You know what I mean. That so-out-of-my-depth feeling that hits us all from time to time. Like you’ve brought a football to a ping pong match and you’re going to smash your paddle to smithereens with your first serve. (Where are these sports metaphors even coming from?)
Lately, this has been my reality. You’ve seen the trend in post topics on the blog if you’ve been around long enough. It’s normal, I know. My life has been flipped upside-down and it’s spiralling a little. I wish I could control these spirals, or at least make some sense out of them, but this is real life and real life doesn’t have a movie-perfect ending.
Which brings us here. Being vulnerable on the internet is still extremely difficult for me. I remember the day I opened the floodgates for the first time and wrote about my emotions honestly. Back then, I wanted the transparency between what goes on in my mind and what appears on the screen to serve a single purpose – to promote tolerance by being open, and hopefully helping people who don’t suffer from anxiety and mental illnesses to sympathise better with those who do.
In the name of that transparency, I have to admit that despite the difficulty and vulnerability that go hand in hand with this thing, writing about what I feel has become so therapeutic that I want to do it. Feeling better about whatever is bothering me has joined the main reason for these posts. If it helps, it helps, you know?
So, inadequacy. I’ve always felt this thing. That I’m just not good enough for the incredibly talented company I keep. Like the art I put into the world just isn’t on standard when compared to other people’s. When people tell me they like what I’ve done, I always assume they’re being nice to spare my feelings, and I tend to find something to criticise in my own work. I want people to know I see the flaws in whatever I’ve created, so they know I’ll work on it. It’s not completely rational, but it’s human.
While my art has frequently suffered because of these feelings, I’ve never felt as inadequate as I do when it comes to my writing. I’m five drafts into my novel – five – and I’m honestly considering shelving the project for a few years, until I’m a good enough writer to do the story justice. And what is good enough anyway? Folks, I have no idea.
The people who know about psychology call this thing impostor syndrome. Pretty, right? Because you feel like a fraud – you shouldn’t be here among these people who are so much better than you, you don’t have enough talent or skill to compete, and you’ve kind of blundered into whatever success you’ve reached.
When it comes to my writing, every piece of good feedback makes me smile for a moment, wide-eyed and shocked, because I really, really, didn’t see that coming. It lasts for a little while, then it turns into ‘oh, they were just being nice’, which is where it stays forever, totally forgotten in the moments when I need cheering up.
But the bad feedback. I can recall every one of these, most of them verbatim, and they’re like weights around my ankles while I’m diving.
By that, I don’t mean critique. Our incredible high school art teacher taught us how to handle critique. I know how to distinguish between the points that are helpful and the ones that aren’t. If you could read every draft of my manuscript to this point, you’d see that I’m more than willing to work and work and work, change, implement, revise, rinse, repeat. Critique is wonderful and helpful, and it makes the world’s difference if you see these comments as advice given to help you (which is what it’s supposed to be).
Having said that, even critique can keep you convinced you’re not good enough. And, as you can imagine, if the helpful stuff can have that effect, the hurtful stuff becomes crippling.
So this is where I’m at right now. Five drafts into a novel, as I said above, and I want to hide it in the dark, forgotten corners of my hard drive. I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to work on it. I want nothing to do with it, because it’s obviously shit and nobody is going to want to read it.
Just like I’m going to rewrite my first novel, feeling really awesome about it because I can see the difference experience has on this project, but the first time someone reads it, I’m probably going to shelf that again too. Because I don’t know what I’m doing.
I wish I could end this post with an ‘and that’s okay’ type sentiment. Mentally, I don’t have it in me at this stage. I don’t know if I’m ever going to be a good enough writer, or if my stories are ever going to be good enough to go into the world (and stay there). I don’t know if my mood will lift tomorrow and I’ll be able to make some progress, or if everything I write today will end up in the recycling bin.
Creatives, I’ve been told, are temperamental at the best of times. I can tell you why, though. We melt ourselves and pour us into our projects. When we weep, our creation shows our tears. When we laugh, our creation plays the sound.
I mentioned above somewhere that being vulnerable on the internet is difficult. It makes sense then that sharing anything I’ve created is also difficult. It’s vulnerable. Inadequate.