Where’s Your Confidence?

Fairieland. Mural painted in 2005.When I paint woodland animals or dinosaurs or trees or oceans, I have to trust that the brushstrokes will result in something akin to those four things. I can’t tell when I’m painting; I’m too close to the wall. All I see is colors blending together. It’s only when I step away from the wall and have some distance that I can see correctly. I see that I have, in fact, painted a sheep or a fox or a deer. The tree is convincing. The crashing waves actually look like crashing waves.

I’m the same way with other things, mostly my creative writing and Write Right. I’m often too close to those things. I can’t see them correctly. My inability to see them then produces a lack of confidence followed by a hesitation – I hesitate to claim the titles “writer,” “poet,” “artist,” “entrepreneur.” It’s only when I step away from my creative writing or Write Right that I can see what I have accomplished. I regain focus.

Stepping away from the work has its own dangers; if I step too far away, I can become distracted by other people’s work. I can see how well they’re doing something or with the speed at which they’re completing those things. I marvel, then feel even less sure of my own work. It’s what I call a comparison trap, and it’s a dangerous, dangerous thing. If I’m not careful, I lose any focus I did have. I become less and less certain and less and less confident.

My poetry mentor would take me to task for my lack of confidence, and I have mentors who do the same thing today. They use different phrasing; they tell me to quit with the self-deprecating humor. They see what I sometimes can’t. They see my intelligence. They see my work as it really is and not how I sometimes imagine it to be. They believe in me and my work. Now they want me to believe, too. They want me to be confident. They want me to step away from the wall and to see what actually is there.

Comments

  1. Hi Erin,
    It’s hard to see your own work clearly, no matter how far back from the wall you step. Don’t you find that you are your own worst critic? This is because of standards and goals. I wonder if we looked at our work through the eyes of the heart rather than the brain’s critical ones. I wonder how that would feel.
    Step away from the wall!!! You’re doing a great job! 🙂
    Lori

    • Lori Thank you for saying so!
      I think both perspectives – the heart and the mind – are necessary. One gives grace; the other exercises discernment.
      I’m definitely my own worst critic. It’s something I have to battle as a perfectionist.

  2. Where’s my confidence? I know I left it around here somewhere <looking left and right – furrowed brow> 
    Geez. We all get tapped out once in a while and don’t know what to think. You seem to have a good approach. Thanks for sharing that. For me, I find sharing my work builds confidence. You get better through critique and time which allows me to take greater risks. It seems to work.
    Cheers Erin. BTW, is that photo a room in your house?

    • rdopping That photo is from someone else’s house. I was hired to paint a fairieland mural for the family’s two-year-old daughter a few summers ago.
      An external perspective is necessary. It helps you to think about why you did a thing a certain way and to decide whether that thing should be changed.
      I seem to misplace my confidence regularly, too.

  3. Good point Erin. It’s good and healthy to question your own work, to some extent. Of course, you need some balance, you can’t immobilize yourself.
    But if you don’t question your own work, you’ll have a hard time improving it. At least that’s how it seems to me. I’ve run into people in all walks of the creative side of the marketing business who seem to have a lot more confidence than their work warrants. 
    And then, when you ask them to defend their decisions… well, let’s not get into that..

    • barrettrossie Do they get all defensive? I’ve had that barb thrown my way, sometimes deserved, sometimes not.
      I’ve learned that you have to be able to analyze your own work, especially if you want to communicate the value of it to others. Dean Young, a poet, calls it a necessary distance and a skepticism. If you can’t do that, well…it’s going to hurt ten times worse when someone else calls you out on it.

  4. I find I get a lot of confidence from the voice in my head. When I do something I’m proud of, the little voice keeps telling me about it. On days where I may not have lived up to the standards I’ve set, the little voice distracts me from self-doubt with suggestions of snack items. My little voice rocks!

    • ExtremelyAvg It seems like it! Rock on, little voice, rock on.
      Do you have a new Twitter account for your new book/project?

      • Erin F. ExtremelyAvg As a matter of fact, Arthur Byrne has started an account @ExtraAmbivalent. I didn’t want anyone to read chapter 7 and then go create it, so I went ahead and made it yesterday.  I’m not sure I’ll do much with it, but maybe I will. Who knows?

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