It takes many things to be a writer. Many, many things. It’s not easy sitting behind the computer trying to get the stories down. We do desperate things, even when it’s too hot to do them. Getting the words to sing requires wearing a turtleneck and drinking too much coffee, even when it 101 in April.
Being a writer also takes confidence. And the ability to let people see you, the real you. We proudly put the mask of our false selves on display for everyone to peruse, critique, and hopefully love. But our real selves? Only the very lucky get to see it in person and sometimes in the voice of our stories.
An unwillingness to be seen, is dangerous. Several years ago I was singing back ground vocals on a Tommy Walker album, with a large choir. At least one hundred people, and I didn’t know a soul. During dinner, I was first in the buffet line and heaped a chicken salad with piles of crispy chow mein noodles onto my plate, as well as a half sandwich held together with a toothpick.
There were no tables to eat at, so I sat in a folding chair facing the buffet line of over 100 people. Feeling self conscious, I absentmindedly put the toothpick on my plate. I had no idea it rolled into my salad.
About three large bites of salad in, I crunched on a very hard noodle. It wouldn’t break. I felt like spitting out the clearly stale invader, but didn’t dare in front of the people. Feeling the blush of no confidence, I crunched down as hard as I could, determined to swallow all of it, even if it meant breaking a tooth. Finally it snapped and I tried hard again, to swallow.
The shards raked the inside of my cheek and I realized it wasn’t a chow mein noodle. Now contorted in the chair, I was dangerously close to swallowing a toothpick and dying of humiliation, never mind the imminent choking danger. I curled my body forward and with one fell swoop of my finger, I cleared my own airway. That’s right, I did Resusci Annie, the CPR mannequin proud.
But the lesson is not that you should always be prepared to save yourself. The lesson is to let yourself be seen, your life might depend on it. In my humiliation I tried to hide in plain site.
Today, I know how to make acquaintances and through a painful journey back from rock bottom, I have confidence. Not in who I think I am, but in who God says I am.
He has given friends and family who love me and would help if I ate two toothpicks. And He’s given me the confidence to be a writer and to trust my voice.
Every writer needs confidence so they can share knowledge.
If you’re not confident enough to write what’s inside, who will?