A week or so ago, I recorded a “pitch video” for my Patreon page, a recommended tactic to attract more patrons to that platform. The lighting was funky, my delivery was self-conscious and rambling, and the darn thing clocked in at nearly six minutes long.
I finished it, I hated it, I uploaded it… and then I recorded a podcast about it.
The next morning, I decided that episode — in which I was exhausted, despondent, a bit whiny, and kind of a bummer — would not go out to the public. Only my patrons would receive the “lost” episode. Lucky them?
About a week later, I recorded a new episode seven. Between that first and second attempt, I read an article on Brain Pickings (I’ve mentioned Maria Popova’s invaluable contributions elsewhere) about Rainer Maria Rilke’s advice to a budding younger poet:
“Being an artist means, not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without fear that after them may come no summer. It does come. But it comes only to the patient, who are there as though eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly still and wide.” — Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
And then, I heard Elizabeth Gilbert interviewed by Krista Tippett, and I remembered Gilbert’s commitment to “just show up,” despite of, and in defiance of, the pain she’s endured in the last three years.
“I’ve learned to give myself all the credit in the world simply for being in motion. ‘Did you do something today toward this thing? Then you’re good.’ Was it great? No. Was it fun? No. But did you do it? Did you keep the ball rolling? Did you keep another step on that path going? Then you’re fine. That’s it.” — Elizabeth Gilbert, On Being, May 24, 2018
Finally, I remembered why I’m doing this podcast in the first place; to share everything I learn as I make stuff, find success as I define it, and stay healthy and sane in the process. It’s about openness, and vulnerability, and transparency.
There are no lost episodes.
That’s not part of the mission.
So. This episode seven is the original episode seven.
It’s all about imposter syndrome, enduring a crisis of confidence, and Doing the Work.
Oh, and I re-recorded that Patreon video, and it turned out much better. You can watch it on my Patreon page.
Links and Topics Mentioned In This Episode
Here are some of the things I talk about in this episode, including a few links to sites with which I have an affiliate relationship. I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase products through those links. It’s a lovely way to show your support for Sonitotum!
- Most nights, I record a very brief gratitude video on my personal Instagram page. It lives for twenty four hours, and there’s no editing involved, though tired eyes and bed-head are often included.
- It’s hard to make the ask. But it’s okay, too. Amanda Palmer and Henry David Thoreau have it right.
- I bet you already know all about imposter syndrome.
- Learn about post performance depression, and how to work through it.
- Everything creative I’ve done since the beginning of April 2018 has been part of my creative re-set, a “beginner’s mind” approach of teaching everything I learn, as I learn.
- If you’re a creative person thinking about embracing neo-patronage by starting your own Patreon page, please consider using this link to sign up to Patreon. When you do, you’ll get a 50% bonus on top of your first month’s earnings — and I will, too (at no cost to you or your new patrons).
- Hazy Days and Cloudy Nights: “How It All Got Started” is my ongoing serial fiction project available exclusively to my patrons. Read the first three installments and then get the rest for as little as $1.00 per month!
- Interested in being an interview guest on Sonitotum? I’m looking for creators willing to be vulnerable, open, and transparent about how they’ve struggled to make stuff, find success as they define it, and stay sane and healthy in the process… if you fit the bill, email me or use the contact form. Thanks!
- If you really want to see the original, awful, Patreon pitch video that made me so glum, here’s a secret(!) link.
What Do You Think?
If you share your own story of a crisis of confidence in your creative life, you’ll help other creators understand their own ordeal. Let’s hear from you in the comments!
I think I’ve been experiencing a crisis of confidence for years. I’ve all but given up on creating — and when I say “all but given up” I basically mean I’m no longer creating anything for consumption, unless you consider my attempts at entertaining my immediate remaining family members (including pets) to be creative endeavors…which, I do, in a way. (There are a multitude of ways to express creativity, not all of which are public. In my case, none of which are public. Take gardening, for example. Or cooking. But I’m not stating anything you don’t already know.)
That said, I believe that one day, someday, I’ll begin creating something for a wider audience (or group of participants, if you will). Until then, I find value in listening to your insights on — as your tag line suggests — “making stuff, finding success, and staying sane”. Great value…and comfort, as your struggles resonate with me. (Speaking of which, I’m really glad you decided to make this recording available.)
Matthew Wayne Selznick
Thanks for commenting, Harold. Finding the mental space to make things can be very, very difficult, especially if (as it with me) other aspects of your life demand more than their fair share of will / energy / stress allocation. I don’t know your specifics, but I know for myself it’s so important to build a structure of habits and practices so there’s some imposed order over things. Otherwise… it’s too easy to procrastinate, to stay up too late, too easy to while away the day on things that don’t actually bring me closer to my stated goals.
