My Advice: Fake It

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about confidence, and how I need it in order to write.  Sometimes, however, the confidence just isn’t there.  During those tremulous times, when to do nothing means failure, I fake it.  I pretend I have the confidence, and move forward.

It’s not just with writing that I do this, though.  I do this during swing band.  I’ll look at a part of music that I have no idea how to play, like a long section of improv, and fake it.  It’s amazing how often this works out.  We are capable of doing much more than we think we can.

In the last few days, I’ve found myself in a position where I needed to give some advice.  I won’t go into the specifics, because the matters in every case were private.  But in every case, the advice ultimately came down to the same thing: If you feel weak, if you feel overwhelmed, if you feel like your best just isn’t enough, pretend otherwise.

Be real with your loved ones.  Be real where it counts.  But when it comes to adversity and you need to move forward, the best thing you can do is set aside what you think is real.  You might fail anyways, but failure is not the worst thing in the world.

The worst thing in the world is letting a moment get away from you, and wondering what would have happened if you’d taken a leap of faith.

If you find yourself on the edge of a dance floor, wanting to have fun, but afraid because you don’t know how to dance… fake it.  Of course you know how to dance.  Dancing is easy.

If you find yourself staring at a sheet of music, with 32 measures of chords instead of notes, and you’re afraid that you’re going to mess up your solo… fake it.  Stand up, fill your lungs, and blow.  If you can’t play it right, then play it loud.  You can do loud.  Music is easy.

If you find yourself staring at a blank page, with your head full of imagery and characters, but the words just aren’t coming… fake it.  Write anything.  There are people that have written some really terrible things, but still managed to get some sales because, in spite of their malicious use of words, they managed to convey cool ideas.  You have cool ideas.  So write them down.  You can do it.  Writing is easy.

(Quick note: in that last example, if you’re one of my writer friends, I’m not talking about you.  I’m thinking more along the lines of L Ron Hubbard.  Or E L James.  Or Stephanie Meyer.  And if you’re fans of their work… great!  You’re not alone, but I’m not one of their fans.)

Fake it long enough, and you WILL make it.


Bill Cosby, Justine Sacco, and Public Opinion

Before I launch into another evening of delightful edits, let’s warm up with a blog post!

When I started this blog, I did it because I wanted to act more like a “real” writer.  I wanted to take my writing career more seriously, and many successful writers that I admire have a similar public outlet.

This is my open journal.  This is a place where I share my writer’s journey, taking note of the pitfalls I’ve discovered.  This is also where I celebrate some of my successes.  I’m entertaining the idea of using this as a sketchbook from time to time, taking writing prompts and creating some quick, light fiction here.

Sometimes, I want to comment on something that is more of a political or religious nature, and I stop myself.  I’m afraid that I’m going to say something that is going to get me blacklisted.

Stop and appreciate with me the absurdity.  I’m not afraid of posting my sloppy fiction here, but I’m afraid of posting my own, genuine opinions on real life in this place.  This place that I maintain, that has my name all over it.

It’s a legitimate fear, though.  Just read this article from the New York Times.  People have been publicly shamed for making jokes.  Lives have been ruined for quips taken out of context.  Is it wise for anyone to put anything real out in the public?

Here’s an example of the kind of thing I’m afraid to say here: I think Bill Cosby has been mistreated by our society.

“But Brian!  He’s clearly a rapist!  How can you say that?”

Well, for starters, I don’t believe everything, just because a large number of people come forward and say it is so.  In regards to Bill Cosby, it is uncomfortable taking this stance, because the allegations are about rape.  It doesn’t get much more serious than that.

Whether he did the crimes or not, it is not up to me.  We have a legal system.  The legal system may not be perfect, but it’s the system that we have.  When we go outside that system, we embrace vigilantism and anarchy.  I am not an anarchist, and I actually believe our legal system is pretty good, even if it’s a bit flawed in some places.

One of the problems with this whole situation is that almost all of the allegations point to a time well beyond the statute of limitations.  This eliminates the ability to formally prosecute.

Instead, he’s prosecuted in the media.  Bill Cosby’s performances are curtailed.  Honorary titles are revoked.  He becomes the butt of jokes, unwanted, and disgraced.

I don’t know if he did he crimes or not.  I have an opinion, but that doesn’t really matter.  If he’s guilty, then maybe justice has been served.  If he’s not, though, then we as a society took a collective dump on an old man that didn’t deserve it.

I want to talk about these kinds of things sometimes, but I’m afraid.  I want to talk about feminism, equality, responsibility, and the principles of our society, but I don’t want what I say to be taken out of context.  I don’t want what happened to Justine Sacco to happen to me.

I’ll probably just stick to fiction, and less controversial subjects.  But sometimes I’m sorely tempted to say something real.


The Importance of Confidence

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.