Archive for the ‘fear’ Tag

Lost and Stuck

A friend on Facebook posts daily Reasons Not To Quit under Miss Hanne’s Academy For Wayward Girls. These little nuggets of wisdom and inspiration have been a steady source of courage and comfort for me for some time. Today’s post “Reasons Not to Quit #1070: What one specific thing are you going to do today to make it a little easier for you not to quit? #reasonsnottoquit” incited a lot of thoughts and feelings that I’ve been wrestling with for weeks.

Boiled down to it’s constituent elements, the particular sludge stew that’s been plaguing my peace lately seems to be equal parts professional burn-out, imposter syndrome, workplace political BS, and lack of inspiration. Stirred together with chronic anxiety and social isolation, and that thick, bubbling, acrid paste of unrelenting discontent begins to set into a cognitive and emotional concrete that is extremely difficult to remove.

So, being prompted by both my own cussed stubbornness not to be a quitter and today’s Reason Not To Quit, I decided to examine the situation. And, because I’m a literal, linear thinker, I resorted to using lists to help with the analysis. I started by listing why I’m struggling, then listed what I’m good at, what I need, and what’s in my way. The final list is supposed to be what would make it better, but so far I have nothing jotted there.

Themes I’ve uncovered in the various lists reduce to: lost and stuck.

Reasons I’m struggling include the feeling that I’m bereft of professional creativity and that I’ve lost the plot and the purpose I’m supposed to fulfill. Yet the top three things I know I need to be happy in my work are intellectual challenge, to contribute meaningfully to something valuable, and clarity of purpose. And things I know I’m really good at include issue spotting, problem solving, and diplomacy. And what’s in my way are things that obscure those levers: fear and insecurity, workplace politics, personal and systemic inertia, lack of imagination/creativity/inspiration.

I don’t think the obvious intersections among these things are accidental. When I am challenged and contributing to a well-defined goal that I believe in, I excel at identifying and strategizing solutions to obstacles and at leading and persuading others to achieve those solutions and the ultimate goal. But when there is no clear goal or its shape and boundaries are obscured by a fog of emotional, organizational and political flack, productivity and engagement tend to grind to a halt and ingenuity fades. When those tools are blunted and the stress is high, the doubts begin to flood in and I get swept into a current of fear, uncertainty, doubt and dread (FUDD) that blinds and hobbles an otherwise sharp and incisive brain.

It’s all well and good to know this, to recognize a cause for this rut. It’s a whole ‘nuther thing to know what to do about it. Hence the empty list of “what would make it better”.

I don’t have answers, only more questions. And I’m tired enough that my ability to bootstrap my own path out of the morass is pretty low. I’m feeling very lost and discouraged, uncharacteristically lacking in tools to fix my own problems.

And that admission in print has my heart pounding and my brain screaming for me to delete it, not let anyone see how useless I’ve become. But I’m going to leave it there and risk the derision and embarrassment that will likely result, because it may be the one thing I can do today to break the cycle of anxiety and let me see a crack in the solidified sludge coating my brain.

Assumptions

Wow, sometimes I think I might be prescient. I started writing this last Saturday, following a train of thought that has been nagging at the back of my brain on and off for a while now. A couple of things have happened in the three days since I started writing that seem to confirm all my thoughts on this topic. Weird how the brain works sometimes.

——— o0o ——-

Everyone assumes things, big and small, right and wrong, from time to time. There are some overt assumptions given as a starting point in certain situations that everyone involved agrees to be true. But often when we speak about assumptions it is in the context of blind assumptions, those thoughts that set a baseline, coloring our actions and outlook on a given topic, person or activity, without much basis for that thought or opinion. Those kinds of beliefs can be tricky to navigate and hard to challenge and change, especially when they are about ourselves.

Lately, I have been encountering assumptions that I have about myself in odd, unexpected ways. For the most part, I think that’s a good thing. Being aware of what we think about ourselves helps us examine our path and can help us make good choices (or bad) and take us in new and exciting directions. It can also make us retrench in those beliefs, habits, practices that we find comfortable and true, often regardless of other knock-on effects of keeping those things in tact.

