Talking to myself ~ An exercise in self-confidence restoration

 

Talking to myself ~ An exercise in self-confidence restoration

I’ve reached a kind of a crisis of confidence and I’ve got nowhere to turn but inwards. Depression is said to be anger turned inwards and I know I am angry about so many things; I have reached a point where that inward-turning ire is going to manifest itself with some serious activity. Therefore, taking the advice of Ian, my long-time internet friend, I am going to give myself a talking-to: but not the usual stern and harsh one but something I hope will be more constructive. I hope you can follow the process without ending up cross-eyed. (PS. this was actually written some months ago, but having come back to thr same point, I thought it worth sharing.)

Me: so why are you getting your knickers in a twist about writing?

Me2: because I’ve been reading a lot of blogs written by other writers.

Me: so?

Me2: well, they all spend a lot of time writing about writing and reading about writing….

Me: so?

Me2: perhaps that’s something I ought to do too. Maybe I am simply being arrogant or just lazy to defy convention and ignore all the classic stuff about WIPs and alpha readers and how to write…

Me: what on earth makes you think that?

Me2: I guess it’s the pressure of numbers.

Me: but you’ve never been one to do what the crowd does.

Me2: yeah but maybe I’d have had a more productive life if I had done…

Me: Do you really think that? Is it not more likely that you would never have developed your own unique and very readable style if you had followed the crowd and taken writing classes and gone to online critiquing groups and so on?

Me2: maybe…

Me: there’s no maybe about it. You were alone. You didn’t need anyone to tell you how to write; I think you might have felt like punching someone who tried to tell you. You know there isn’t any one way to write.

Me2. But maybe I am being arrogant in dismissing the value of such things….

Me: you’re not. You’re dismissing their value for you. That’s a different thing. You’re an eagle. You can already fly better than most. You don’t need to take lessons. You already learned the hard way, with crash landings and disasters.

Me2: can we leave the eagle metaphor alone please?

Me: why? Is it making you uncomfortable?

Me2: yes, very.

Me: why?

Me2: because it seems to imply that I think I am greater than everybody else.

Me: and do you?

Me2:(small voice) not everybody. Just a heck of a lot of people. I hate even thinking it. I wouldn’t say it to anyone but you. I know you understand. I know I’m good. I just can’t deal with it because I have virtually nothing to show for it.

Me: you mean external validation?

Me2: yes. I guess so. I know that I have a heap of good reviews and so on. But it doesn’t seem to be enough.

Me: what would be enough?

Me2: I don’t know. Maybe being a best seller or something like that.

Me: so it’s numbers that matter?

Me2: yes. no. I don’t know. I guess if the majority of reviews are good, then…

Me: wait a moment. Do you mean that if The Crowd endorses your work, that’s going to make you accept who you are? The same crowd you’ve sought to keep away from all your life? The same crowd that said the Shopaholic books are great books?

Me2: now you put it like that it does sound silly.

Me: It does a bit, yes. But the people who have read and loved your work, does it matter than they are still small in number?

Me2: yes, it does matter. Not because I don’t trust their opinion. Not that. It’s a bit more than that. It comes down to the fact that I would like a greater number of people to benefit from what I write.

Me: the people who have commented, tell me, are they people who gain from praising you?

Me2: no. I don’t think so. So, their opinion is unbiased then, I guess.

Me: so you can trust them?

Me2: yes.

Me: and the people who you’ve been reading, who write and read about writing, what are they to you? Can they help you in any way?

Me2: in most cases, no. I could help them, I guess, by telling them there is no easy way to learn to write and no real short-cuts. Sure, you can learn some techniques, but I guess it’s like being a sports-person. You can get the fitness, and even learn the skills, but in the end, it comes down to a certain impossible to define star quality that gives someone the edge over others.

Me: you’re talking about being gifted.

Me2: I am? I suppose so. Being gifted is all very well but you do still need to put in the work, the training. Some things come easier, but maybe some come easier because you have a gift AND you have worked. I saw a Tweet about finding out what is on the best sellers lists and then you should go and write something like it. I say that is death to originality.

