This week, authors J Thorn and Crys Cain discuss building confidence. Is it possible? If so, how? And what do they think is even more important than confidence in the practice of writing and publishing books?


Crys: Welcome to the tabs and podcast. I’m Crys Cain with my cohost, J Thorn.  

J: Hello, Crys. How’s it going?  

Crys: Feeling good. We are plowing through these episodes.  

J: It’s been what, 40 seconds since we last talked.  

Crys: Indeed. Oh yeah, it’s been a wild month and it looks to be yet another wild month coming up. 

I don’t really know when we’re going to get back to recording weekly because neither of us know what our full situations that are going to be after the first week of August.  

J: Yeah. Yeah. There’s an eight week blind spot that we’re going to have to navigate.  

Crys: Yep. That’s okay. We’re rolling with the punches. 

That’s all you can do. Because we have no updates from last week’s recorded episode as of 20 seconds ago, and no new comments. I am going to jump right into our question of the week. 

J: Yeah, let’s do it.  

Crys: And that is, this came up in the comments from last week it’s episode. And that is how would you develop your confidence muscle? 

The comment that followed after that was that your product is good enough for today. And even if it’s not perfect, you are good enough.  

J: Yes. This is a challenging question. Do you have initial thoughts or do you want me to go first?  

Crys: Ooh, initial thoughts… Therapy. Yeah, therapy is rockin.  

No therapy actually does One our group members, Adam had a really good, insightful response to this last week that I think was really key, and it’s about engaging with why you feel unworthy and if that is important. 

 And he didn’t put it in those words, but that’s my extrapolation out of it.  

J: Okay. Interesting. Yeah, I don’t I don’t know if confidence and muscle are two words that go together, all that well. My understanding is that if it’s a muscle, like you can build it. 

And like, how do you build, like how do you arrive at confidence and how do you flex that? Or how do you make it greater? And I really… I don’t know. I really struggled with the way this question is phrased, and I went in a different direction and I don’t know, I’ll be curious to hear what you think of this.  

But I almost feel like that the way that you build confidence is through failure.  

The definition of confidence is putting something out there and accepting the results, whether they’re great or not. 

That’s where confidence comes from, where it’s I’m just going to do this and I’m going to do it because it’s what I do, and sometimes it’s going to work and sometimes it’s not. But doing it is going to build the confidence to keep doing it.  

I think you have to experience failure, because if you experienced failure and then you just quit, you’re never going to build confidence. 

Therefore more failure will eventually build confidence. But I don’t know if that makes any sense whatsoever.  

Crys: I agree with all that, and I think what a lot of people think when they mean, how do I build my confidence is more like, how do I build my belief that my stuff is good? 

And for some of us that’s actually rather unattainable. Some of us are just never going to feel that our stuff is good enough. And so it is less about feeling that our stuff is good and more about the practice and that, that calls back to what Adam said.  

I’m thinking this out loud as I’m saying it. Because I do believe that confidence is… the act of confidence is a must. 

You put it in terms of accepting failure and you also said this and I, this is where I 100% degree is doing the thing regardless of the outcome.  

J: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That’s… we’re both talking this through at the same time. I agree. I don’t think you can do like confidence exercises to build your confidence. 

Yeah. I don’t think it works that way. It’s more about… it’s more about building a resilience and you can’t build a resilience without failure.  

The definition of resilience is continuing through failure. I don’t know what role failure plays in it and nobody likes to fail, and I certainly don’t want to glamorize failure. Cause I hate that in the tech bro culture where it’s that whole fail hard, fail fast. I don’t like that either.  

But there is some degree of failure that, that you need to experience and be able to accept… because like you said I think most of us, maybe not all of us, but I think most of us don’t ever feel like, oh yeah, this is awesome. I’m going to ship it.  

I think if you have confidence, you feel like… your feeling is this is as good as I can make it right now, and I’m ready to let it go. And that’s confidence too.  

Crys: Yeah. And I think this ties back to our member Kim’s response was having those deadlines that forced her to keep pushing stuff out, regardless of how she feels about. 

Knowing that she had gotten it to a level that is technically good, whether she feels quality good, but it is technically good. And it is the best she can do at that point.  

J: So here’s another example. How many, roughly, how many books have you published in your career? 

Crys: Like 60 plus?  

J: How many of those, if I put a gun to your head and said is this book good enough? Or do you want to revise it? How many of those would you say are good enough?  

Crys: Oh, two I would say are fine.  

