I’ve been thinking this week about ego and self-esteem when it comes to our creative work.
Count me among those who tend to undersell their work. I get intimidated by other writers easily and I never think I’m good enough.
A little humility and a pinch of desire to improve go a long way in the arts, but they’re like salt and pepper: it’s possible to go overboard.
Or a better analogy: When driving, if you leave your foot on the brake pedal then you’re never going to get anywhere.
These last couple months I feel I’ve been driving around with the E brake on. I’m not so down on myself that I’ve been incapable of writing, but it’s been a battle.
And then a funny thing happened last Wednesday. Everything clicked. It clicked after a few hours of conversation with a colleague, Tyler. We talked about intimidation and how I should stop putting other people’s work on a pedestal above my own. He said nice, encouraging things, the way one might coax a bunny out of hiding.
The next day, I finished my first real short story draft of the semester. It needs a lot of work, but it felt good to get a whole new story down on paper again. My funk of self-loathing has lifted and I am full of ideas. I finished a weekly assignment that normally takes me four hours of groaning and procrastinating in half an hour, for example.
I know the slump will come back. Like a children’s book villain, The Slump always comes back. But I am reminded again of why I chose to make writing my priority this year: the sheer joy.
And it helps to be surrounded by people going through similar things. I am so grateful to have met such a wonderful group of people and to count myself among them.
I could have continued writing on my own, without heaving my whole life into my boyfriend’s Honda and moving four hours away from everyone I knew and then watching that Honda pull away towards a long distance relationship. But I wanted to utilize the resources MFA programs offer. And, yes, as much as my artist’s soul shakes with indignation, I wanted to have a degree that would let me teach at the college level. But more than either of those things, I wanted to be around people who would “get it” without my explaining “it” (many of them can explain it in better words than I, I’m sure).
I told my boyfriend after my first week of classes that I’d found my people. I think community is, perhaps, integral to making good art. We need other people to puff us up when we’ve deflated ourselves.
Friendship, in other words, is good for the soul. And the soul is what makes art.