Posted by: jeannineatkins | November 4, 2010

Where Does Confidence Come From?

A week or so ago, I wrote about keeping company with fidgety Doubt at my elbow, so it’s only fair that I should report that yesterday I spent some time with her sister Confidence. She doesn’t appear at the heady but fraught beginning of a project, and rarely near the nerve-wracking end, but sometimes slips in during the middle. I stuck to milky tea, while she slugged back black tongue-burning coffee. We both threw up our feet onto the table and laughed loudly. And when I got back to my manuscript I seemed to write more words than I crossed out, which is something.

So where did this raucous companion sweep in from? Maybe it’s best not to ask too many questions, but it’s kind of my trade. I trace the knock at the door to a few things. One was just tolerating Doubt’s messy ways for a while. Shoving her back when she hunkered too close, but never booting her out of the room. Keeping my eyes on my own paper, as the teachers say, as much as possible. Once in a while sticking my fingers in my ears. Confidence comes from trying a new direction after turning back on a wrong path, and from seeing a solid if sloping stack of pages stack up behind me.

But of course one doesn’t ever write alone, or even with the apparitions that like to sit themselves by writer’s tables. Confidence can come from applause, but perhaps she sticks around longer when she comes in on a whisper from friends who murmur and smile when we complain, and pour more tea. And when we’re lucky, we also get the blessings of strangers. When I was recently at Birchbark Books, the woman at the counter picked up one of my small stack and said, “This is an unusual choice for a girl from Massachusetts. I don’t mean that as a bad thing. It’s good. Ojibwe is a beautiful language.”

Her articulation that it’s not bad for me to be pushing borders, trying to make my world bigger and more beautiful, though the process may be tough: those words make me feel, at the moment, as if someone has my back. And keep me moving forward.

And I’m sending Confidence out to see you. Make the coffee strong, and know she won’t turn down a scone.



  1. Gosh, I know her strange ways so well. What a beautiful post in her honor.

  2. It’s just what I needed to hear today, Jeannine. I’ve been keeping my eyes on my own paper and sticking my fingers in my ears for ten hand-wringing days. Then I had three piping hot cups of confidence this morning, yours being the third and most flavorful.

  3. oh, so glad you have confidence as a companion!

  4. Cool post, Jeannine! Please do send Confidence over here (I’ll welcome her quietly) . . . 🙂

  5. Please tell Confidence we have great scones over here! So glad she came to visit you.

  6. How wonderful. I do wonder where those “good” days come from–I’m feeling a bit of it today (maybe she already stopped by my house!), as I tell myself it’s time to face my MC’s mother & turn her into something. Doubt has been riding roughshod over this part of the project, but today seems to be carrying more of a Bring it On kind of Mood. So glad Confidence dropped in at your house & thanks for sharing!

  7. This post made me smile. I’m glad Confidence has come for a nice, long visit, and I hope you continue to feel as though others have your back.
    Confidence could come hang with me today and tomorrow, if she’d like. 🙂

  8. Confidence is going to be quite busy today, I can already tell. Look at the line-up of writers who’ve invited her to join them.
    I’ve raised my hand, too. Did she get my invitation? Tell her to follow her nose…I’m brewing a fresh pot of hazelnut-vanilla coffee.

  9. I think Confidence already made her visit. For me, it was at the Teen Advisory Board meeting, when someone who should know said that what she read felt true.
    Keeping the coffee brewing.

  10. Thanks! I could use a visit from her. 😉

  11. Loved seeing you today, Jo! And your amazing students!

  12. Hand wringing and fingers in ears is rewarded! Good news for us all. Hope confidence hangs around you, Toby!

  13. I know confidence was hanging all over you in July. Maybe taking a break, but she will come back! I’m kicking her over.

  14. Confidence would love to have pumpkin pie with you and Cornelius, and shuffle through all your picture book ideas. She may raise her eyebrows a few times, but that’s just her way. I know she’s going to smile at something.

  15. Confidence is fleeing for your scones and strong tea. Hope you enjoy her!

  16. Confidence does seem to be in the air today, and I’m glad she’s making her visits bicoastal. We deserve to see her now and then!

  17. Um, Jeni, don’t think I said anything about a LONG visit, but I’m enjoying her even if fleeting! Hope she stops by to your house.

  18. Thanks for the lovely invitation which I’m certain Confidence cannot refuse — fragrant coffee and a banner. Confidence should definitely be visiting your table more often, Melodye. I’m giving her a short lecture and nudge.

  19. Oh, those surprise visits from Confidence are the best! May that memory stay with you as you keep moving forward.

  20. Jenn! Sending Confidence right over. And telling her to stay a while.

  21. I love when she visits, but I wish I knew how to convince her to stay longer.

  22. I know what you mean. She’s not one to settle in, so it’s best just to remember she will come back. But sending you hopes for a visit longer than one cup of a coffee and a muffin.

  23. Once again, I breathe more deeply after visiting your blog. Your posts hold Confidence in the pleats, and you share it with all of us. Thank you! A.

  24. Oh, Amy, thank you for stopping by with your deep breathing and way with words. You bring me the same calm.

  25. Do you think Confidence might enjoy a slice (or two) of banana bread? I certainly could use her whisper at my ear. 🙂
    What a lovely post, Jeannine. It made me smile.
    Have a wonderful weekend full of happy writing.

  26. I hope Confidence is happily munching banana bread with you, Lorraine. She has kept me company a bit lately because I’m not writing a scary beginning and I’m not near that nerve-wracking place where I have to show anyone what’s going on here. The lovely cocoon phase. Still, Confidence is a come-and-go sort, and I’m happy to steer her in your direction and gently remind you that we’re waiting, patiently, for your pages.

  27. It’s tough because when you write…it’s like you’re alone in the dark sometimes. It helps to look back and see how far you’ve come!

  28. Really, we are alone in the dark, and it’s also good to remember others are waiting. So glad there’s another Crissa novel to look forward to and to see some of where you’ve been.

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