What Happens When Self-Doubt Takes A Seat At The Table

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Joshua Rawson-Harris / Unsplash

I embarked on what I had hoped would be a creative endeavor the other evening. Writing, as always, was the portal of choice.

There was this piece I’d been considering about writing for a while. Deriving solely from a desire for publication, my motivations for writing it were admittedly, lackluster. I hadn’t seen my words sprawled on a bigger platform than my own in a while, and the itch had returned. Confident it was relevant enough to get snapped up, I resided knowing that I had a decent grasp of the topic. Anticipating a hefty view count before a single word was typed, I couldn’t wait to get it done. Cheap fuel for the ego.

We’re all human.

Operating under such influence wouldn’t be my default approach to writing. When I can help myself, it will be a genuine reaction to how I feel about something. A struggle. An observation. An emotion. Something will prompt me to write, with little regard for where it goes. But occasionally, I can’t help myself. Now and again my ego perilously guides me towards the pursuit of satisfaction, and I will abandon my natural methods. And I won’t admit it to myself at the time.

Visions of how this particular burst of creativity would unfold dominated my head space in work that day. Armed with an over-priced novelty notebook, an an pen and a tepid mug of coffee, I would be hunched over the laptop, consumed in a frenzy of typing. All I’d have to do then was send it to my desired publication, patiently await acceptance and then bask in all its glory.

You may assume from the title, that my grand vision didn’t materialize. You’d be right.

I couldn’t do it. The wealth of worldly words I assumed would be at my disposal abandoned me. I was devoid of a meaningful sentence. My mind was blank, and the only frenzy was the one in my brain as the panic set in. I even tried summoning all the creative-process anecdotes that I’ve consumed from the creativity/self-help-in-disguise books which litter my room. But still, nothing. And the longer I sat there straining, the more uncomfortable I felt. This then developed into me being completely over-conscious of what I was doing. Like if you’ve ever become ultra aware that you’re talking to a group of humans and your life-long ability to speak suddenly fails you, rushing all the blood to your face. Horrible stuff.

I was determined to get it done, however, so I continued hovering hopelessly over the keyboard in search of the absent inspiration.

A surprise visit from an old friend of mine meant that my reluctance to give in would be short-lived, however. That ‘friend’ was Mr. Self-Doubt. We go back a while. As far back as when I moved school when I was eight, a period he relished. His stealthily selected visits thankfully don’t occur too often, but when they do, it can be a struggle.

On this particular evening, he wasted little time, pulling up a seat beside me at the table, the blatantly blank screen clearly within his gaze. The absence of diction soon blended with the absence of belief, as he set about dismantling my confidence as only he knows how.

First, he convinced me to resurrect my old articles, in attempt to ‘fill the void.’ A genius plan, had we not started damply criticizing every word I’ve ever written. We concluded that everything was, of course, shit. And that I, in fact, was shit too.

Then he got me questioning everything. Why had I suddenly lost the ability to write? Was I ever a ‘writer’ to begin with? Or was I just naive to believe that I could sneak under that banner?

This made for some rough contemplation.

Then, being swayed in a more gentle direction, Self-Doubt went on to suggest that we could have been over-reacting. That perhaps I was simply out of form. And that I could probably return the next day and nail it. learned eased the pain, so I welcomed that notion.

I suspected that there was collusion between Self-Doubt and his mate, Mr. Procrastination, but I was possessed by the illusion that I could try it again later. So I slammed the laptop shut and left it behind me.

Conceding defeat to yourself doesn’t feel great, especially when its orchestrated by something like Self-Doubt. Walking away from the piece did provide me with immediate relief, as the weight of the task vanished. But satisfaction in that form always dissolves fast. And when it does, it can leave you feeling desperately unfulfilled.

The anguish that accompanied my aching ego after that, forced me to whip out pen and paper. And as much as I’d love to claim that this piece is the resulting word-for-word, organic product of that process, I can’t. What you are reading is the result of a tediously premeditated process that took days. Believe it or not. However, somewhere within those scrawled A4’s, lay the core inspiration for this post.

And look at me now, 904 words in; confidently typing and so far unscathed. Make no mistake though; Self-Doubt did try to assert himself once-again. He always will. But after peering in the door, he knew not to fuck with me this time.

It’s amazing how effective it can be to have our actions aligned with our truths. Consider David Beckham, when he was lining up to take that infamous free kick to take England to the World Cup in 2001. What if he had abandoned his unorthodox, natural technique in favor of something he thought to be more stylish. Would he have been so confident? Or would he have been paid a visit from an old friend? Pitch invasion perhaps?

When I approached the first attempt with my measly motivations, I was sniffed out with a predator like precision. I was exactly where wanted me, treading openly in a pool of weakness. Open season. But acting truthfully leaves no room for the likes of Self-Doubt and Procrastination. And if there’s no room, they can’t come in. And if they can’t come in, they can’t take a seat at the table.

Finishing off now, I feel at ease. How this piece might perform doesn’t overly concern me and I won’t be rushing to send it off for consideration. Solitude will arise from the knowledge that I’ve extracted something from myself, assembled it and learned something in the process. TC mark

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