At times, I feel that this constant self-examination, endless striving to improve, to be and remain positive, to challenge every shortcoming, is just another treadmill of “not good enough”. It feels like all this self awareness, personal growth and discovery work is more about destruction than construction. Some days it feels like there’s nothing good enough in me and I’ll have to completely remake my entire being in order to get to a place where I can look at myself in the mirror (both physical and metaphorical) and be content that the person looking back is acceptable.

This self assumption of inadequacy is insidious. It lurks in places you don’t ever expect to find assumptions. There are plenty of overt, obvious places where it is easily recognizable. These are predictable and annoying, sometimes hard to cut loose, but they don’t have much camouflage and are capable of being tackled head-on. The cynic in me sometimes thinks these are intentional distractions, ruses placed by the subconscious to divert attention from the deeper places where this assumption truly lives, to make it nearly impossible to root out and eradicate. If all our energy is focused on the surface assumptions, then the roots have time to go deep and unchallenged.

A place I’ve recently confronted this assumption – that I am not and will never be good enough – is superficially obvious, but there’s a taproot from the obvious surface to the hidden depths that I didn’t expect. And that unexpectedness makes me question if it’s really an irrational assumption or just the plain truth that I have to accept.

The surface bit is easy: I encounter disapproval/rejection/reprimand and I immediately assume I’m in the wrong or not up to standard, so that treatment must be deserved and I need to change and improve to be worthy of better treatment.

Now, clearly, there are times when everyone falls short and that self-castigating assumption is accurate. Being a mature adult means taking accountability for our mistakes and flaws and committing to do or be better. This is a healthy response to confronting personal shortcomings.

But the deeper bit is harder to articulate. It’s part “I’m working really hard to improve X quality/personal trait yet am not seeing expected results” and part “damn, I thought I’d mastered that one, but I guess not”. I guess what it boils down to is that frequency matters, more so than personal effort. Basically, if criticism is repeated, especially when it comes from different sources, then I gotta think that it’s not my irrational insecurities, but fact.

That’s painful on a lot of levels, but mostly it hurts to know that my inner saboteur was right all along. It’s painful and embarrassing to discover that I was a fool to take comfort in the easy platitudes of well-meaning acquaintances who urged me to believe myself to be good and smart and worthy, when my brain was telling me where I was falling short of all of those standards.

So what do you do when the illusion is revealed and all your comfortable self beliefs are debunked by cold fact?

I suppose the healthiest response is to redirect all that self-improvement energy to a more realistic, achievable goal. When your inadequacy has been proven to be reality, get to work on becoming adequate. Seems fairly straightforward. But so much in life that seems simple is not. Bootstrapping yourself to the finish line from square one is really f’ing hard and exhausting. Especially when the leaden weight of failure is still hanging around your neck.

So the real question is how do you take that leaden noose off your neck?

Let me know when you find out, won’t you?

Reasons Be Damned

Last post, I talked about reasons to stay/go at my job. By sheer numbers, Go won hands-down. But I was still working through the logic, trying to figure out whether it was salvageable. Then, later that week, I had a terrifyingly open discussion with my boss in which I admitted to being extremely unhappy and unable to identify what purpose and value I have to the company anymore. He again advised that the chief source of our mutual misery will be leaving in under two years and I should stick it out.

Since that conversation, I’ve been doing my best with the dreck I’m dealing with. I keep looking back at that list in my last post and trying to beef up the Stay side, attempting to persuade myself that giving up on nearly 20 years of work and professional investment isn’t failure. I have dug as deep as I know how, and I keep coming up empty.

And in the face of the blatantly unfair and wrong directive I received last night, which completely disregards my leadership, undermines my authority, and eviscerates my agency,…for the second time at this job…I can think of no good reason to stay and endure the continued abuse and poisonous politics.

Reasons be damned. I’m out.

I even applied for a job I saw on LinkedIn today. I won’t just walk out, leaving my team unsupported and work undone. But I’ve made the choice inside my head and committed to myself that I won’t put up with it any more.

