“There’s work and love and art and art usually comes last”

Get confident, stupid!

Ah, yes, the immortal words of Troy McClure. And who wouldn’t have chutzpah with a smile like Troy’s! (Not to mention the rather handsome collection of pullovers he donned, which can now be found somewhere on the Stuff White People Like online showroom of sumptuously stylish sweaters.)

Lindsay Merbaum wrote an interesting piece in Electric Literature called “Not a Real Writer: How Self-Doubt Holds Me Back.” Self-confidence is one of those illusive and intangible parts of the human anatomy that everyone wants yet all of us so desperately lack in at least some areas of our lives. For many it’s public speaking. For a lot of us it’s expressing ourselves, whether through our fashion our words our actions or our opinions.  For Lindsay Merbaum – high school poet extraordinaire, Sarah Lawrence graduate, and recipient of an MFA from Brooklyn College, where she studied under Michael Cunningham  – it’s self-doubt with her writing because she’s not a “real writer.”

Wait. Hold the bacon and mayo a second.

If someone like  Lindsay Merbaum can doubt her own writing, who among us is immune from self-doubt when it comes to anything we do? I suppose the easy answer would be, well, nobody.  I’ve always found it interesting how the most beautiful women I’ve met are the most insecure about their looks; how the self-made entrepreneur couldn’t stir a single emotion in me when they gave a presentation; how those with toned, drop-dead bodies can’t help saying how “fat” and “out of shape” they are; how the nicest, kindest, most humane people I’ve had the good fortune of meeting believe – truly and for trues – that they are worthless. Alternatively, why is that those who seem to exude the most confidence have a special place all their own in the Deuchery Hall of Fame?

Confidence is electric. It’s alluring. It draws us to those who have it in spades like Poo to honey. So why, then, do many of us have such a  difficult time harnessing this amazing X factor which can do everything from make us more friends to landing a better job to having…I don’t know…clearer, more blemish-free skin?

Let’s return to the case of Lindsay Merbaum for a moment, shall we? There were a couple of things she mentioned in her piece which resonated with me and I’d like to address.

How do you justify the time devoted to writing when it doesn’t put food on the table, when you don’t receive much recognition for your efforts?

Because, to quote Mr. Jerry Scientology, it completes you. Writing makes you a better person. Pure and simple. It is to spiritual growth what drinking a kimchi, avocado, and cranberry smoothie is to a health nut. Well, sort of. As for the recognition part, if you can please yourself, that’s one more person than the average Joe/Joanne can do.

I have yet to publish a book. The reason for that is, in part, life gets in the way.

Right. That pesky and pernicious little thing called life. It doesn’t come with a manual or set of instructions. First rule of Fight Club: There’s no such thing as Fight Club. Second rule of Fight Club: Life will always get in the way. Remember that wicked, kick-ass ski trip you were going to take, only to break your leg the day before you left? That interview you prepared for, only to have it cancelled on you at the last minute? That guy you were going to impress LIVE AND IN THE FLESH after totally – so totally – connecting with him online, only to have Dirk Deuchebag not show up on your first date? (Note to self: no more online dating experiences.) Remember that Golden Rule of Fight Club so often forgotten by the best of us in our quest to conquer life? It’s not the strongest, most talented people who thrive and succeed; it’s those of us who know how to adapt to our environment most effectively that matters most.

When you have a better chance of getting into Harvard than a top-tier literary magazine, hope is no small thing.

True dat. Pandora would wholeheartedly agree. Hope is a good thing, a well of vitality in the barren, desert-like wintertime of our lives. Cling to it like a baby does a mother’s bosom when you have to, and otherwise don’t worry about how others measure success. A  completed manuscript is still a completed manuscript, published or not. It’s an achievement. You rock, despite what the naysayers might think.

As for the title of this post, which I took from Ms. Merbaum’s piece, I’m not sure I would rank it quite the same way. Art can be your work, and you can most definitely love what you do. Ergo, you can love what you do for a living and celebrate the medium in which you do it.

Or, as is said in a very touching video called “The Meaning of Life,” love yourself first and foremost. The rest will fall into place soon enough. And that includes, but is not limited to, confidence.

 

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