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October 12, 2017

On Confidence: My INTO THE WORDS Experience

By Michael Caldwell

The day at Jerry Johnson's Shangri-La was like a dream. Shawn Anderson's workshop "Defining Your Persona, Platform, and Plan" evoked a dream the next morning.

Shawn's handout provided interview questions to access and define our persona as writers. When I got home, I did the interview. Among the questions: identify ten celebrities or historical figures I'd invite to a cocktail party. Among my ten was Paul McCartney.

The next morning I awoke with a dream seeing Paul sitting alone at my party. I scrunched up my confidence, went over to him, introduced myself, and asked if I might join him. Warmly, he invited me to sit and talk. After a long time sitting and talking with a natural glow that belied his celebrity status, a friend of his interrupted us and I took my leave.

The dream's gift: I deserve to be confident that I can approach accomplished writers, editors, and agents with my book. My unconscious is saying to me I can be confident. Be confident!

Confidence: it's a funny word for something terribly elusive for me. I looked it up. "faith, trust…consciousness of feeling sure, bold certainty, cocksureness…"

If I could confide so naturally with the human being who sang such favorites as "Yesterday," "Blackbird," "Julia," "Let it Be," "Lady Madonna," I can confide with anyone.

Can I confide with myself to believe in myself enough to push this thing through and believe that after countless drafts it sees publication? Can I confide over and over again with countless agents until I find an agent who sees something in the book's idiosyncrasies enough to give it a shot?

One hundred publishers turned down Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. But Pirsig knew he had something that would fly and kept on pitching. Eventually, the manuscript found its way into the hands of James Landis at William Morrow who found it "brilliant beyond belief" and got it into print in 1974. It sold more than a million copies.

Pirsig's masterpiece was unusual. My writing is unusual. His legacy spurs me on. And my new friendship with Paul McCartney makes me smile and keeps me writing and hoping.


Michael Caldwell lives and writes from his maple orchard in North Wolcott. He has published articles in Coracle, (magazine of the Iona Community), the Catholic Radical, and the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine. He has also written columns for the Newport Express (The Old-timer) and the Morrisville News and Citizen (Oracle). He is working on a novella about the evolution of homo sapiens to homo aestheticus.