Now I just have to find the least disruptive path to a new start. Oh, and tell my family…and my boss…and my team.

Ugh, this sucks.

Naming the Demon

I’m pretty sure I’ve written at least once before about believing that naming the demons, claiming the fear out loud, so to speak, can take away its power and give courage enough to rise above that fear. I do believe that. I try to practice that, especially in my professional life with my team, trying to make a safe space for them to do the same. But when it comes to my personal growth and self discovery and improvement, that naming requires significant vulnerability, particularly when the naming is in print for all and sundry to read…and ridicule.

While I have come a fair clip from the overly-cautious, fearful and shy person I was in the beginning of this journey, I still keep a good bit to myself and still guard my IRL persona carefully. I have a career and position that demands I bear a great burden of responsibility, so public behavior (including on social media) is something I’m very careful about.

Yet, I don’t want that burden to become a convenient excuse to hide from truth and let fear win.

So I’m going to try to strike a balance with this post, naming fears without context or explanation for the most part, saving some measure of privacy and dignity while putting into the universe my plea for peace. Here are some of the demons plaguing my heart and mind:

  • Isolation
  • Emotional upheaval and anxiety
  • Longing for, and also fearing, change
  • Terror of never being enough
  • Dread of always being judged to be too much
  • Shame at being fearful and insecure
  • Inertia that prevents logical, rational thought and action that might alleviate some of this dread
  • Utter lack of creativity and innovation in devising solutions to these problems
  • Disgust at my ineffectiveness in my own life
  • Self loathing over how pathetic this list is

Ugh. That’s a lot of sludge to expose to the world. And I don’t have any comfortable, warm & fuzzy platitudes to salve the negativity. But I cling to the conviction that as long as I’m working on it, putting genuine effort into trying to overcome and to improve, and by calling out the darkness into the light, there is a chance that it will get better.

I have to believe that. I hope you do, too.

Analysis Paralysis

I’m not sleeping well. Haven’t been for months now. This is a first for me, as I’ve always been a good sleeper. Part of me thinks it’s the perversity of a cruel universe punishing me for past brags about my (former) ability to fall asleep at will and sleep like a rock through the night. “Ha! Take this, bragger!”, it seems to shout at me as I continue to struggle for unconsciousness hours after laying down, exhausted.

But I know that’s irrational. There is an explanation, of sorts. I’m stressed and anxious, so my sleep is disrupted. But precisely what is the cause of that anxiety? I’m not sure. There is no shortage of triggers: work stresses are high, violence and hate abound in our society and scream nonstop in every media feed, internal pressures to improve aspects of myself which seem beyond my influence…so much to choose from.

I’m trying to address it. Reading a lot on theories and methods of tackling anxiety and sleep issues. Examining my thoughts, feelings, motives, fears, actions. Trying to isolate individual triggers and eliminate them. Mindfully, intentionally confronting each thought and feeling, honoring and acknowledging it before putting it aside. Even focusing on physical sensations, consciously relaxing muscles and slowing breathing. Talking, not talking; reading, not reading; teas and showers and warm blankets and chilly rooms and white noise machines and music…

I feel that I’ve given complete, genuine effort to resolving this problem. I’ve thought and reasoned and argued myself around in circles. I’ve given all my logic and reasoning and intellect to the problem. I think this is the quintessential manifestation of analysis paralysis.

And I’m still not sleeping.

It’s hard not to be discouraged and negative when nothing works and exhaustion dogs your every step.

Anti-Positives (not Negatives) For Those Days When Sunny Positivity Just Can’t Cut It

As you know, I’m on a mission to center positivity, gratitude and kindness in my life. I want to be the best version of me that I can be, every day. But because I am human and imperfect, I don’t always succeed. Sometimes finding the silver lining, the “one good thing” in a day utterly full of crappy, negative experiences and energy is simply too much. Some days I just can’t fake it ‘til I make it.

