Thursday, January 11, 2007

Self Image

How we view ourselves and how the world views us are two different things.

A few ago years ago, I had a close friend whose writing career was in a bit of a slump. Naturally, he was depressed about this. And he had a right to be. His first book didn't perform to publisher expectations, and they released his second book without much support. One of the big chains didn't even carry it.

I'd like to point out here that I've read his work, and it's terrific. Everyone who reads it agrees. And he busted his hump promoting, traveling, and spreading the word about his books.

But fate gave him the finger, and his best efforts didn't bring him success.

In a long letter, he told me that he had lost hope. But he ended with something provocative: "My agent is constantly reminding me to act successful, no matter what."

This goes back to what I like to say about confidence. Being self-assured is damn attractive. People gravitate toward confidence, which goes back to my theory that everyone hates to make decisions. When you're meeting or seeing a new person, and that person is confident, it immediately helps you form a favorable opinion of them. To trust them. To believe in them.

The only naturally confident people are sociopaths. The rest of us wallow in constant self-doubt.

But the world doesn't have to see that.

The only way people can ever know what you're feeling is by what you let them see. If you show them confidence---even if the confidence is fake---they'll see confidence.

And I believe that confidence should extend to all of your professional connections.

An agent/author relationship is a weird mix of business partnership, employee/subordinate, and husband/wife. We tend to reveal more of ourselves, and our insecurities, to our agents.

But looking at basic human nature, I'm not sure how wise this is. Your agent isn't your friend or soul mate. Showing frailty to the person who is supposed to champion your work may be a disservice to you and your career.

Nobody ever gives Charlie Brown any Halloween candy, or picks him for the team. I don't want my agent to pity me, or feel like she's doing me a favor. I want her to believe she's going to get super rich off of me, and act accordingly.

Now, we all have times in our careers where we need to be nurtured. And that's when you call up a trusted peer and unload. But you don't want anyone in this publishing business to perceive you as a charity case, ever.

My writer friend did get back on track, and now his career is booming. His secret? Keep writing. Keep promoting. And Zoloft.

Remember that perception is everything. How you feel about yourself is not how the world feels about you.

The best way to become successful is to act successful.