As I prepare my query letter and the first fifteen pages of my manuscript to be sent off, I’m feeling those opening night jitters. It’s as though I’m about to perform on a grand stage for the first time, my fledgling craft exposed, my hopeful truths spotlighted in words for seasoned experts to scrutinize.
On that grand stage, I faintly hear Maria singing “I Have Confidence” in The Sound of Music. She sings of fear and doubt, then determination to overcome, growing in confidence with each step.
I’ve always longed for adventure / To do the things I’ve never dared
Now here I’m facing adventure / Then why am I so scared?
Authors can feel such anxiety, waiting for manuscript feedback. The anticipation of hearing someone else’s thoughts about our deeply personal work can send us on a rollercoaster of emotions. We hang on tight as we roar from the heights of exultation to sudden brooding depths, from giddy peaks to low humility. It’s a maelstrom of feelings.
This anticipatory anxiety is a form of worry about future events, a three-layered fear system: fear of something going wrong, fear of experiencing fear, and fear of the fear of fear. This cascade can lead to the avoidance of sharing our work and our voice with the world.
Oh, I must stop these doubts, all these worries / If I don’t I just know I’ll turn back
I must dream of the things I am seeking / I am seeking the courage I lack
Despite the fear and the anxiety, there is a visceral power in telling one’s unique story. It lives deep in us if we look. Each of us possesses a set of experiences and perspectives that are valuable and can help expand others’ understanding of the world. Our stories, shaped by our unique voices, thoughts, experiences, dreams, hopes, and fears, cannot be told by anyone else. We must tell them.
Maybe these seasoned experts won’t like my work.
So what? I’ll just get better and try again. Mastering the art of storytelling, like mastering a musical instrument or a sport, takes time. There may be moments of frustration and disappointment, times when the work might not meet our own or others’ expectations. For some reason, we choose to be brave and to persist. The struggle, the process, is worth it.
With each step I am more certain / Everything will turn out fine
I have confidence the world can all be mine / They’ll have to agree, I have confidence in me
I am stepping into a new situation, one that could lead to joy, disappointment, or everything in between. I choose to face it with the same resolve and determination as Maria. Despite the fear, the doubt, and the anxiety, I have faith in the story I have crafted and in the power of my unique voice. Just as, by the end of the song, Maria has recovered faith in her own confidence.
I have confidence in confidence alone
Besides, which you see, I have confidence in me!
Maybe this story won’t sell. But I am a storyteller now, so there will be other manuscripts. This is just the beginning, and something in me is embracing whatever comes next. So, here’s to the journey, to the critiques and edits, the rejections and acceptances. Here’s to storytelling, and here’s to having confidence in me!
Richard Rodgers, I Have Confidence (1965, Williamson Music Company)