On those days, honoring the darkness, letting the emotional, political, mental sludge breathe and have its moment in the middle is all I can do. And, if I’m both lucky and careful, that momentary dominance will satisfy the perverseness of the universe and let me pin that day to the past, moving forward into positivity once again. It’s brutal and not at all pretty to live through, but once on the other side, relief at having given the darkness that moment makes the light a little more bright and a little more bearable.

So that’s the silver lining, the good out of the bad.

But what gets you to that place is acknowledging the pain points, the dreck that’s built up and is clamoring to get out. Catharsis, I guess. But not necessarily just a good ol’ fashioned, wracking, sobbing cry. Sometimes it calls for naming the enemies, a litany of the poisons steeping in the blood, to extinguish their power and potency. Only after being called to the fore can some of these venoms be neutralized – the power of light to bleach the stain of the dark.

To that end, I’m braving my fears of vulnerability and derision to call out some of the poisons currently plaguing my peace:

Imposter Syndrome

Being a Pathetic Loser

Loneliness and the Fear it is Forever

Inadequacy in Every Dimension

Fixating on the Unobtainable

Reliving Humiliating Moments of the Past

Beating Myself Up for Giving in to Anger

Fear of Change

Wow. That’s a lot of mental and emotional poison.

I wrote all of that over a month ago, after nearly a month of lost sleep and continual stress. I set it aside to breathe, thinking that it was too raw and left me too exposed to actually publish. I thought I just needed to get it out of my head and it would be enough. But it hasn’t stopped.

So last night, Wednesday October 24th, while I was, again, not sleeping and after my eyes called it quits on reading anymore as an escape from the poisonous thoughts, I lay still and let the poison wash over me. I decided all the fighting I’d been doing to avoid it had been futile, so maybe giving it its freedom would bring some relief. Again, maybe if I honor the darkness it’ll let me go?

So I spent the entire night reliving the most cringeworthy, painful, humiliating moments of my life, watching each scene and acknowledging it’s continued sting. It felt like walking through a thrift store, cruising the aisles full of dusty, dented, useless junk that somehow still holds a degree of fascination, picking up items and replacing them on the shelves. It was a miserable experience, yet I managed to get to the end of the aisle without shedding a tear. Despite feeling the oppressive weight of humiliation and shame that each memory carried, I looked at each one and then set it aside without further judgment or sorrow.

No profound conclusions resulted and no existential clarity emerged. I did notice a pattern in the moments that rose to the surface and it’s still percolating through my brain trying to resolve into a clear shape that I can put a name to. But there’s been no epiphany.

Still, I think it helped, in some perverse way, to let my brain purge the dreck. I’m not certain that I won’t have to confront those moments again another time, but I feel that surviving that ordeal is a triumph. Even though it cost me a day of vacation time (I was in no shape to go to work today) and a day-long headache that’s still pounding, in addition to the night-long anguish, I’m calling it a win. It’s not a bright, shiny, joyous win, but a win nevertheless.

And because any positive out of all this oily, oozing darkness should be celebrated, I’m taking my courage in both hands and am publishing this very personal realness, despite feeling naked in the spotlight by doing so.

The Tally

Sometimes I can’t talk about what’s hurting me, but I can write. 

—–

For two days I’ve been battling to control my emotions. Tears come without warning at the slightest provocation. And a heavy, burning, acrid lump of shame and fear is stuck in my throat preventing me from gaining any calm or comfort by talking through the awfulness. 

Ambush emotions suck. Hard. And the shame and stress of having them come while I’m at work is doubly awful. Being busy will stem the flow for a time. But focusing on work or on anything outside of my head is a daunting task. I’ve been trying, but I’m failing more than succeeding. 

One of the emotionally fraught conversations I had with coworkers today (in which I was mostly silent and tearful) centered on the breathtaking variety of people who will be negatively affected by this new regime. We decided that really only one demographic isn’t immediately and directly harmed by it: straight, white, male, Christians. All others are less than, second-class, and targets for every kind of discrimination and hate. People of color, people of size, people who are LGBTQI, people with physical or mental or emotional challenges, people of any faith other than Christian and people of no faith, and all women are less safe today than we were on Tuesday (to the extent some of these groups were safe at all).