J: Yeah, right? Exactly. No matter how many times you do it, most of the time, you’re putting something out there and you’re going, yeah. But I could make it a little bit better, but it’s more important to get it out there and to continue to do that than it is to hyper-focus on that perfectionism. 

So again, I think this idea of experiencing failure or coming up short and being able to manage that and negotiate it is where confidence comes from.  

Crys: And I wanna twist this a little sideways because it’s easy to say all this when I do have 60 plus books out and pushing a book out, isn’t a big deal for me right now. 

But there are other things that are big deals for me. And one of them is having discussions around race. And so having confidence to have those discussions is not something I have in any way, shape or form. And one of the things that I have realized as I’ve been engaging in this more is the phrase that I have kept repeating to myself that I think is really useful for any of us who are struggling with competence in any area, is that I am uncomfortable. 

Recognizing that I am uncomfortable. That’s one of the things that we are, you’re just dealing with when we’re dealing with I’m not confident enough, I’m really uncomfortable.  

The thing that I have told myself a lot lately is: I have been uncomfortable about a lot of stupid shit in my life. I can afford to be uncomfortable about things that matter to me and just accept that’s part of the process.  

J: Yeah. Yes. Gosh, just looking to start to sound preachy. I don’t, but I it’s I think it works. As a parent, this is something that I’ve had conversations with my kids about this. 

They don’t ever want to be uncomfortable ever. And I get it that’s a natural human tendency, but my daughter will get a headache and she’s like, where’s the Advil?  

And I’m like why?  

Well, I have a headache.  

Why do you have a headache?  

I don’t know. I just need an Advil. I’m uncomfortable.  

I’m like, okay. But you can take a pill, but isn’t the more important question. Like why you got a headache in the first place? But it’s this, are you dehydrated? Are you not eating well? Are you not sleeping? Are you stressed? There are things that you need to be uncomfortable about to hopefully fix. But if you never allow yourself to be uncomfortable, you never get to the place where you have to do anything about it. 

Crys: Yeah. I think that this does lead into some therapy things. And that is something I’ve really been learning over the last two years is that emotions, slash discomfort, are messages, and we are supposed to listen to those messages to see what they’re telling us. Because a lot of times they are danger information. 

And we as human animals process danger information about things that are not actually dangerous. And that’s just a natural response as we have evolved. A lot of times we need to look and say, okay what is the absolute worst that could happen if my discomfort or my fear really went full force? 

What is the worst that could happen. And oftentimes the worst that could happen, it’s not something that’s very bad at all. And if it is, then you make a plan to deal with it.  

J: Right? Yeah. The anxiety over the possibility is worse than the possibility itself.  

Crys: Yep. Yes. In being to so embrace discomfort, get comfortable with discomfort and just moving forward. That’s our top information, I think. Our top recommendations.  

J: Let me ask you a related question to this. Do you believe confidence comes from strictly internally, or do you believe there’s some external validation that can build confidence?  

Crys: Oh no. You can have all the external competent– the candidate– and I like, my brain went too fast there. You can have all the external validation in the world and still be… and like just like a jellyfish about with your own confidence.  

J: Yeah. Yeah.  

Crys: And it’s so internal.  

J: Yeah. I’ve seen people chasing things like bestseller lists and awards and recognition. And there’s this misconception that hitting those is going to mean success and build your confidence. 

But I don’t think it really works that way.  

Crys: I actually think that external validation sometimes undermines that internal competence. This imposter syndrome thing that we’ve talked about before, as you start to believe that there is an invisible standard that you once upon a time hit, but you don’t really know why. 

And now you have to hit that every time. But you don’t know how you did it. You don’t know why you did it. And now you’re paralyzed and less competent than ever.  

J: Yeah. Wow, this does this did feel more like a therapy session than a podcast episode. 

Crys: Tune in next week? J and Crys talk about their innermost feelings.  

But no, it’s one of the things that I appreciate about our group is that we do dig into these things that are so common for all of us. A lot of people feel like they’re the only one and newsflash, you’re never the only one, no matter what the emotion is, no matter what the fear is, you’ve never the clients. 

You’re not that special. I don’t mean that in a negative way at all. It should be very reassuring that you’re not that unique.  

J: Exactly. Exactly. It doesn’t matter who you are or what level of success you attain in, in by whatever measure success is measured. As humans, we’re just not always walking around fully confident. 

We all have these insecurities that manifest. And I think writers are no different. 

Crys: Well, I have a question for our listeners, and that is what are your tips and tricks for engaging with your discomfort and your lack of confidence.  

If you would like to join this conversation in real time, we’d love for you to pop over and check out what The Author Success Mastermind is all about.