“When you wake, levitate
Ideas pouring out.
Then you set out to make
But nothing comes out.
Are you quick on your feet?
It’s time to dig deep.”
This is it. The part I hate. The part where the words won’t come.
The part where the thoughts keep poking me, hot daggers of biting accusations.
You’re a fake. You don’t belong here.
Your words. Recycled regurgitated garbage. Repurposed and rearranged to fool everyone. To fool yourself.
I tilt my shoulders, arching away from their pointy barbs.
The words. They’re there. I can feel them twirling around in my mind, taunting me. Sing-songy tunes luring me to reach out for them. And when I do they dart away in cruel laughter. Imposter they squeal in sinister delight.
There is darkness inside of me. There is ugliness. It’s curled up right next to laughter and joy. Arms and legs wrapped around each other in a corrupt entanglement.
There is angst and fear and fire and passion and turmoil and sweat and blood. Coiled in an incestous tryst. There are screams of rage and tears that have plunged the depths.
And it all wants release.
But self doubt reaches out. It’s long, bony fingers crawl through my conscious. Slowly making it’s way, blithely flicking away any thoughts of creativity. Finding every seed of inspiration and pressing it’s dark fingertip down until there’s nothing left but pulp.
“Guardians at the gate let you in,
into their mansion,
I’m the acidhead homeless man
Can you be wise if you never leave the room?”
The same question haunts me over and over.
Who the hell am I? To think my words matter? To think they are worth putting to paper?
This is not romanticization of the tortured artist.
This is not a decadent serving of indulgent wallowing.
This is not splashing around in artistic misery.
Self doubt is not unique to writers and artists.
We are not alone in this suffering.
We just talk and write about it more than others.
Soliloquies have been penned about the war of art. Hemingway and Anais Nin spoke of bleeding on the paper. We write about our limitations and doubts and fears. We all sing the slow-hand blues of writer’s block. We put our thoughts and words and vulnerabilities out there for the world to gawk at. It’s what we do.
It’s not just writers. Everyone suffers from the same thing. Everyone has moments of feeling like a fake. Of doubting their expertise or ability. Most just do it quietly. Alone in their bed at night. Or in the cozy confines of their therapist’s office. Or they whisper it to their lover when they need reassurance.
Does everyone feel it?
Do surgeons wrestle with self doubt over their craft? Do they spend sleepless nights worried that their skilled hands might falter?
Do lawyers question every word and twist themselves into knots? Do they worry that they could have argued more convincingly?
Do electricians walk away from wiring a house and question whether the house will go up in acrid flames?
Isn’t it just part of the human condition? To doubt ourselves and our talents or skills?
Could it be that self doubt serves a purpose? That it pushes us to try harder? That without that push, without the nagging questions, we may never hone our skills or get better at whatever it is that we do?
Maybe the whole point of the cruel exercise to fight the demons in your head.
Could it be that self doubt is the drill instructor screaming in our ear, trying to break us down. Waiting until that determined voice in our head responds: Fuck you. You say I can’t do this? Just watch me.
Could it be that the lack of self doubt is the thing we should be concerned with? The surgeon who thinks he’s god? The leader who never questions his decisions? The electrician who shrugs apathetically when the breaker trips? Wouldn’t we rather have more introspection and thoughtfulness than ego and hubris?
The absence of doubt does not give birth to greatness. It creates dictators and megalomaniacs and careless, uncaring practitioners. It is not a sign of confidence or aptitude. Doubt is the thing that makes you better. The thing that makes you change, grow, evolve. There is an unseemly rigidness in those who don’t ever question themselves.
What if we embrace it? What if we give it a nod the next times it’s bony fingers curl up and beckon to us? We see you. Thanks for showing up.
What if we recognized that when those feelings creep in, that it’s not a bad thing. That it’s our minds way of giving us a little kick in the ass?
Maybe today’s the day we need a little push. The day we need to wake up from our reverie and pay a little more attention to what it is we do.
As long as we don’t give in to it.
As long as that doubt doesn’t cripple us. Stymie our forward motion. Let doubt serve a purpose. Let doubt be the catalyst for making us practice, toil and sweat more.
Let doubt make you better at whatever it is that you do. Welcome it and use it. If you harness it, the doubt will be fleeting. It will serve it’s purpose and then crawl back in it’s hole.
It won’t always be easy. It can be insidious. It can infect your progress and make you want to quit. It can break you down.
That’s when you remind yourself why you’re here, doing what it is you do.
Remind yourself that for every day of stymied creativity, there are days of ideas flowing and words tumbling out effortlessly.
That for each day that your curse your need and desire to do whatever it is you feel compelled to do, that there are days that you revel in it. That it brings you satisfaction or joy or gratification.
I know that I’ll still have moments, days, where I feel the building frustration. Where my words won’t come and I’ll question why I even try. I’ll feel like quitting and erasing every word I’ve ever written.
You’re a fake. You don’t belong here.
I’ll push through it. I’ll try to remember why I’m here. Not for any grandiose notions of greatness. I’m not here thinking that my words will set the world on fire. Those kinds of thoughts belong to the tyrants and the narcissists.
I just know that I love words. I just know that it’s something I feel compelled to do.
I just know I’m incomplete if I don’t write.
This is simply my thoughts, spilling out of my head. Maybe they don’t really matter.
Maybe that’s ok.
Maybe I’m not an imposter.