That led to us discussing in how many dimensions each of us is viewed as less than, as undesirable, as unworthy and unwanted. It was a grim discussion and it was repeated with a different set of people later, spontaneously. Because everyone is conscious of the danger that this ungoverned hate represents. And because talking seems to be the only way some have to cope…or not cope but try to commiserate. 

I know its not healthy or helpful to pursue these dark thoughts. But it’s difficult to avoid them when it’s still so raw. It’s akin to the obsessive prodding of a sore tooth, or the scratching of a scab: it hurts and is not productive, but it keeps you conscious of the injury and is, in a way, comforting to feel something even if it’s pain. 

So here’s my tally of factors of un-safety: 8.  I’m a fat, Hispanic, gay, gender non-conforming, woman with mobility issues and unpopular opinions, who holds a position of corporate power over men. 

These are among the most prominent defining characteristics of who I am. They are important to me. And, under this administration of horrors, they number the ways in which I am wrong, misfit, rejected, and reviled. 

I’m sure that tally will increase over the course of the next four years. Because there’s no chance that any of these factors will diminish, but every chance that these hate mongers will find new reasons to hate the hated even more. 

Wounded 

Friends, I’m really struggling. It’s difficult to fully articulate the trouble I’m having. In a way, it boils down to a tension, a tug-o-war between what I’m feeling and what I hear from the community I should be feeling. I feel stretched, pulled in opposing directions, pushed into an emotional corner, and I don’t know how to react or deal with it all. 

Here’s the nut of it: All the rallying cries to not be afraid, not be cowed, not be intimidated, and all the righteously indignant declarations of fortitude and perseverance are stirring, glorious examples of the best possible mindset, the reactions to aspire to. But I am afraid. I am sad. I am outraged and angry. 

Yet, I am so weary. 

It feels as if I, in my safe Midwestern town and with my good fortune in job and home and family, have no right to be weary and hurt and afraid. It feels as if I, being so recently out and so remote from the cultural experience of those whose journey to authenticity included finding sanctuary and solace in the bars and clubs and associations of IRL LGBTQ community, am not permitted to feel grief at the hate constantly flung at this community, that I’m somehow an interloper to this communal outpouring of grief. It feels as if my grief and hurt and sadness and anger are regarded as false, as not counting, as a burden to an already burdened community. It feels as if my emotional reactions are a betrayal of the fight that went before me and a weakness in the face of the fight that lies ahead. 

Mind you, no one has said these exact words to me. But every “we will fight”, every “rise up and march”, every “we will not be silenced ” pierces my heart, indicting my feelings as cowardice. Because I currently cannot muster the courage and energy to raise my fist and voice in protest. I’m bruised, wounded. It feels like too much. It feels never ending. The hate and danger burn like fire. The fear and paralysis burn like ice. 

Yet I am, today, safe and whole. There are people in my daily life that love me. I have a home with comforts and necessities. I have an income that supports me and those I love. So how — I hear screamed at me by my inner saboteur and the faceless media — can you feel this overwhelm, this acute injury? 

I can say only that I feel it. Yes from the horror at the Orlando tragedy, but also from the constant, ubiquitous negativity that floods every media feed and story. The stress of political and social strife, of brutality and hate, of unkindness and inequality pervading the news and social interaction is at a peak. It seems hardly possible to go to any public place (physical or virtual) and not encounter some form of aggression, hate, unkindness, or discrimination. What you wear, who you love, where you come from, who you do/don’t worship, what you do for a living, what you think about issues trivial and momentous…all are reasons today for someone to hate, injure, or murder you. I wear at least six of those targets as a Hispanic fat gay non-binary FAAB lawyer every day. 

That kind of insecurity and instability naturally inspire fear and dread in my heart. My instincts scream for me to make myself safe from it all, to withdraw, be still and quiet, to avoid attention. Yet the community demands we risk those dangers and assert ourselves, put ourselves in the line of fire to preserve the future from these tragedies. 

