Once a month I travel to York, to work with my client, JRF, helping build its profile and get out there more. So, for a couple of hours on the motorway I get to tune in to the radio and you can’t go wrong with Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, can you?
This time it was the author and winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize, Marlon James. My ears pricked up when he said he didn’t have self-belief, because he sounds so self-assured and confident.
Apparently, before being published, he destroyed every copy he had of the manuscript of his first book, A Brief History of Seven Killings. Imagine deleting all that work, a whole book? He must have really not believed in himself!
It then took a creative writing classmate to not only tell him he was utterly wrong, but to search out an old email, with the manuscript document attached, in order to submit it to publishers.
As I see it, the lesson here is to let people know when you’re not sure of what you’re doing. Say it, if self-belief deludes you. Articulate those thoughts.
Be vulnerable enough to allow them to support you, help you, push you, tell you to get a grip, dig out old emails – whatever you need. But don’t hide your uncertainty.
It takes strength to be vulnerable.
Marlon James is a delight to listen to, and wonderfully human in his self-contradictory comments. On the one hand, he lacks self-confidence and deleted his work, but on the other (and maybe this is the beauty of 20:20 hindsight) he knows he is a good writer, despite many rejections. He told the interviewer, Lauren Laverne:
“Even when everyone thinks they are right, the majority can be wrong”.
Enjoy it here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0003cqx