I haven’t posted much writing recently. I’m often too conscious that my words might be read by another human, and I don’t want to come across as angry or frustrated, so I don’t finish thoughts or I don’t write at all because of imagined social feedback. I’ve never been particularly confident that things I write are worth reading, but in the past it hasn’t stopped me from posting inane musings about wanting to operate a lighthouse or what it takes to be cool.
I have tried to be less aware of the social ramifications of writing, and I’ve written a decent amount of unpolished stuff that I won’t ever publish. But in the back of my mind, I’m always thinking how would this play as a blog post? Who’s the audience? Why should anyone want to read this? Even though I know these are not important questions for creative output. It’s just very hard to shut that off once you’ve gotten used to it.
Why do I post things online anyway? Do I want people to interact with my ideas? Not really. I certainly don’t want to ‘start a dialogue.’ Do I want the recognition and affirmation and for people to think I’m creative and talented? Probably not. But maybe I want to convince myself that I’m creative and talented, and I think that if other people think that I will too. Why doesn’t creating things and not sharing them convince me that I can make things? Is it because I need validation that the things I make are good, and I can’t generate that independently?
I would care about zero of these questions if they didn’t seem to negatively impact my ability to write and create music, but they do.
Maybe the problem is confidence. People (real adults) have always told me to be more confident, as if that is a choice you can make. One day, you just decide you are great and live your life accordingly, making great things and unabashedly sharing them with the world, not because you want validation, but because your ray of confident sunshine will change lives for the better. Of course, this line of reasoning (even in unexaggerated form) annoys anyone who thinks a person’s subjective self-image should be informed by that person’s objective characteristics and accomplishments, rather than that those abilities and accomplishments are results of self-image.
A basketball metaphor always helps: if I’m missing shots, I don’t try to visualize the ball going through the net or try to believe I will succeed. Missed shots are always the result of a mechanical problem, and no amount of confidence is going to fix that problem. Once I get my elbow in or use my legs more or stop fading away, then the ball will go in and my confidence will rise. That is the order.
I’m not saying that confidence is a bad thing, although people who are too quick to draw a line between cockiness and confidence are usually good examples of why that line isn’t clear-cut. I’m saying that confidence is an effect, not a cause.
So I don’t think a lack of confidence hinders creative output. Poor or nonexistent output leads to lack of confidence.
This post, which began with an exploration of creative block induced by fixation on an audience, has become an argument against confidence as a cure for reluctance and failure. And given my inability to overcome my own creative block and the unexciting direction the first half of this post was heading in, I’m confident that this is a better ending.