That thing will come.
If you were to ask me what centres me the most, if you were to ask me what levels my frazzled mind, I think I’d throw you an answer that had something to do with writing.
I think I would say that getting lost in a crater of words, that spending my days trying to delicately stitch sentences together is the one thing that blocks my mind from the pace of the world. That in a realm where push notifications interrupt the most dedicated streams of thought, writing is the one thing that forces my focus, that settles flimsy and harried thoughts, that encourages concentration and calm in equal measure.
I’m thinking a lot about writing lately because I have been doing a bunch of it.
It’s been a while since I’ve had the luxury of spending days on end doing the one thing I love most in the world. In the beginning - in those first few days I started to really write again - I felt more like me than I had in a long while. As my eyes fixated on the screen and my fingers began to type, the words came freely, like they were always meant to sit that way on that page, like they had been waiting to form those shapes in that tone all along.
A couple of days later, the free fall of tumbling words stuttered, the flow found itself a little disoriented and those sentences never found themselves landing on the page in a way that ever looked right.
Things got tricky, and then they got a bit difficult, and then I found myself reflecting on everything I had thought and held to be true: Can I write? Am I even very good at this? Why is the one thing that has always levelled me throwing me so off-balance?
I find myself in the thick of that random viral meme about the creative process that I used to laugh at, the one that perfectly captures what it’s like to hate your own work (and, to a more grim extent, yourself) while you’re in the middle of a project:
This is awesome!
This is tricky
This is terrible
I am terrible
This might be OK
This is awesome
I am awesome!
Crises of confidence certainly aren’t a new phenomenon for me. If I am totally honest, there are many days I wonder how in the world Michelle and I can pull off half the things we promise we can, or how in the world we can continue to ride momentum when I’m so sure, at any moment, it could all just fall apart.
No, crises of confidence for me aren’t new - nor are they about writing - but what I’ve found so interesting about this one is how personal it has felt.
Why, when something becomes a little tricky, do we assume we are inherently the problem, that we will never be able to create or do in the way we once did, that our skill is forever lost? That we are a one-trick pony, that this whole time we have fluked it, that maybe we were never really that good, maybe we just had a really good stream of luck for a little while?
Why don’t we ever just breathe, clear our minds and say hey, today isn’t our day?
Perhaps it was serendipitous, then, that I decided to finally listen to an episode of How To Fail With Elizabeth Day this week with Phoebe Waller-Bridge while on a run. For the uninitiated, Waller-Bridge created and wrote both Fleabag and Killing Eve and has experienced crazy kinds of success in the last 12 months. Her name and her work are everywhere.
Towards the end of the interview, she began talking about writing and how she overcomes last-minute crises of confidence, of what keeps her sane when the work doesn’t feel it will ever come.
“It’s also just knowing it’s in you,” she told Day. “There’s something quite comforting about the fact there is a deadline and this thing is going to happen; you’re going to make it happen and you’ve just got to keep pouring whatever you can into it.”
They were simple words, but then, perhaps, maybe the ones we need to hear always are.
This thing - whatever the thing might be - will come. The thing is in you. The thing always is.
An off day, or a couple for that matter, doesn’t undo a skill or a passion or mean it’ll never come back. It just means you’re in the depths of that wanky but bang on creative process stereotype where, for a fleeting moment in time something’s terrible, but in an equally fleeting moment things may just be OK.
So for now, I'm coasting through until things make their way back to OK, again, I think.