This is right and good and noble. I cannot speak against that call to action. I would be a part of it. Yet, I still am afraid and isolated from the stronghold of the movement. What good is a fearful, timid soldier? How can a weak tool complete a task?

Only in the strength of many can the fearful become bold, the weak become strong. Room must be made for people to feel what they feel without derision, without guilt. In our rallying for tangible action, let’s not trample those who aren’t able to run at the same pace, or at all. 

Peace & love & light to you all. May you find strength, validation, support, and love in your community both physical and virtual. 🙏

Pingback to Daily Prompt – Struggle

Ogre or troll?

This post is hard for me to publish. I’m afraid it will come off as very self-serving and mawkish. I cringe at the blush-worthy sneers it could easily attract. But it’s about a nagging irritation that I feel might be helped by putting my thoughts out in the universe. So, take this one as it’s meant: an airing of aggrieved confusion and irritation with only myself, and no cause for offense to anyone else. 
— — — — —
My beloved is generous with her praise and compliments. She puts effort into finding ways to tell me that she thinks my fashion choices on any given day are good and attractive, that she thinks I look nice, and that she’s pleased with my appearance. She is kind that way, solicitous of my feelings. I am a very lucky butch in this regard. And I make an effort to be grateful and also to reciprocate her kindness. 
The last bit is easy. I always think she looks good, even straight from sleep or when she’s under the weather. She is my pretty girl and seeing her always pleases me. So telling her that she is beautiful and helping her to know that I see her, her uniqueness, her innate loveliness, is not the hard part. 
The hard part is graciously accepting a compliment without feeling false in either my reaction to the compliment or in my treatment of the one giving it. Doesn’t matter who it is, I always struggle with this. But the struggle is especially troubling when it’s my Lulu. Her kind heart and genuine pleasure at seeing me and complimenting my appearance is something I never want to trample, dismiss or trivialize. 
Yet…I can’t help the visceral, instinctive and strong reaction that occurs every single time. Inner critic voices immediately shout in my head:  “That’s not meant for you.” “You don’t deserve that.” “They can’t possibly be talking about you that way.” “Don’t be ridiculous, that description doesn’t apply to you.” And, most disturbing: “That’s what they think you want to hear.” and “What do they want from you to try flattery of that sort?”
These doubts, outright denials, and motive-questioning reactions are reflexive, almost autonomic in their immediacy following any kind of praise on my person. I shrug, grimace, sometimes cringe and shudder inwardly, when my beloved calls me gorgeous or handsome or beautiful-handsome. I gesture away the comments about my attire with a flick of my hand. And the qualifying comments, down-playing and deprecating responses are just as quick to my lips as the shrugs and grimaces.  

I’m sure it’s frustrating for her. Maybe infuriating and sad, too. Those emotions are not what I ever mean to inspire in her. But they are the predictable byproducts of the ingrained response I have to praise and compliments. 


So, what’s the problem? 

It feels so wrong to simply say thank you. It’s as if by acknowledging the other person’s remark and thanking their kindness, I am claiming that superlative for myself, boasting by proxy. It feels unseemly and big-headed. 

Yet I never think these things of others who graciously accept compliments I’ve given them. It never occurs to me that anyone I compliment is anything but deserving of the praise and validation. Their acceptance of, and pleasure in, the comment is gratifying to me, with nary a qualm about their motives. 

So why do I hold myself to a different standard? Why do I struggle with accepting the thought that what is said is what they genuinely believe? How is it okay for others, but not okay for me?

Fundamentally, I genuinely think others deserve to be complimented and I don’t. I can’t identify why this makes so much sense to me. It seems so right and rational inside my head and heart, but sounds so stupid and insane when written down or said out loud. Why should I be utterly undeserving? Am I such a loathsome ogre to be devoid of aesthetic appeal? Clearly not; no person is. 

