Michael Ashcroft

June 4, 2022

I’m afraid you’ll see my many faults

The last time I published a note here was 12 February, a few days after I left the UK at the start my nomad travels. I thought that note would represent the start of a new wave of creative energy, given that I had published the previous note three months earlier.

I was wrong.

If my ability to ship these simple notes is representative of my creative life as a whole, I’ve been in a rut now for about six months. I’ve got plenty done in that time, but it’s all been administrative, process oriented, or just general maintenance. Nothing new.

I’m not certain why this is, but two ideas come immediately to mind.

The first that is that I have unwittingly slipped from sincere to serious. I’ve lost the sense of playful abandon I had when all this was a fun diversion from my full time job. Well, I quit that job, and slowly the fun drained away. It became important that I be creative, and that caused internal interference.

I’ve written about this exact effect, and yet here I am. I guess the lesson is that the same challenges will keep showing up, over and over, and the game is to keep getting out of them, over and over, in new ways. Not only can you never step in the same river twice, you can never get out of the same river twice, either.

The second block is that I’m scared.

I’m scared that I’m no good at this. My background is in electricity networks, so what do I know about whatever the hell I’m doing now?

I’m scared that the success I’ve had until now was a fluke, and at any moment it all might come crashing down, revealing me to be a fraud worthy of public ridicule.

I had a recurring ‘failure mode’ at work. I would feel incompetent at something, which would lead me to avoid it. I would then feel ashamed of both being behind and of avoiding the thing, but I would avoid asking for help, because then others would see first that I was behind and then that I was incompetent. This, of course, was a vicious circle.

I think I’ve been stuck in a similar loop here.

I don’t have a boss, but I do have 11.7k Twitter followers, 2673 email subscribers, and 845 students in my course. That’s a lot of people who might witness my faults.

I haven’t sent an email newsletter since early March, so when I do finally send one, that will reveal to thousands of people how long it’s been since I’ve sent a newsletter, and therefore how incompetent I am at sending newsletters. So I've been avoiding it.

I know how very much over the top this is. This is not a job and you are not my manager.

But something about that emotional resistance remains. It goes “I am not very good, people will see that I am not very good. I cannot be with that feeling, so I am going to distract myself from the whole thing.”

The solution in past job contexts was to summon enough courage to Do The Thing, whether this meant grinding through the work or admitting that I needed help. At this point, the block dissolved enough for me to get back in the game. I’d then be unblocked for a while, until it happened again with something else.

I could repeat this approach, but grinding is not the path I want to take this time.

As I write this, I see that the time has come to finally undo the core beliefs that drive those distressing emotional responses that I apparently can’t tolerate. They aren’t true and they aren’t helpful. But knowing that intellectually is not the same as knowing it emotionally.

There’s an expression in the personal growth world: “what got you here won’t get you there”. You can get stuck if you don’t update your methods to account for where you are.

I seem to have fallen foul of its opposite: I stopped doing something that was working. I got here by not caring so damn much, by thinking out loud about things I was working through, and by focusing on being of service to others, rather than worrying about what others thought of me.

So let this note be the minimum viable creative act needed to get my engine re-started enough to work through healing those stuck patterns that I no longer want holding me back. And may sharing this journey be helpful to anyone who is in a similar place.


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Photo by Joel Filipe on Unsplash