What’s the source of your own crisis of confidence? Are there things you can do / change to eliminate what is almost certainly your own brain working against your intentions?
This may sound like an excuse — and it very well may be — but one of my greatest obstacles (to doing what I believe I really want to do) is achieving a basic income. And I mean very basic — just enough to provide food and shelter and any medical care I may absolutely need to survive. This goal has proved elusive to me for the better part of my life, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have family and love ones that’ve helped keep me from homelessness.
So for years I’ve been working toward that goal, mainly by continuing my education so that I’ll eventually be able to find a job I’ll be able to a) survive on and b) keep. I’ve also worked here and there but unfortunately the perturbations of my mind have gotten in the way too often and I’ve found myself more often unemployed. Thankfully, school has kept me from stagnating too much (but as I write this, I’m again looking for work and probably won’t be able to continue my studies for some time).
So with the problem of trying to find economic self-sufficiency, I’ve set aside my creative efforts. Sadly, that was very likely a mistaken path — had I known 15 years ago that in 2018 I’d still be without a reasonable means of living but alive and mostly well, I’d probably have opted to continue pursuing creative endeavors wholeheartedly. Because I would have known that although I hadn’t achieved my financial goals at least I would’ve achieved at least some of my creative and/or artistic ones. (I mean, if I know I’m going to be broke anyway, why not reach for the stars and make a few things?)
As for structure, I’ve been working on that. I get up and follow a routine; I’ve discovered that even making the bed makes a difference (kind of like your washing the dishes in the morning, which you mentioned in one of your previous podcasts). I still prefer my pajamas but now that I’m looking for work again I think I should probably put some pants on more often during the day. I eat regularly and walking the dogs keeps me from completely collapsing into Jabba the Hutt territory. (No, I’m not anywhere near Jabba-like physically, but sometimes I feel like it due to my sloth-like tendencies.)
By the way, about an hour ago I began reading the book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. So far I’m liking what I’m reading. It reminds me of some of the tenets of buddhism (or my understanding of buddhism), such as the trappings of desire, or the endless quest for happiness, etc. How one should work through pain and difficulty, and how that ultimately can make you stronger. I just started the book so I’m not recommending it, just mentioning it because it reminds me that I’m okay (though I do aim for better), and I needed that reminder today, having woken up feeling somewhat sad and spiritually drained. Felt as though I’d gone “through the wringer”, so to speak, though it’s not entirely clear to me why. Some days I just wake up that way, you know? Listening to your podcast today helped a lot, too.
Matthew Wayne Selznick
You’re the second or third person to mention The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. I actually have it, but haven’t read it yet. I guess I should probably dig in.
Money might be a root of all evil… but not enough money is certainly a root of despondency! I know how that is. In fact, in an upcoming episode of Sonitotum, the musician Emma Wallace and I talk about this very thing: how worrying about money can keep us from our creative pursuits, but if we look at the long term, one way or another, money (almost) always shows up. And if we keep putting our creative stuff out there, eventually it serves us, often financially. But not completing and shipping our creative endeavors means they never have the chance to work for us.
Easier said than done, I know. One way I stay on track (when I stay on track!) is by recognizing that I simply cannot look for work, or work, every hour of every day… and more to the point, *not* focusing on work or money for an hour or two every day has no effect, negative or positive, on my income. The world somehow keeps spinning. So I might as well spend that time being creative.
Maybe that helps. I know I miss your podcast, still, after all these years!
Thank you Matthew; the fact that you keep shipping your creative work is admirable and appreciated! Your voice — dare I say it without sounding cliche — is unique in its honesty and its transparency. I think I appreciate those qualities the most about your work.
By the way, in an earlier episode of your current podcast series you spoke about the late author Ursula K. Le Guin, specifically referencing a book I’m not currently recalling the title of. Years ago I read The Left Hand of Darkness and one or two short stories by Le Guin and for years I’d been meaning to read more of the author’s work. I think your talking about Le Guin prompted me to dig through my library’s eBook catalogue to discover The Lathe of Heaven, which I just finished a couple of days ago. Now that book I can fully endorse! What a treat that was.
Matthew Wayne Selznick
The Lathe of Heaven is awesome, indeed. My favorite from her (the one I mention in the episode) is Always Coming Home. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read.
Great episode! If it’s a case of bad brain chemistry, I engage in some self care. If it’s anything else, I try listening to something inspiring or reading something new. I also find some value in just riffing on some new challenge or just muscling though.
Matthew Wayne Selznick
Heya, Scott! You’re a very productive creator, so you must have figured out some specific systems when it comes to self care. What works for you? Better yet… want to come on the show and talk about how you “make stuff, find success, and stay sane,” as it says on the kit?