Being a creator means living on a jagged edge between narcissism and crippling neediness. I am a writer. In order to get out of bed every day, I have to tell myself four things:
- No one but me can write the things I can write
- I am good enough to risk public humiliation
- There is an audience for the things only I can write
- At some point, I will earn a sustainable living from my work
Every morning. Every single morning. I can not coast on yesterday’s victories. Yesterday’s good work means nothing the next morning. The sales manager/editor-in-chief/drill instructor that lives in my head will only say ‘what have you done for me lately?’.
Therefore, I have to build up my ego, my self-confidence. I am a great writer! I am amazing! If Nora Ephron and Ernest Hemingway had a baby, it would be me! Even though there are millions of words published every day, my words need to be added! Because no one can write the things I write! And so on and so on and so on. Every day. Pump up the Art Monster and put it to work.
I write a thing, whatever it is. A blog post goes right on the blog. Work for the book or an essay, I will edit into some form for the blog. I write it. I publish it. And in an instant I transition from Art Monster to a sucking black hole of need. Because now, the collective reader makes its judgement. Is it good? Is it worthy?
I understand, objectively, audience size and reader response is no fair measure of the quality of a piece of writing, it is the only objective measure I have available to me. I know it isn’t an accurate thermometer because I am a reader too and I see what gets published, who gets published and what they get paid and the eyeballs they attract. It is crazy. Crazy. And arbitrary. An audience for an essay is determined by something as random has the right person sharing it at the exact right moment on the exact right social media platform. Everything breaks in favor of the writing, 5,000 people will read it. Nothing breaks, seventy-five people will read it.
I am better at not obsessively checking numbers. I deleted all the tracking applications from my website. There is one bit in the security software where I can look at views in real time but that is it. In the world of blogging and writing, this is crazy talk. Data is king. Page views and clicks, etc, is all. This is why I had to make it all go away. I rid my site of it for the same reason I chucked my bathroom scale into the garbage can a year ago, because it didn’t give me an accurate picture.
It is kind of exhausting, zigzagging along the edge. By the middle of my day, I have run through a thesaurus’ worth of emotion. Every day is like the opening reel of ABC’s Wide World of Sports, complete with voice over intoning the wonder of the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Brutal.
Why do I do it? Because I have to. It is thrilling. It is satisfying. It is punishing. People I have never met and who have no reason to lie about it, tell me I am good at what I do or they tell me something I did made them laugh or taught them something or moved them to tears. How is that not the best thing to ever happen? How could I not do it?
Tomorrow morning, I will have to come up with enough self-confidence or self-delusion, take your pick, to get out of bed and repeat the entire process and keep on doing it until maybe it isn’t so hard to coax myself out of the bed and through my morning routine and in front of a blank page. I have no idea how long that will take. Or if I will ever have that kind of confidence. But I can tell you, I can see the edges of it now and that is an entirely new thing to me.
ABC’s Wide World of Sports: