We all know it’s important to have confidence in ourselves and confidence in our work. If we don’t love our story, why should anyone else? Along that same line, if our story needs work, shouldn’t we be willing to accept that without being insulted? There is a fine line between confidence and cockiness.
Let’s take a look at the difference between these two attitudes. Cockiness first (since cocky people think they SHOULD go first – it’s their right, after all). What exactly does it mean to be cocky? To be cocky is to be arrogant, overly proud; Webster’s defines cocky /arrogant as “making claims or pretensions to superior importance or rights; overbearingly assuming; insolently proud.” Words like “pretension”, “overbearing” and “insolent” – are they words we really want used to describe us? A cocky author might brush off the suggestions of editors and agents, because he truly believes he knows the business and his story better than they do. He might shred that letter from the publisher who took the time to make suggestions for improvement and be insulted that his story is not being lauded as the next best-seller.
How about confident? Webster’s defines confident as “having strong belief or full assurance; sure of oneself; having no uncertainty about one’s own abilities, correctness, successfulness”. That sounds much better to me. Words like “belief”, “certain”, “success” – those are words that should make us proud. A confident author is open to constructive criticism from people who she respects and whose opinions she has sought out. She listens to her friends and colleagues when they give their well thought out opinions on how they feel she can improve her story and takes them into consideration without anger or resentment.
There is something to being sure that we have talent; to believing in our work and pushing ourselves to get out there and be read. Most authors would agree that there is no such thing as NO uncertainty in one’s abilities. We all have insecurities and doubts; we’re human, after all. Even the most famous writers have had doubts about their work at one time or another. The key to having the confidence to put our work out there, in my opinion, is having the willingness to hone our craft and work on our story until it is the best it can be.
If we receive the same comments on our story from many different sources, doesn’t it follow that we should consider the advice of people we respect? When we send out our manuscript, we don’t send it to just anybody; we do research and find just the right person, the one we are sure will love our work and who’s opinion matters to us. When we work that hard to find the right person, it just makes sense to listen to and think about what that person has to say about our work. I’m not saying that the agents and publishers are always right (sorry Lynn), but if we hear the same advice over and over from people we respect, isn’t it a bit cocky to not look at it and consider that they just might be right?
Think about the tone of a query letter; is it better to come off as sure and confident or overbearing and cocky? I’m going to hedge a guess that we all agree on the former over the latter. When we interview for a job, we don’t go barging in announcing we are the best person for the job, we walk in with confidence in our abilities and come armed with examples of why we are the right person for the job. There is a huge difference between cocky and confident; which would you rather be?