You know that “artist”? The one who sings, or paints, or writes, or… dances? Whatever. The one who makes everyone cringe, because everybody in the room—except the artist–knows how awful, and untalented she is?
No one ever says anything, because “the artist” is so enthusiastic, and so earnest, and so committed. No one wants to break her heart. You know the one.
Yeah. I think that might be me.
After a while, you learn to question the good things people say. We’ve all been in writers’ groups where people dig and dig to find the one nice thing about a story that just isn’t good. Poetry readings where people applaud the writer’s courage, or their effort. Nobody ever looks at that optimistic writer and says, “Wow, you’ve got good penmanship.”
I do okay, most of the time. But there are moments of doubt. Where I don’t just think my stuff is crap, I’m absolutely certain of it. And it’s probably the crappiest crap since Adam’s very first crap after getting crapped out of Eden.
Part of this is taste. I’m comparing myself to giants, to classics, to the best stuff I can find, not to the latest trend or the guy down the street. And I have to. Because looking at things that are genuinely, objectively better than I am is how I learn.
And part of it is pure hubris. I keep trying to catch up. I believe–on a good day–that someday, if I work hard enough and long enough, I can be as good as those lofty role models of mine.
On a bad day, though… when I’m finding mistakes and suffering my own clunky metaphors, I wonder if I shouldn’t be aiming a little lower. I could write the future fish wrappers the world so desperately needs. No one likes naked fish. I could write fortune cookies, or children’s books. (You know. The kind with no words. And pictures. Drawn by somebody else.) Or very special special interest books. (High Tech Robotics for Your Rumspringa Rebellion) The market’s small, but at least there’s no competition.
So, what about you? How do you face down the doubts?