Me: you’re sounding a lot more positive.

Me2: I guess so. I wonder how many of the people who write about writing can actually write. I’ve skimmed through some and while none has struck me as drivel, none has actually struck me as original or fresh or really deeply creative and new, or from the heart. I’m not a good critic; I only really know what I like and why I like it. Some of them write genres I dislike intensely, so maybe my judgement is flawed.

Me: maybe.

Me2: there’s also the thing about not ever wanting to stamp on someone else’s dreams. That’s criminal.

Me: but that includes you own. You must remember that. Remember you are a writer who has served a long and lonely apprenticeship. You never had the luxury of other more experienced writers to tell you how to write, how to feel or anything. You had to be your own pioneer, your own guide, just like now. You must remember that numbers don’t matter. To have touched one heart and soul with your words is enough. To touch millions is a dream for tomorrow, not today. You care about all the readers you currently have; can you do that for millions? No. Remember these first readers with gratitude, because they got you started. They gave you the confidence to go on. This is what the others are seeking from their alpha readers and their blog commenters: the validation you’ve already had, for years. Even those rejection letters from publishers PRAISED your writing.

Me2: You may be right. But…

Me: But what?

Me2: I sense a bigger thing coming. I don’t know what. But maybe bigger readership.

Me: so get back to just writing. Don’t worry about whether you’re doing it right. You’ll fall from the sky if you keep checking your wings!

Me2: hahaha!! You’re right. I must just do: not think, do. Like Yoda says, there is no try. When it comes to writing, to write is all. To write constantly about writing does suggest they may have nothing left to write about.

Me: so what are you going to do?

Me2: believe in myself a bit more.

Me: good girl. Now go get writing!!!

Me2: OK, boss….

 

(Edited 26th of March. This was actually written about a year ago as an exercise to try and examine some emotions. I thought it worth sharing the process)

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15 thoughts on “Talking to myself ~ An exercise in self-confidence restoration

  1. So…listen to yourself. This sounds like a conversation I have with myself, although mine is shorter and perhaps has fewer answers. I like that you had answers for your buts. I especially like “if you keep checking your wings you will fall”.
    I spend a lot of time reading contemporary poetry to see where it is and there is a lot of bad stuff out there…being accepted as good and published. I think there is a lot of the emperor’s new clothes about it, but it is frustrating.
    As you know, I belong to the writing community WOWH and [you may not know] I write a teaching blog because I love teaching. But both these have caused me to contribute less and to hold back because I want to publish rather than share. Or, rather I want to share through being published.
    It seems to me that knowing one is a good writer, a better writer than others being published, is always going to be a frustrating state of mind. They are more blissful, I am sure, who have no idea their work is mediocre, because they are receiving validation, although not necessarily from reputable publications.
    I sure am glad I have you to articulate me.

    • Oh Margo,
      I am so relieved. I was afraid that people would label me as arrogant and full of myself.
      I do visit your poetry blog from time to time and when it comes to poetry, these days, you are quite right: a lot of bad stuff being accepted as good. But that has always been the case, I think and since poetry has never really been a big earner, I’d say publish and be damned, and do it yourself. I came to a point where the struggles with the industry were destroying me and decided I’d rather have books out there, to be read, that hidden on my hard drive and never seen.
      Times are changing faster than I imagined.
      thank you for being here. I appreciate it enormously.

  2. Such honesty here. This made me think…I have been reflecting on similar topics– whether I rely too much on others’ validation. I think we all do it sometimes and it’s helpful to be aware of this tendency.

    “Don’t worry about whether you’re doing it right. You’ll fall from the sky if you keep checking your wings!”~Very wise.

    • Validation is important but it isn’t the goal of sharing. It can become addictive and can replace why we write and share.
      I sometimes think that I may pass on before my work becomes popular, but that’s out of my hands.
      thanks for your feedback and support. I appreciate it greatly.

  3. Pingback: Beyond Greatness – Boost Your Self-Confidence Now « Sketching Draw

  4. Me: wait a moment. Do you mean that if The Crowd endorses your work, that’s going to make you accept who you are? The same crowd you’ve sought to keep away from all your life? The same crowd that said the Shopaholic books are great books?

    do you here that….

    standing ovation of at least one !!!

