Monday, April 23, 2012

Are you getting the hole-in-one?

(photo credit)

Who else feels a constant tug between confidence and doubt in this business? What if research shows  that's exactly what you SHOULD be feeling?

Check out this one-page article on an NPR story that aired last week, Can You Think Your Way To That Hole in One?

It details the research of Jessica Witt at Purdue University and Tim Woodman at Bangor University in Wales, and the delicate balance between confidence and uncertainty.

In her study, Witt, among other things, used lighting in a laboratory setting to manipulate the perception a golfer would have of a hole. She found that golfers tend to do better when they believe the hole is larger, or more achievable.

Of course I thought immediately of writing. The way writing has opened up to seemingly "regular" people (i.e., those not necessarily trained as writers) over the last decades certainly makes me feel confident about my abilities. Who hasn't read a published book and thought, "I can do that!"?

But as we all know as writers, if we were to pile up those "I can do that" books, they'd be no match for the tower of titles that astound, impress, and amaze us. The coolest part of this story: That doubt is a GOOD THING, too.

The article also mentions the research of Tim Woodman at Bangor University in Wales, which shows that confidence doesn't GUARANTEE performance. "The more confident you are, the better-- up to a certain point,"Woodman states.

He continues, "If you're good at something but you doubt yourself a little bit, you're more likely to try that bit harder."

What do you think?

How do you balance confidence and uncertainty in writing, careers, and life?


  1. "If you're good at something but you doubt yourself a little bit, you're more likely to try that bit harder." So that quote basically made my day! It's true, though--the more I struggle, the more I push myself. Fingers crossed the end result is something better than expected. :)

  2. Love this post, Kat... So much to think about! I'm not sure I'm very good at balancing doubt and confidence. Many days I feel absolutely horrible about my abilities and my ideas and my stories, but there are also those (rare) days when it dawns on me that I'm doing a pretty good job. Those are the days that keep me going!

  3. Phew! Glad to hear that I'm normal. :) This does make really good sense, though. If you're too confident then you're less likely to put in the extra work to make that WiP shine. If you're too much of a doubter you run the risk of never finishing anything or just quitting altogether. I think great stories come from somewhere in between. Thanks for sharing this with us. :)

  4. This post is awesome! I love reading things like this when I'm feeling like I'm never going to get anywhere with this whole writing thing. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Confidence with a bit of self-doubt. Now I just need to keep the two in the proper balance. :)

  6. Rebecca- it will be! I think that little dose of doubt keeps us on our toes.

    Katy- I'll bet it takes decades to get it just right.

    Jaime- I'm more and more convinced (as I sadly see people drop away from writing who I am sure are good), that having the confidence to keep going is powerful.

    Quita- YAY! Amen. I feel that way about half the time. I'm so glad I'm not alone.

    Connie- No kidding-- and I think that's the crux of the whole thing. :0)

  7. Having wrestled with these all my life, I still haven't reached a state of balance. Will let you know when it happens!


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