There are times when I reach a crisis of faith. Faith in myself. I’m going through one right now. I look at what I have written and much of it feels wholly inadequate. There are times that I think of myself as unqualified to dispense advice. I sometimes wonder if I am just making a fool of myself. I make a comment and feel like an idiot for totally missing the point and dashing any credibility I might have established. I sit at this keyboard and ask, “Who am I kidding?” Well, don’t worry this too shall pass.
I’ll re-read something I’ve written with fresh eyes and see that maybe it’s not so bad, or that with a bit more work or a change in the angle of attach I can improve it. I go back over the advice I’ve given and see the positive comments I’ve received and feel that maybe I can make a difference. I will still make my blunders, open my mouth when I shouldn’t, miss the point all together and feel the blood rise in my face. However, I do have something to say and if I reach one person with my ideas, then maybe what I am doing is worth while.
I think that writing is both rewarding and terrifying at the same time. It’s the old devil-and-angel-on-the-shoulder thing. The angel encourages me from her perch to revel in the feeling of composing the perfect string words poetically describing a feeling, or enjoy a great run of believable dialogue that comes tumbling out of me in a rush. On the other shoulder the devil is turning me into my own harshest critic making me feel like the last 30,000 words have been a waste of time and that I am naive to think that there is any merit in all of this. And then—POOF—they’re both gone leaving me to sort it all out on my own.
We need those internal critics, both the angel and the devil. They give balance to each other. Nothing but empty encouragement is as bad as an earful of bitter, destructive criticism. Building up and tearing down without being backed by thoughtful, honest feedback is hollow and pointless. If the devil’s voice says, “this reeks,” take another look at it, there might be some truth to what he says. Make it “reek” less. Or maybe on that second read you’ll hear the angel’s voice say, “don’t throw in the towel yet, this isn’t as bad as you think.”
We all go through it. If you have had these feelings, you’re not alone. Self-doubt is part of life. Friedrich Nietzsche said, “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.” A little second guessing is not a horrible thing, in fact it might just might make us better.