As I sit here terrified once again by the screeching engines of the Air and Water Show jetfighters, I am reminded of something I have been working on with regard to my craft…and that is drowning out the noise.
By “noise” I don’t actually mean the blast of a fucking sonic boom over my apartment (damn you Blue Angels!), nor do I mean the pointless yelling between the contractors working on the building next door (“Hey! You want a sandwich!” “Yeah. I want a sandwich!” “What do you want on your sandwich?!?
“Pickles! Lettuce! Onion!”).
I mean those outside voices that tell us what we should and shouldn’t be doing with our lives. Those messages we get from our friends, our family, our colleagues, our communities and the media that derail us from achieving our goals. You know what I’m talking about. It’s those voices that say, “Why do you want to be a writer? Writers don’t make any money.” and “How are you going to make it in Chicago? Everyone knows the business is in New York.”
The noise that floats around us constantly serves to confuse us. It preys on pre-existing insecurities, and it causes self-doubt. And when self-doubt sets in, productivity declines.
To succeed, you have to be confident. And part of being confident is acknowledging the noise, but not accepting it as inalienable truth. It is being able to hone in on your gut and listen to that little positive voice inside of you, that source of all your motivation to persevere in the face of all the naysaying noise.
Sure, all I’m really saying is to believe in yourself. But life is not a Disney cartoon. And believing in yourself is really really hard to do because the majority of the world either A) doesn’t give a shit about your success or B) actively wants to see you fail. In a way, you can let some of this actually feed your motivation in a “I can’t wait to prove them all wrong” kind of way. But don’t get too caught up in that. If the impetus for your actions is just to prove the noise wrong, then there’s little room for yourself in your work. In the end, you got to act because it comes from within, not from a need to seek out external validation.
I’m starting to feel preachy. That’s not my intention. So here’s the point in my post where I criticize myself and point out my own shortcomings to reflect my humanism. I often suck at drowning out the noise. I have denied myself some pretty awesome opportunities because of other people’s shit. And I still struggle with that nonsense all the time. But I’m getting better at recognizing that it is nonsense. And that’s an improvement.
So what have we learned? We’ve learned you don’t need to be or marry a doctor. We learned that you don’t need to justify the man or woman you choose to love for any reason. We learned that your career path is your career path, your art is your art and that other people’s bullshit is their bullshit. Of course be open to criticism and comments. You can’t live your life in a vacuum. Outside input is necessary for personal improvement. After all, you probably only actually see 90% of your own personality and actions. The rest of the world can see your blind spots.
But if someone is just projecting their shit onto you? Ignore it. You’re not a pooperscooper.