Guest post on confidence by Lauren-Kate Stewart (age 12)
I’m Lauren-Kate. I’m 12 years old and I’m the author of two published books. If you told me two years ago that I would have two published novels I would have said you were crazy. I didn’t have any of the qualities that I thought a writer needed to have. I couldn’t type or spell. I would forget punctuation and capitalization constantly, and it was physically painful to write. Just writing a paragraph was painful and slow. My writing didn’t even line up along the margin of the page and usually looked like an upside down triangle.
Even though I did well in my schoolwork, the only thing I thought I was really good at was making worlds. I would take over the dining room table and pull out my many Lego sets, Play Mobil sets, plastic animals, dollhouse, doll people, furniture and anything else I thought I might use. There would be forests and palaces and towns and farms. There was usually a system of money, all of the people had different names, and I could play there for hours weaving their stories and creating different lives for each character in my world.
When mom told me that she thought it would be good for me to start this writing class with a friend I thought that it was going to be the most horrible class ever. I couldn’t even write a page, much less a book. I didn’t expect it to be a real book of course, maybe just 20 pages in a binder.
For the first few weeks we did character development, learned about plot, talked about our ideas for stories and wrote chapter titles. Our first writing assignment was to write the first chapter of our books. That week, I came in with only a single page – the result of many hours spent on my bed writing painfully slow, while the other girl in the class came in with a stack of finished, typed pages. My one handwritten, sloppy, upside down triangle-shaped page seemed a very poor comparison.
It felt a lot like the time at school when a teacher moved me and another boy across the room to a table away from the other kids’ reading group because they could all read better than we could. Yeah, I was a really late reader too – almost nine before I could read fluently (but I made up for it during that time by listening to tons of audio books by authors like G.A. Henty and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle).
My teacher asked me if I wanted to try dictating my story to my mom instead of trying to write it by hand. I told her I would try but secretly I thought that it wouldn’t work and that it was a really crazy idea. At first it felt very odd to be dictating to my mom. Her rule was that all she would do is type exactly what I said and only add periods and capital letters. After she had typed it, I had to go through and add all the commas, paragraph marks and other punctuation. All my mom would ever say when I was writing was, “Slow down please,” “Wait!” and “Repeat that please.”
The next class, I came in with 10 pages. It wasn’t just my first chapter. It was my prologue, my first chapter and my second. Now, writing class wasn’t just a pain and something I dreaded going to. Writing class was fun and interesting. After a few months my first draft was finished. All 80 pages of it. And I thought that, you know, that was the end of writing a book. I thought that was all there was to it. I was SO wrong.
Our teacher announced the next week that it was time to start editing our books. She had taken our first drafts and made comments and suggested changes. She handed us back our edited copies, when I got home and looked at the first page I thought I would never get through editing all of it. It felt like I had written a horrible book to need that many changes even though my teacher had told us that all writers, even adults received lots of edits and their first drafts were never perfect.
Over the next six months of editing, I came to realize that the edits made my book more interesting and began to notice all of the nice comments that my teacher wrote praising me for good dialogue or descriptive words. It wasn’t just one round of edits, there were three or four different rounds of edits and critiques. After a while, I wasn’t depressed when I saw all the crossed out words, punctuation corrections and little notes in the margins. I had learned that my work didn’t have to be perfect the first time and that was ok.
Finally, after months of editing, my teacher said my manuscript was ready to submit for publication. When my proof copy arrived I was excited and surprised that my book looked just like the ones you can buy in the bookstore. It wasn’t perfect, but it still felt amazing to have a real book.
Since finishing my first book I’ve sold it at multiple craft shows and book stores, been interviewed, spoken on an author panel, sold books on Amazon, created a website and written my second novel. This journey of writing books has shown me that I can do things I didn’t believe I could do even when I don’t think I have the qualities needed for them. I was very lucky to have a teacher who believed in me and helped me to believe in myself. She showed me that there isn’t just one way to do everything. Am I always self confident? No, sometimes even in my writing I don’t feel confident. My self confidence is still a work in progress, but I’m getting there.
What advice do you have for young girls who may be struggling to develop the confidence to find their own voice? It’s okay if your way of doing things isn’t everyone else’s way. And know that things don’t have to be perfect the first time.by