  5. “You must remember that. Remember you are a writer who has served a long and lonely apprenticeship. You never had the luxury of other more experienced writers to tell you how to write, how to feel or anything. You had to be your own pioneer, your own guide, just like now.”
    That’s me… the more I read your blog, the more I think we think alike! 😉
    I’ve become wary of “writing experts” after reading books on writing by editors who analyzed best sellers or classics, or screenwriting gurus who have never written a screenplay in their entire life (or young people – no matter how great you are, with only one novel under your belt, you’re in no place to give writing advice, sorry).
    I’m not giving writing advice myself because I wouldn’t know where to start from – I don’t have hypergraphia, but I don’t know where my stories come from either, so… 😉
    I’ll be content if I can reach 5000 readers – but in this wide wide virtual sea, the only way is write, publish, write, publish and repeat until there are enough titles with your name on it that you can go viral.
    So let’s get back to writing, shall we? 🙂

  6. Don’t stamp on your own dreams Viv. That would be criminal.

    Validation and the constant affirmation that what we are doing is ok or worthwhile is something we all thrive on, but there is often no limit to the amount of reassurance we need. We always crave for more because we can always “talk ourselves round it”. The fact is that most people on the net are impartial and have no agenda regarding other people’s work. They don’t have to comment if they don’t like what they read, but if they do take the time out to give feedback, then that is really more valuable than a “superficial crowd following”.

    Personally, I would run a mile across broken glass from a writing group – yet my husband attends one and I think he gets something out of it. He always tells me: it’s not up to you to decide whether your writing is good or bad – it”s up to your audience. So, you can have all the theory you want, but if the natural talent isn’t there, it will be exposed within a paragraph. Elmore Leonard says “if it sounds like writing, I re-write it”, and I try to live by that too.

    You write well Viv and your content is always thought-provoking (and no: “yeah, buts….” please). If you believe in what you write – you should at least give your work the chance to be seen and if you do get the champagne book-signing – yes, I’d love to come x

    • I appreciate what you say. Very much. One of the things I have learned through blogging and via the internet generally (I belong to a number of forums for a long time) is that people have nothing to gain from supporting you, and therefore the fact that they take time and trouble to feedback and form relationships, then by and large it is 100% genuine.
      I also agree with the wisdom your husband relays. It isn’t up to me to decide it, but I have a drawer filled with letters of praise from publishers and agents…who then went on to say that there was no niche or they weren’t certain enough of success to risk it etc etc. I decided about 2 years ago that putting myself through the hell of submission was going to kill me. (I have had a brain haemorrhage because of it)So I started with an old friend to research other possibilities and the concept of self or independent publishing camee to light, and with the help of another friend, that’s what we did. If you check the top right hand corner, that’s where you can find it.
      I don’t believe that banging my head on a door that was never going to open was a good way to employ my time and while going independent has its drawbacks, it does at least mean that a book is out, and is being read and enjoyed and another is being prepared for later this year. In the end I believed in my work enough to take a risk and simple get it out there. I’ve long lost faith in the so-called gatekeepers when I can go into a bookshop and literally find nothing I want to spend my money on.
      One of these days, I must come and meet you in Bury St Eds…..for coffee/tea and cake.
      xx

  7. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one having that conversation with myself. I finally gave up on external methods of validation and decided if I think each book is better than the last that is all that matters to me. The rest is like bottling lightning – isn’t going to happen.

    • This one was from over 3 years ago, but I have this sort of conversation with myself (and perhaps also with God too) most weeks, and daily when I’m low.
      External validation is great when it comes but to rely on it for self esteem is a fragile thing because you’re just as open to being knocked down by criticism and trolling. One bad review and you’re in bits. I have found that this method works well, because I’ve coped better with the one 2 star The Bet got recently, and didn’t get that upset and was over it in a few hours. I can see it’s one person’s opinion and not the only opinion offered; my own belief in the book also overcomes that critical rant.

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