I suck. (No, I don’t!) (Yes, I do.)
Before I forget (again) – all of the Twitch story streams have been edited down to just the story bits and posted on YouTube. You’ll mostly be spared the bits where I talk. If you, for some unknown reason, actually want to listen to the bits where I talk, you can watch those videos over on Twitch (where they are unfortunately presented in reverse order). All of the stories thus far take place in the Chromatic universe. (That may or may not change in the future… I had no idea how long I’d been subconsciously preparing for these books.)
I’m 53% done with my first pass through the first draft (otherwise known as the “second draft”, but the theme for the day seems to be, “Make everything harder than it needs to be,” soooo…)
(I’m looking at you, state that somehow has mostly clean-and-dry highways the day after a blizzard, but also has traffic lights that are completely obscured by snow and downtown streets that have been replaced by sheets of four-inch-thick ice.)
Here’s the question that’s been buzzing around in my head today: how do you know when to trust?
I’m not talking about governments, or organizations, or corporations, or even other people. I’m talking about the voices in your head. When one is saying one thing, and another is saying something else, which one do you listen to?
It’s a tricky question. If one voice is telling you that you’ll never ever get that job because you suck at interviews/interactions/selling yourself/life, and the other is telling you that you’ve got this, you obviously need to embrace the positivity. I won’t say that you should completely shut out the rest, because there’s always a chance that there’s some useful feedback in there… but that’s the tricky part, isn’t it? You have to learn to distinguish between a negative voice that isn’t useful, and one that’s telling you that you’ve been turned down for eighty-three jobs in three months and maybe it’s you. Because maybe it’s really not a great idea to wear a t-shirt that says “Fuck work” to interviews.
Here’s my immediate problem: when I got to the halfway point of the second draft, a thought drifted into my head. That thought was this: “Maybe you should have someone start reading it now. That way, when they tell you that it sucks rotten eggs, you’ll be able to rewrite everything before you get too far into it.”
I don’t know why that thought showed up. There’s nothing that I can point to, no moment when I was reading it back and suddenly realized that it was crap. On the contrary, I’ve been rather pleased with the way things have been going. But that thought barged in, and as the days passed, I couldn’t get rid of it. So I dumped half a book on my usual first-reader with a frantic directive that boiled down to, “Read this and tell me how badly it sucks!” I’m still waiting to hear back. (Sorry, what I really meant was I’M STILL WAITING…)
It’s free-floating anxiety. I can’t give you a reason for it. I can’t even give myself a reason for it. It just is.
That feeling seems to contradict a very different feeling that I had toward the end of the first draft. There are three separate threads that all came to a climax at the same time. Three chapters in a row, bam bam bam, and at the time, I was so pleased with it that I was nearly cackling with satisfaction. It felt good.
(Of course, it’s still possible that everything leading up to that point sucked eggs.)
Which voice is deceptive — the one that tells me that I suck, or the one that tells me that I’m awesome? Is there a middle ground? If so, I can’t find it. So, what’s to do? Pay attention to that completely nonspecific feeling of ohgodIsuckatthis, or go with the sky-high satisfaction of having really crazy things happen all at once in a way that made me happy?
It’s not really a question, because the oh-god-I-suck-at-this will probably never go away, and I’ll probably never learn to dismiss it. Not entirely. And that’s ok. Because, in the end, I did the only thing that made sense — I asked someone else to weigh in on it. That person isn’t susceptible to my internal doomsday monologuing or my tendency toward imposter syndrome. They won’t factor any of my contradictory feelings into their feedback. They’ll just tell me what they see, and what they don’t see, and then I’ll try to trust that feedback.
Even if it’s positive.