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ShelfConfidence

shelfconfidence
Vincent van Gogh: Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat [obverse: The Potato Peeler] (1887)
"Here I come!"


Writing might be the very most introverted activity ever devised. Authoring, a staging and performing of the writer's product, seems the opposite. As a writer, I've long wondered who I thought I was writing for, with various responses, though I mostly seem to be writing to and for myself, as insular and recursive as that might seem. Authoring's queuing up that internal stuff for more public distribution and consumption, from the perspective of the writer's solipsistic whispering, an audacious act. Posting my pieces began as tiny outrageous acts, duck and cover operations, as if I was chucking each one over a sturdy wall to splat down near unnamed targets. As I attracted an audience, the possibility of becoming an adviser arose, but I've mostly chosen to share the echoing I witness happening within my head. Any advice I might give tends to come obliquely, by example, the transcribed dialogue between me, myself, and I. I lack the self confidence to otherwise promote my internal dialogues. I've mostly just chucked them over walls like unguided missiles, hopeful that they won't do too much damage or spark too awfully many complaints.

Authoring drags that self-effacing operation out of its closet, or seems to threaten to.
Authoring seems more deliberately self-confident than writing. I might write for myself but I must author for others. The picky detail work, the compiling, printing, Proofing, updating, and probing efforts each seem a kind of calisthenic, an exercise to build up what I might call ShelfConfidence, a sense that what I'm producing might actually belong out there, displayed for perusal and purchase. This amounts to outrageous presumption no matter how I might choose to consider it, and the very notion deeply embarrasses me. It dredges up all of the 'who do you think you are?' doubts which were my daily diet growing up, and though I've been grown for far longer than I ever was small, my original presence still looms larger than I might imagine. Who am I, anyway?

Any activity intended to improve confidence should also tend to encourage self-doubt, for upon what besides debunked self-doubt could any self-respecting self-confidence stand? I caught glimpses at first. That initial Proofing effort uncovered some evidence of absolute brilliance. I struggled to accept it. Later work on other manuscripts found longer strings of it, unbroken sequences where the sense of sitting in my own presence dominated. I caught myself swallowing hard and smiling to myself, settling in, anticipating, enjoying. That was the feeling I'd imagined an author's work might elicit. It came from my hand! Though I complained of the drudgery and details, I seemed to need precisely this sort of exposure, some forced feeling of the results of my own effort. How else might my work pass muster? My ShelfConfidence grew a little more and then even more.

I do not expect to ever catch myself walking around as if I qualified as a master of any universe. I will very likely remain very much the introverted writer, scribbling notes to myself, but I seem to have been influencing another facet of myself with all of this Authoring bullshit, one who might one day do more than surreptitiously peek out of his closet onto a terrifying world. I might gain some sense of belonging out there, too, like I feel a growing sense of ShelfConfidence alongside my well-developed closeted self. I tell myself that this more public self amounts to just another facet not a different jewel. I'm the same as I ever was, just ever more experienced. Not once, in response to my lobbing any piece of my work over walls at anonymous audiences has any organized mob ever come looking for my head in response. Sometimes, appreciations result. I need not anticipate worst case scenarios and might even benefit myself and this world by developing some greater, though later in life, ShelfConfidence. Here I am! Here I come!

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved







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