Confidence is the key

As a teenager, one of my favourite books was Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s a dystopian story set in a world where women are progressively disenfranchised and reduced to the status of servants. This is achieved by freezing all of their bank accounts and charge cards. One day they can access the automatic teller machine and the next day they can’t. It’s as simple as that.

Atwood has written a new book with a similar theme called The Heart Goes Last. This book tells the story of a struggling couple who take up an offer of working in an experimental prison where people spend half their time as guards and half their time as prisoners. It’s a fantastic piece of writing in the true sense of the word. The novel also features sex robots called ‘prostibots’.

In an interview with the author, she says that she always has lots of ideas about what to write and that she usually chooses the most outlandish idea to focus on. Not because she wants to make it hard for herself, just because she likes a challenge.

She says that people without ideas shouldn’t write.

I found this a bit confronting as I’m always worried about not having ideas, but I don’t really think the problem is not having ideas, it’s more about convincing yourself that an idea is stupid before you’ve even started exploring it. I’m pretty good at talking myself out of things. It’s less risky that actually doing something because no-one can criticise your work if you don’t produce anything.

The problem is not lack of imagination, it’s lack of confidence.

What people seem to need most coaching about in the area of creativity is not ‘optimizing’ their imaginations—it’s their confidence. And that’s because we’ve been brainwashed into thinking that we are all specialists of some kind, and that you can’t really be a writer unless you’ve got something like a master’s degree. Obviously, we want dentists to be trained, but writing is human storytelling and everybody does it.

Margaret Atwood on how technology influences creativity

This really leaves me with nowhere to go in the excuse department. There’s no reason not to write. There’s no reason not to begin. It’s all about starting isn’t it?


Blogging challenge: day five

The description I have posted about myself in my ‘about’ section is not quite accurate. I describe myself as a graphic design student but the truth is that I have put my studies on hold this semester. Part of the reason is that I work full-time in a fairly demanding job so I don’t have a lot of spare time, but the main reason I withdrew from the course is because I was really put off by the way the course documentation was presented. I felt that it was poorly designed and that this reflected badly on the course, which focussed on the design process.

I sent an email to the lecturer who asked me why I was withdrawing, so I told him. I think he was a bit shocked at the detailed feedback I gave him and he admitted to me that he found it quite hard to be on receiving end of criticism. I thought his response was quite honest, even though he clearly didn’t agree with my appraisal of the course documents.

I don’t cope with criticism very well myself. I know that it’s good to get feedback, but it can be hard to take, especially if you find it almost impossible to reveal your inner self to the world. That’s one of the reasons that I like blogging. It’s intensely personal and quite removed at the same time. You never know how people are responding (especially on this blog where no-one ever comments…. what’s that about?).

I know that I need to toughen up and put myself out there more, but I think if you are a beginning writer, or blogger, or creative person of any description, then it could be a good idea to get feedback from people who will deliver this with a degree of care. I hope you have someone in your life who can fulfil this role, and if you don’t, perhaps it would be a good idea to look for someone?

This is possibly easier said than done, but it’s a big advantage of blogging. It opens up the world and gives you a chance to connect with like-minded people who share your goals and aspirations.