dares say we'll never be published. But we keep going. Keep writing.

I hope that little boy's mom fried his catch-of-the-day because I'm sure he caught some fish. Do you have the confidence to carry through with whatever is important to you? Hey, don't give up, grab a bucket.


Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Great post, Lonnie. I'm sure it'll strike a chord with many writers. I wrote three mysteries in the 70s, had a great agent but they didn't sell (and they're now obsolete). I can remember saying, "I wonder how many unpublished manuscripts I have the moral courage to write?" Apparently the answer is an infinite number. I had the second and third mss in my series completed before the first (due out next year) was accepted. And I have three nonfiction mss in the drawer as well. I've been calling it persistence--never thought of it as confidence before, but I like it. Thanks. :)

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Hey Lonnie:

What an inspiring post.

When I was in the midst of my first novel, I was so excited, and typing away, and then got to the middle and I realized I still loved it, and still was enthusiastic, but it was actually much more difficult than I thought it would be.

Anyway, at some point I called my mother to chat, and said "You know, I love this book, I hope I can finish it."

And Mom said, "You will if you want to."

I was so moved I didn't know what to say. (When you meet me you'll realize how unusual that is!)

But she made me understand, in that one sentence, that I was in charge. I could make the decision. Would I do it? Or not? Was all up to me.

Pub date! June 12.

Love your blog!

Bill Crider said...

Confidence? I don't have any. Every time I start a book, I wonder how I'll ever be able to finish. And after I finish, I wonder if it's any good. Still, I manage to get the job done, somehow.

Lonnie Cruse said...

Wow, Bill, that amazes me, given how much I love your books.

Liz, looks like you do have that confidence, and Hank too.

Thanks to each of you for commenting!

Lorraine Bartlett said...

I wish I could say it was confidence that led me to write a second book in one of my unsold series. (I'd written four in another; the first has been published, the second is scheduled for next year.)

Alas, I wrote that second book on the advice of a bad agent. At that time I did have confidence. My unsold book was a Malice contest finalist. Eventually, I received stellar rejections. The problem was by then I was on the tail end of a trend. Too many publishers already had similar series.

Those books are unlikely to ever see publication.

Cest le vie.