I recently got my Certificate of Excellence and fire-red oven mitt upon completion of The Forge Writing Program. I explain the mechanics of The Forge in Part 1 of this series, where I am smiling like a creep in The Afterglow of the Forge Writing Program.
In this post I'm going to cover one of the obstacles to my creative writing, confidence. It’s one thing to make, whatever it is you are creating, but believing in the final product is another skill altogether. I’ve been working on developing a belief in my writing for quite some time, probably all my writing life.
In recent years, I’ve gained ground under the tutelage of Julia Cameron, Anne Lamott and Elizabeth Gilbert — by way of their books, not a high-dollar conference or anything. It also helped me to invest in hiring an editor, Mike Cooper, for some coaching along the way. Like any athletic sport, it helps to have someone cheering and focused on your improvement, while you work your ass off. Yet it wasn’t until about halfway through The Forge Writing Program that some neural pathway opened and I found myself enjoying my work and feeling a new zest for my writing skills, and I’ll tell you why that matters: because it allowed me to get out of my own way and write.
I started this blog, for example, as an act of self-love and me-to-me marketing during The Forge. I like this public writing practice and maybe others will too. But maybe not, I can’t really control that. I guess what I’m saying is, I like my writing now — not all the time and especially not shitty first drafts (Hey, Anne Lamott!) — but I love it nonetheless, in the same way I loved my infant child, despite her insomnia, constant hunger and diaper dependency.
The Elusive Creative Writing Confidence
I came upon a heightened state of creative writing confidence indirectly during The Forge, almost by way of diffusion. Or maybe it was osmosis — by absorbing all the creativity can-do's during the sessions. There were not pop psychology lessons offered or power pose exercises, but I gained more of this elusive self-belief nonetheless. If you got a sec, I’ll explain.
The Warm Bath of Creative Writing Confidence
Let’s say you want to take a long, indulgent bath. And you’re so grateful for the tub, the time and warmth, the salt crystals and running water, that when you eventually pull the drain, you feel a quiet contentedness. And then you step out of the bath and realize that the outfit you planned to wear tomorrow is hanging beside you, and it looks like a professional steamer tended it while you bathed. At that point, well, you’re in hog heaven. What I’m saying is, I went to The Forge for the practical writing tips and skills development. And I got that. But I also got some unexpected and abstract boons, like more confidence in my writing.
Creative Confidence Masquerades as a Brandi Carlilse Concert
If the bath and wrinkle-free clothing metaphor isn’t resonating, I’ll try another one, and its a real Pacific Northwest and Bend, Oregon reference.
Let’s say one of your favorite artists, Brandi Carlisle, is playing at the Hayden Homes amphitheater, on the banks of the Deschutes River. And before the Bendites groan and give up on this analogy, let’s say you won your tickets for free on the radio, you got complimentary valet bike parking, no one made you carry a plastic purse, or charged you for bringing your ultralight lawn chairs, or made you prove your vaccination status and then encouraged you to drink from the community water fountain. OK, you feeling the old-timey good vibes?
The Contact High — You're Not Complaining!
Alright, so Brandi and the twins are rocking out, lights are flashing and Brandi is belting and suddenly you’re surrounded by flannel-clad women who are passing a joint. You don’t smoke, but you don’t mind that they do. It’s not like you intended to get high, but you’re not complaining. And once you’re buzzing, you notice a harvest moon is shining on the crowd, and the sound quality here is like a studio album — but not studio stale — and you couldn’t possibly get more satisfaction out of the experience. You came for the band, and you also got high. You feeling me?
I attended The Forge Writing Program to become a better writer, but now I believe in my writing too.
Keep the Pilot Light Lit
The unfortunate thing about any high is that it wears off, right? And self-confidence ebbs and flows over the length of a lifetime, at least over mine. That's healthy and keeps us humble. I do expect to have a reality check when I start submitting work to publishers. That exercise is likely to burst my bubble. Until then or another kind of reckoning, I am going to ride this wave and trust that the craft and time-salvaging skills that I gained during The Forge will keep my pen moving and my pilot light lit.
Up next: Part three of this series focuses on The Salvage Yard of Writing Time and how The Forge Program increased both my writing scrappiness and productivity.
Video: Closing Thoughts on The Forge Creative Writing Program
If you haven't watched the class of 2022's Closing Thoughts video, I recommend it. OK, I made it, with the help of many Smithys.