Billy Coffey
Billy Coffey

The Confident Writer

April 9, 2012  

photo-388I found the gift when I walked upstairs over the weekend to begin this piece. Sitting here on my desk waiting for me, propped up against my notebook and held in place by my pen.

I flipped on the desk lamp and settled into my chair, then unfolded the piece of paper. The neat, balloon-like words of half script and half cursive seemed to reach out and peck me on the cheek:


Don’t work yourself too hard tonight! I found this book in the attic. I wondered if you ever saw it or read it. I’m pretty sure you need it since you are almost officially an author now. Just as a heads up it looks like a really old book. Some of the pages fell out. I stuffed them back in there. It’s the Second Edition. I wonder if you have the First Edition. Anyway you might need it sometime. Remember don’t stay up too late and again don’t work yourself too hard. I Love You!!!

The word “love” had been written again at the bottom of the page in a ten-year-old’s attempt at Elizabethan flourish. My daughter had signed her name below that and added a pencil-drawn heart beside it.

Beneath the letter was the treasure she had rooted out from the attic—an ancient grammar book, the origins of which escaped me. I noticed the font of the cover mimicked the “love” she used for her complimentary close. I ran a finger over the title—The Confident Writer.

That my daughter managed not only to find the book but write this letter, place it here for me to find, and then sneak back downstairs without spoiling the surprise is a testament to her resourcefulness. Also to her understanding of her father. I sat the paper aside and turned my attention to the book. After all, she was right. I may indeed need it.

It was all there in those 525 pages—nouns and verbs and sentence structure. Punctuation and prepositions. Referential words and phrases. Everything anyone would ever need in order to become an “official author.”

Most everything, anyway. Because while all the nuts and bolts of proper writing were there in abundance, the most important things were not.

It’s said that writers are a notoriously fragile lot, given to fits of everything from low self-esteem to a worry that borders on paranoia. I won’t say that’s all completely true, but it’s not completely false. There are a great many rewards that can come by living your life from the inside out and scribbling down what you find along the way. But there are drawbacks, too. Every profession has its hazards, myriad ways to be banged up and injured and sickened. The only difference between writers and most everyone else is that our welts and abrasions lie hidden beneath the skin. They’re visible, but only to us and only when viewed through the nearest mirror.

That is why we look for comfort wherever we can and lean upon our loved ones and those who work for our success. Small acts such as my daughter’s note beside me become life preservers of sorts, something to tether us to a safe harbor and keep us from drifting into murky waters. To accept them and then offer your own small acts in return is all the proof you need that putting pen to paper may at times be an exercise in isolation, but never in loneliness. That, I think, is how a confident writer it made.

And that is why I’m setting the book in front of me aside. It won’t go back into the attic, but neither will it stay on my desk. It will instead remain close at hand, ready to offer another nut or bolt to whatever story I build.

This letter, though.

That stays here. Right here next to me, where my eyes can wander to it. Where my lamp can cast its glow upon these balloon-like words and I can trace this pencil-drawn heart with a finger.

Be Sociable, Share!
Now Available: 
The Curse of Crow Hollow

Crow Hollow Cover

“Coffey spins a wicked tale . . . [The Curse of Crow Hollow] blends folklore, superstition, and subconscious dread in the vein of Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery.’”

—Kirkus Reviews

Available online and your local bookstore. 



12 Responses to “The Confident Writer”

  1. Love this, Billy. No matter how official an author you become, and no matter how many accolades you receive on that account, the best and highest and noblest name you will ever possess is the one so gracefully penned on that piece of paper. You are loved by a thoughtful, gentle, eternal soul who calls you “Daddy.” Everything else is gravy.

  2. dukeslee says:

    Oh … oh … oh. Perfect timing for me, Billy. And … I am among the notoriously fragile lot, as you say. I am among those whose fears likely border on paranoia. :) 

    I love that sweet child of yours. I KNOW that she and my Lydia would make fast friends. 

  3. Betsy Cross says:

    Kids! What a blessing. They are so wise.

  4. alwaysalleluia says:

    What a fantastic story! What a blessing your daughter is! 😉

  5. Your daughter, indeed, is a confident writer. What a precious treasure. The point you make here is so true for me. I started out very confident, authentic & vulnerable…but the often negative responses to my honesty have wounded me upon occasion. If I do not keep my eyes on what God thinks of me, deeply dependent on the Lord for my confidence, I shrink back in doubt every time. I’m thankful for this message today, Billy. May you continue to write, God-confident, Lord-inspired, with all the nuts and bolts of the Spirit holding you together.

  6. Thanks for sharing this story with us, Billy. 

    And that’s what we’ve all gotta remember… to trace the hearts of our loved ones with something more than ink.


  7. I pretty much want to bawl now. Dang Billy. Just dang. 

    It’s true though. What we write on paper is just a shadow reflection of what we write with our lives, and what others write upon us. 

  8. Kathryn Arnold says:


  9. Hazel Moon says:

    That act of kindness should bring some warm fuzzies and a bit of confidence to you!  Caused some goose bumps here!

  10. What a precious gift your sweet girl gave you! Beautiful!

  11. No matter how fabulous the gift, the best part is the giver…

  12. Amanda says:

    so beautiful and perfect.  Children know just how to react to things, and show love, in ways that we adults haven’t quite mastered.  Maybe we should revert a bit to childhood, and see things through their eyes.  

    I found your writing on The High Calling, and a new blogger friend Ann Kroeker referred me to you as well.  I also happened to query your agent the other day with regard to my novel.  What a small world it is out there. 

    Amanda Hill 

Leave a Reply