I think the nasty secret behind it all is, predictably, fear. Specifically, fear that my internal critic’s worst poison will manifest itself in the voice of someone I care for and respect, sneering in surprise and derision in response to overhearing me being complimented, sealing the deal on my self doubt: “This confirms it! You were right all along, you are a loathsome troll!!” (For some reason that internal saboteur’s voice is that of Alan Rickman as Severus Snape at his most venomous.) 
Never mind that no one I love and respect today has ever displayed anything like that sort of hatefulness toward me or anyone I love. Never mind that the whole scenario is ludicrous. Logic and sanity don’t play a part in irrational insecurity. 
It’s just fear of not being good enough. 
Time to get over it. Hopefully saying it out loud will rob the gremlin of its power and free me to just be grateful next time. 

Drivel

Day Nineteen: Don’t Stop the Rockin’

Today is a free writing day. Write at least four-hundred words, and once you start typing, don’t stop. No self-editing, no trash-talking, and no second guessing: just go. Bonus points if you tackle an idea you’ve been playing with but think is too silly to post about.

— — — — —
I skipped day 18’s writing prompt. I’m just not ready to tackle dialogue and crafting stories from whole cloth. I have this paralyzing fear of writing fiction. I’m certain that any story I can write has not only already been told better a hundred times before, but also that anyone who sees my fiction writing would first laugh themselves sick and then confiscate all my writing instruments to spare the world the agony. 
Drivel. That’s what my fiction work would be. I just know it. 
That’s why I skipped to tomorrow’s prompt. At least drivel is a reasonably expected result of a free-write assignment, right?
Some days I just have no confidence in my ability to write anything other than professional memoranda and contract provisions. Nothing that takes any creativity and thought. On these days, I think it’s better to leave my proverbial pen in the proverbial inkwell. But I know that’s a copout. I’m sure the prevailing view is that it’s better to write than not, even when I’m not confident in my skill.
That’s so hard. In a lot of ways, I’m a perfectionist about intellectual accomplishments. Especially writing. Mostly because I’ve endured a lot of criticism about my writing as an attorney. Or at least as a law student. 
I had such a hard time adjusting from the easy, comfortable yet lazy, writing style that got me through undergrad to the more formal and rigorous style required in law school. When I started law school I was unprepared for the level of scrutiny that profs brought to written work. I had skated a bit through high school and undergrad. I seemed able to complete the work and get good grades without much effort. The resulting laziness nearly killed me the first week of law school, when I discovered what real scholarship required. 
The first writing assignment almost made me cry. I understood the material and the instructions of the prof, but the exacting limitations on font size, margins, passive voice, word count and sentence length we’re unprecedented in my academic career. I felt caged, beleaguered and inadequate to the task. 
Thus began a decades-long struggle with my writing confidence. No matter how many trips to the campus writing center, or how many pleas for help to the one prof I was not afraid to speak to, I couldn’t seem to nail down the perfect balance of rule-following and rule-breaking. It didn’t help that different profs had different standards of measuring you against an ostensibly objective style guide. Contracts prof accepted, even expected, a comma riddled piece full of long sentences. But the Torts prof wanted short “pithy” sentences in a Spartan style. I never did fully grasp what pithy is in writing context. Every assignment was a new torture. 
After law school, in my first law job, it was worse, in a way. Though the grammar nazi supervision of Legal Writing was gone, the continual judgement from senior associates and partners, without any constructive guidance, made my confidence plummet further. 
Eventually, with a lot of self study and trial and error, my professional writing improved. With experience, I learned what was needed and how to achieve it. 
But I haven’t found the same equilibrium with fiction writing. I’m still in the low-confidence stage. I know that courage and practice are the only cure. It’s so hard, though. With writing for work, there are tangible rewards (and risks) to provide incentive for practice. Not so writing for fun. If something makes me uncomfortable or seems too hard without much return for the labor, I can just skip it. Like yesterday’s prompt. I don’t risk being fired or fined or throttled if I skip that thing. 
It’s so hard to motivate myself to confront the fear. So, in the way of all self-defeating patterns and self-fulfilling prophecies, my fiction writing is drivel because I’m too scared to write drivel for other people to ridicule. 
%d bloggers like this: