Every time I open up a blank page to write, I feel stupid. Like what I have to say is inadequate and petty compared to, say, Elon Musk. How can I compete with Elon Musk? Well most of us can’t.
Elon has rocket ships. What you got?
What if I was to tell you that feeling stupid or inadequate was normal? What if I told you it was a must to be a good writer?
Your ideas probably seem stupid
I have these lightning bolt ideas all the time to write about. I suddenly think I have hit the writing jackpot. Then my mind says “your ideas are stupid. You’re not Ryan Holiday.”
My mind is quick to shoot down my ideas. Still to this day I hit publish on every article thinking my ideas are stupid. I cringe when I read the headlines of my work or dip my foot in the pool of sharks that is a paragraph typed by me. I just feel….so stupid.
What makes it harder is when the comments confirm my stupidity. “Great you just published the stupidest article on the internet, moron,” a commenter writes. Glorious. Just what my already beaten to a pulp ego needs on a Saturday morning right after a bulletproof coffee.
You feel like a fraud
It’s easy to feel like a fraud when you write.
I write a lot about kindness and humility. Am I like that all the time? Nope. I screamed at someone on the footpath the other day because of cabin-fever induced, second lockdown syndrome. (Don’t worry I said sorry.)
Now when I write about kindness I think about that footpath altercation. It tells me I’m a fraud. The truth is we are all frauds, sometimes.
There are always one-percenters that don’t align with who you are. Forgive yourself. Write.
You feel like you are a liar
Writer, Niklas Goke, was right: all writers are liars.
Retelling stories is hard work. Getting all the details 100% right is near-impossible. When you tell the same story over and over for years, your mind starts to forget some of the finer details. As you grow as a person, your mind reframes stories. My story used to be a tragic one full of darkness. Now I see my story as being similar to the hero’s journey.
This change from negative to positive means that I naturally add optimism or positivity to every story, even if it’s a bad story. I can’t help slightly twist the truth in favor of my new worldview. You feel like a liar because the person you used to be has changed.
Embrace the change to your story over time.
You feel naked
Sharing your darkest truths, the way I have on the internet, makes me feel naked. I walk into the virtual Zoom office each morning and see all the eyes staring at me. It’s intimidating. Are they looking at me weird because of that LinkedIn post about losing everything? Who knows.
To write well is to be vulnerable.
To write is to be naked. You feel exposed because you’re sharing your thoughts with the world for the benefit of others. It doesn’t make sense; until it makes sense.
Naked means your ego is stripped away. You no longer think too much about what people think because you’re not writing for yourself anymore — that’s how I feel. So whilst facing the world during an economic blizzard is freezing cold, your heart still warms your insides. Your inner warmth keeps you alive; it keeps others alive too.
“Feel the fear and do it anyway”
If you feel stupid when you write, and you will, then this quote can help you. Feel the fear and hit publish. Don’t dim the guiding light of your thoughts.
If you feel fear when you write, I’ve learned, you’re on the right path. Keep going.
You’re not stupid because you write. You don’t have all the answers. You will be wrong a lot. People will stab you in the eye with a toothpick loaded with hateful comments. Feel the fear and write anyway.
I still feel stupid when I write. The only reason I keep going and look stupid is because it’s not about me anymore. Get over yourself as a writer and you can do a helluva lot of good. Writing is not about you and your fragile ego.
Push past your selfish desires and see what you can discover.
If a dumb Aussie can write for six years, with stories that contain grammar errors, then you can too.
Embrace your stupidity. Feel stupid. Get over yourself. Write and hit publish like it’s a gym workout you do every day to stay healthy.
When you feel stupid, you grow into a writer you never thought you could be.