Thursday, June 5, 2014

TED Talk Thursday: Building Creative Confidence with David Kelley

Recently, at the Loft, we've been talking about organization and productivity and about the personal practices that delay us in achieving our Epic Win in writing. (We planned a panel to talk about just that on July 23rd.)

But there is this other thing that keeps writers from writing, and that is an emotional, fear response, stemming from a lack of creative confidence.

Anyone who was lucky enough to hear Peter Reynolds (@peterhreynolds) read The Dot at #NESCBWI14 experienced how creative confidence could be inspired, rather than crushed--that moment when the little girl, sure that she is no artist, pokes her paper with her marker and shows her teacher who, in turn, tells her to sign it.

Just that. Sign it.

You are an artist. Take yourself seriously. Own wherever you might be on your writing journey and make no excuses for it. Everyone is somewhere, and you are here. You have every right to be where you are and love it. Just imagine where you can go from here!

Our job as writers is to grow our creative confidence, but I believe it is also to nurture the creative confidence in others. I've heard the horror stories. A writer who put their writing away for a year because a peer gave them a scathing, demeaning critique. Another writer who stalled out for just as long because their critique group's rules stated that they could only receive positive feedback, nothing that would promote growth and change.

But how do we do this? How do we cultivate creative confidence? David Kelley looked to a behavioral psychologist studying fears for the answer--guided mastery. Check it out:

Can't see the TED talk? Yeah, me neither. Blogger is finicky. Watch it HERE:

(We'll wait here for you!)

I love Dug Dietz's solution for fear of MRIs--I love the pirate ship adventure for kids!

So, how do we perform guided mastery for our writing process? It's about small successes. We need to acknowledge our small successes when they happen. Not berate ourselves because we are falling short of a polished, published novel.

I've been known to recommend treating our goals as a game (hence the Epic Win comment above).

And it's about getting that successful feedback from others. But I don't think that you can just ask any writer for that kind of feedback (I think it would be wonderful if you can!) you have to be selective. If you join a writing group, make sure they have clear critique guidelines.

Or take a writing class from someone who excels at creating successes in others. (Keep an eye on the Loft calendar--we are scheduling a revision class like this for the fall.)

And, make sure that when you give feedback, you are nurturing another writer's creative confidence, not destroying it.

If you enjoyed this TED talk, check out the other talks I've highlighted down in the sidebar of this blog->

Are you suffering a creative confidence crisis? What is the worst critique situation you've been involved in? Have you told anyone to sign their dot today? Why the hell not? :)


  1. Wonderful. Thanks for sharing, Heather. I'd love to get a signed copy of my books The Dot and Ish to David Kelley. His cup of tea I imagine. I agree with him - small successes lead to creative confidence. Starting with a dot perhaps? : )

  2. Hey Peter! Thanks for stopping by. It was great to meet you at NE-SCBWI this year! I absolutely think that David Kelley would LOVE The Dot and Ish!!

  3. Fear and the artist are like two peas in a pod. Something we all have to overcome! And yes, Peter's keynote was wonderfully inspiring

  4. Laura--hello!! I think I cried a bit during Peter's keynote. It was wonderful. :)

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