I struggle to hold on to my confidence.
This is not something that’s isolated to my writing. It’s a problem I face with my music as well. Sometimes, it’s a problem I face with programming, with being a father, a husband, a decent human being. The shadows of mind rise up, I grow cold inside, and I think, “I’m not good enough.”
Most of the time, I think I do a decent job of hiding it. My wife thinks I’m arrogant, so maybe I overcompensate sometimes.
Sitting in band, the feelings of inadequacy sap some of the joy from making music. But with band, I push on. I’m not there to make money. I’m there to make music. Besides, if I am truly as terrible as I sometimes think I am, the band would just ask me to leave. There are lots of sax players out there.
At work, I ignore the feeling more easily. There’s too much work to do, and not enough time to do it, and there is money involved. I put my headphones on, turn up the music, and just do what needs doing.
Writing is another matter. I look at making money with my writing with the same dreamy eyes as someone looking to make money by playing the lottery. It’s a long shot. I can dream, and I can strive, but I’m not going to quit my day job.
So I don’t have the incentive of making money, like I do with programming. I can’t look at the paycheck and use that as a numbing agent to push on.
Writing is a solitary endeavor. With the band, there are other people, good people, right there beside me. Sometimes I can tell myself to do my best for my band mates.
The only one holding me accountable with my writing is me. I’ve tried to use writers groups to provide some kind of external pressure, but it’s just not the same. In fact, sometimes the groups actually draw me away from writing, as I spend time reading work from the others in the group, and drafting critiques.
In order for me to write, I must summon my willpower, sit my butt in front of the keyboard, and go forward. Confidence is my writing fuel, the way others might use caffeine.
For the last week or so, my confidence has not been there. Part of it is because I was feeling under the weather. Part of it was the editing I’ve been doing. I’ve read some of the work I’ve done, and I’ve had to pinch my nose and reach for a figurative pickax. How can I inflict my writing on other people? Why am I wasting so much time?
This is where the real work comes in. I have to find the confidence, wherever I can, and push on. I remind myself that the parts of my stories that stink can be fixed. I tell myself that it’s only a waste of time if I give up, and never show my work to someone. I find the parts of my story that I haven’t looked at for a while, that are actually quite good.
And when there is some glimmer of external encouragement, I latch onto it and treasure it. Jennifer Carson recently gave me a nudge on Facebook, asking where the heck my story is. She didn’t need to do it. She has lots to read already, and she is well connected in the writing community. But she did, and I find it difficult to describe how much I appreciate it. It was a lifeline, when I was quietly drowning at sea.
To Jennifer, and to my wife, also wondering why my book isn’t finished, thank you. I’m writing tonight. I have a fresh batch of confidence to burn through.