What happens when you don’t trust yourself

The literary world was abuzz recently when soon-to-be debut author Jumi Bello confessed in an essay on Literary Hub to plagiarizing parts of her debut novel, “The Leaving,” which was then yanked from Riverhead’s summer lineup.

The New York Times reports:

“The essay chronicled her history with mental illness and the pressures of producing a debut book, examining how she had allowed herself to accept the ethical sin of copying someone else’s work…The book was about a young, Black woman’s unexpected pregnancy. In her essay, Ms. Bello said she had never been pregnant and had sought out richer descriptions of pregnancy online.” 

And then?

That essay was pulled, too… when it was also found to contain plagiarized material. (Before I could read it. Damn!)

Oy is right.

You don’t need me to tell you why it’s a very bad idea to steal someone else’s work, and doubly bad to publish a piece about it, which you then also plagiarize.

I was talking to my friend Suzanne Kingsbury, the creator of the Gateless Method, about it and she said what I had also been thinking:

This is what happens when you do not trust your own work.

Bello didn’t believe she could write the thing that needed to be written, and she either got lazy or scared or both and lifted what another writer had said.

I’m not saying everyone who doesn’t trust their work ends up plagiarizing. Because they don’t.

But if you do not trust yourself to create something and plagiarism is off the table (good idea), what will likely happen is you say…nothing.

I can’t tell you how many people believe that if they “just had a book deal” and a deadline, they’d get it done no problem.

Nah. A legal agreement with a publisher cannot give you faith in your own ability.

The only way to be, do, write, or say anything that’s yours and yours alone? Is to trust that you can do it and practice doing it.

The best way to practice using your voice and sharing your work? Somewhere you feel safe.

Just ask Google, whose research found that psychological safety was the #1 ingredient of effective teams.

And the way I run these workshops? There isn’t a safer place on the planet to explore your own voice.

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