a crisis of confidence

do too many things
"half-assed" begins to mean "best"
"best" has no meaning

When I was a kid I briefly had trouble learning to swim. I remember overhearing the swimming teacher tell my mom that if I could just increase my confidence I’d be great – maybe I could even learn to dive. But lack of confidence kept me doggie paddling in the shallow end.

There were days when I could banish the thoughts of being sucked down by the drain, or running out of energy while swimming half-way through the deep end. On those days I was a great swimmer – long arms, steady kicks, faster than a lot of the other kids.

But on the days when I worried about the drain, or when I didn’t want to swim over the piles of leaves on the bottom of the pool – that was when I swallowed gallons of water and worried about making it out of swim class alive.

What made my attitude so different? Why was I more confident on some days and so unsure on others? I don’t know. But I still have these crises of confidence. Only now it isn’t about swimming. It’s about parenting and writing. But I still have that fear of drowning, you know?

I’ve spent a lot of this morning worrying that I’m not doing anything particularly well. I worry that I have a kind of combo style of half-assed parenting and half-assed writing. I do a good enough of a job with both so that I’m not a complete failure, but I don’t do nearly as good of a job as I can or as I should.

Part of this is a perfectionist thing that I’ve been able to sort of ignore for a while. It seems to be coming after me again, though – a little devil sitting on my shoulder saying "you should rewrite that paragraph because it’s not as good as it can be" or "why are you watching TV when you should be upstairs cuddling with your son." (Perfectionist devils do not respect the fact that people need some downtime and that sometimes writing a crappy paragraph is the impetus you need to just keep the story going.)

So I feel vexed today. Vexed and befuddled and muddled and tired. I feel the water splashing at about the level of my nose and it’s either swim or flail. I’m not afraid of sinking. I won’t let myself do that. But flailing is not swimming confidently.

This is why I shouldn’t read interviews with famous Hollywood writers, talking about how their careers got started. This is why it’s unhealthy to second guess the choices I’ve made in my life. This is when someone should stop me from "what-if-ing." What if, after college, I’d gone out to LA to find an internship or become a PA. What if, instead of selling my soul to advertising for low pay and no respect, I’d sold my soul to ghost writing script treatments for low pay and no respect? What if I’d written a couple of spec scripts like I’d planned? How would things be different? Would I now be sitting in my fancy condo on the beach in California wishing I’d already started a family? Or would I be living in poverty, toiling away as a writer for some crap reality show on an off brand cable network?

I know that what I have here is very good. And I’m very, very fortunate to have what I have. But sometimes I feel like I’m not doing a very good job. I could do so much more. And I could do it better.

Then I remind myself to just shut up and stop whining already. There’s lunch to be fixed and an email to send and a book to finish. It’s not cool to paralyze yourself with what-ifs and you-can-do-that-betters. The sheer fact that you’re accomplishing anything at all is impressive.

On some days it doesn’t matter that you’re swimming across the deep end. It just matters that you’re swimming.

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5 thoughts on “a crisis of confidence

  1. Hello there – just thought you might like to know that I look forward to reading your blog every day. It always brings a smile to my face and it helps to see how I’m feeling somedays written so clearly by someone else!
    Keep swimming!!
    Trish

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  2. I KNOW–that TWoP interview was a killer. But you just have to remember that your life path gave you your wee ones, and even on their worst days they’re still a creative work more rewarding than any screenplay (at least that’s what I keep telling myself through gritted teeth!). And just think of all of the material they give you!

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  3. I have that feeling nearly every day because there are always a handful of my customers who want to stir up trouble, while the other 250 are fine.
    I tell myself not to dwell on the negative and focus on the successful parts of my business, but sometimes it’s consuming anyway. So even though it’s not about kids for me, this thing is my baby and sometimes I wonder what-ifs too. For now I’ll just try to make every day the swimming-downstream kind rather than the other way around. 🙂

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