3.12.2010

"The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." – Sylvia Plath

I’ve been attending a writers’ workshop. We meet on Monday nights in our neighborhood’s residents’ center. The first week more than 20 people attended; last week, for our lesson on blogging, we had around 10. Maybe people nowadays know all there is to know about blogs, but judging from the questions asked during the session, I’d say the people who did attend knew nothing about the internet.

The workshop has focused mostly on fiction; for me, that’s like attending a swimsuit workshop where we’re all required to wear Speedos – I don’t “do” fiction. I’d much rather curl up with a good biography or nonfiction tome about history or politics. The only time I find fiction acceptable is when I’m stuck in a car for more than eight hours, and the fiction is in audiobook form. And even then it’s more mindless noise to help pass the hours ... and I can always count on at least one line that makes me laugh out loud, especially when the author probably didn’t intend it to be funny.

Case in point: “She didn’t know whether to shit her pants or have an orgasm.”

(helpful note: Don’t google that phrase, hoping to find the author. You won’t find it, and you’ll be shocked at what you do find.)

“The wastebasket is a writer's best friend.”  – Isaac Bashevis Singer

So far, my problem has been this: I come up with an idea, and then I delete it because it’s stupid.
Are the ideas really stupid? Hard to say. I tend to have so much doubt about my ideas and my ability to execute them that everything is born and dies in the shower, which is where I get most of my “this will work!” ideas.

Why is this? I’ve been tortured by this lack of confidence for my entire life, regardless of what I’ve been doing – reporting, editing, IT work, training, photography ... you name it and I’ve doubted if I’m any good at it. My wife always laughs at me when we talk about careers, which is the white whale to my Captain Ahab, because I’ll talk about something and then, with all earnestness, say “You know, I think I’d be pretty good at that.”

It’s almost as if I’m talking myself into it – believing that I could do something competently isn’t a problem, but that I could do it spectacularly? That’s a stretch. The only thing I’m good at is denying that I’m good at anything.

If I could monetize that, I’d be hating myself on my own private island in the Caribbean right now.

“Writing comes more easily if you have something to say.”  – Sholem Asch

And isn’t that the problem? Finding things to say?

For now, instead of forcing the issue, I’m going to write some stories about things I know – people, events, etc. Let’s see if that gets the juices flowing. It’s not exactly fiction, but some of the things that have happened to me don’t seem real anyway.

1 comment:

CatherineW said...

Funny, this evening while I was walking home from the bus stop, I thought about that Web-zine you did a few years ago. It just popped into my head.

I thought about how it was such a great temporary antidote to my confidence problem in writing. Well, writing anything other than work-related items (I'm an editorial director after all) and personal correspondence.

Then I coincidentally stumbled on this page.

I'm in the same stupid boat, my friend. Always have been.