So, if this was a secret, it isn't any longer: I am a nerdchild. Not a huge one, because I don't have the stamina to keep up with pop culture, but I've definitely watched all of Star Trek: The Next Generation. More than once.
I tell you this because I want to talk a little bit about Wil Wheaton, who is also a nerdchild and who is known to nerdchildren, and I didn't want any of you to experience shock or surprise in a way that would obscure my message here.
And my message here is this: Either you decide to feel good about your work, or you're not ever going to feel good about your work. There is literally nothing you can do to "prove" to yourself that you're worthy of your own self-esteem.
I present to you the case study of Wil Wheaton. By all normal-human standards, Wil is a blowout success. However you feel about his extreme-sweater-wearing days as Wesley Crusher, he's been on TV. He's published books (note the plural). He's an actor, an internet personality, and a sweet champion of tabletop gaming, and by all normal accounts, doing a "good job." A fucking good job.
I ran across his recent blog post, though (which you can read here, if you'd like, and you should, because it's worth it), and he writes:
I deserve to be happy. I deserve to feel good about myself. I can do the work that I need to do to accomplish these things.
and (emphasis mine):
It’s a thing that I do, that I’ve done for my whole life: I don’t want to take the risk of feeling good about myself, because I’m afraid that I’ll get complacent, or arrogant, or someone will discover the Truth that my Depression tells me: I’m not that great and I don’t deserve to feel good about myself.
and (emphasis again mine):
This is pretty much the whole reason I made a choice almost three months ago to hit this reset button and really get my life together: I didn’t like myself. I didn’t care about myself.
My point here is not to be like, "Hey, Wil, you are a total sad sack and should get over yourself because your life is clearly full of unicorn kittens and you don't deserve to feel this way." No. My point is exactly the opposite: All the fucking awesome things that this dude has achieved, and his self talk is the same as mine. And perhaps yours.
Concerns about deserving our own care. Concerns about making space for our creative work. Worrying that someone will call us out on our lameness if we take a creative risk. Feeling like a fraud, struggling with mental health. These aren't women's issues, they're not creative-people issues, they're human issues.
And my point here is this: you cannot achieve your way out of your own self-doubt.
If Wil Wheaton, someone who has fucking casual conversations with Sean Astin, can't achieve his way out of self-doubt, then neither can you.
And honestly, this is good news. It's great news for you and for Wil and for me. Because if there is no external metric for "doing a good job," no board that we can send out to for "life-success certification," and no one to be the final say on whether or not you deserve to take care of yourself and do the things you want to do, if none of those things are true, then it comes down to this:
We get to choose for ourselves.
We get to choose. It really is that simple. We get to choose that our creative endeavors are worth making time for. You get to choose that your book is important enough to prioritize, no matter how good the "idea" is. (And the idea is good, trust me.) We get to choose to take a nap, or take a day, or just decide, "yes, I am going to go for this."
And there's no room for guilt there, or for worries about privilege. If you have the dream of writing, if you have the urge to create, if you want to share your life and your time here: you have a gift. You have a gift.
And it's up to you, to choose, to prioritize, the act of sharing it.
So, my friends. Go forth, and write.
(And, if you know Wil Wheaton, pass this along.) ;)