With Creativity Comes Confidence: A Lesson from a Sci Fi Genius

In working with my Artist’s Way Accountability & Support Group today, I was reminded of a novel I read recently called Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi.

The book is a fun, lighthearted romp about a film agent who ends up being the P.R. guy for a group of ugly aliens wanting to be accepted by the earthlings despite their extremely off-putting appearance and odor. A highly entertaining read and clever story, to say the least.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Beyond the unusual plot line, what particularly endeared me to the book was that it was Scalzi’s very first novel and one he wrote as a “practice” novel just so he could say that he had done it (and to impress his classmates at his 10 year high school reunion :) ).

Here’s what he has to say about it on his website (where, by the way, you can read the whole novel):

“In sitting down to write the novel, I decided to make it easy on myself. I decided first that I wasn’t going to try to write something near and dear to my heart, just a fun story. That way, if I screwed it up (which was a real possibility), it wasn’t like I was screwing up the One Story That Mattered To Me. I decided also that the goal of writing the novel was the actual writing of it — not the selling of it, which is usually the goal of a novelist. I didn’t want to worry about whether it was good enough to sell; I just wanted to have the experience of writing a story over the length of a novel, and see what I thought about it. Not every writer is a novelist; I wanted to see if I was.

“Making these two decisions freed me from a lot of the usual angst and pain that comes from writing a first novel. This was in all respects a ‘practice’ novel — a setting for me to play with the form to see what worked, and what didn’t, and what I’d need to do to make the next novel worth selling.”

The genius of this was that it freed him from the zeitgeist of perfectionism (a trap many of us, including me, know only too well) and allowed him to loosen up, have some fun, and get into action with Doing The Writing.

He made some attempts at selling it, but wasn’t able to, so he ended up posting it online for donations from people if they liked it on a kind of “shareware” basis. (Love that!) He was later invited to do a limited edition hardcover release of the book in 2005 and then in paperback in 2008.

Build Your Confidence

Magically, he says, “…between the writing of this novel and the publication of [my second novel], five other books slipped out of my brain, due in some measure to my confidence that I could write book-length works, be they fiction or non-fiction.”

Love that, too.

Isn’t it fascinating how simply Doing The Writing (or Doing The Work) helps us to build the confidence we think we need “before” we can do it “for real.” This clever guy found a way to do both at once.

(On a similar note, funny how this often comes up for entrepreneurs, coaches, and artists around having enough “credibility” to do what we want to do. So often I hear people talking about getting “certified” first, taking one more training,  getting the “right” website designed, or crafting the “right” progam. I make those mistakes too — my coach just busted me on this very thing this very morning, hello!)


There is nothing like finding small ways to get started to help build your confidence around new skills.

For instance, I took a screenwriting class last summer and then signed myself up for a short screenplay writing competition to put my skills to the test. And my first script came in 3rd place in my group! My two subsequent scripts did not “score” in quite the same way, but simply the act of creating all of them gave me a sense of confidence and comfort around putting the pieces together to make a plausible script.

Since I have never written any fiction before this, I was so pleased with gaining the sense of, “Oh, yes, I can do this!” Even if I have more to learn (there’s always more), I’m off to a good start.

Reminds me of what a numerologist told me about my Life Lesson once upon a time, “With creativity comes confidence.”


How does this inspire you?

I’d love to have you share your comments on the blog.


What’s Jenna Up To?

~> April 20, 2011. Speaking at the Thriving Practice Workshop Series in Berkeley, California on creating a web presence and using social media to reach clients.

~>April 23, 2011. Next broadcast of my Radio Lightworker radio show “Dreamification” on “Visioning and Moving Ahead With Your Dreams Even in the Face of Fear.” Details. Listen from anywhere in the world to this Internet radio show.

~> April 26th, 2011. My Artist’s Way Accountability & Support Group continues. Details.


  1. Hi Jenna,

    You must have been attracted to the “stars” in the title of Scalzi’s book.

    Your article today illustrates an important point – just begin. As children we have the confidence to leap — our schools/work erase that confidence in most of us — and we become scared to do anything but shop at the mall. (I believe it’s intentional … creative, alive people are not as easy to control.)

    Certification never ceases to amaze me. Anyone can decide to certify someone else. It appears to be a sign of confidence! That s/he leaped into it and said, “follow me.”

    It’s also a sign of confidence to skip the certification program and just begin. Sometimes, the endless pursuit of credentials keep us from actually beginning. “I just need one more thing … ”

    It’s all a fear of beginning without someone else’s “permission.” Give yourself permission!

    I see you “leaping” all the time! G.

  2. I love what Giuletta wrote above, and as I said in our group yesterday, Jenna, I just love the idea of “practice”! It is a real shift in perspective for me. Thank you for this wonderful article.

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