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