Working in my cognitive therapy book I came across a “form of twisted thinking” that reminded me of something I read in a Danny Kaye biography. To paraphrase, Kaye said that an artist is always scared because they come by what they do so naturally that they can’t believe the adulation given to them. That they actually wait in fear of being discovered for the fraud they really are. The form of “twisted thinking” I came across is called Discounting the Positive. That is when you reject positive experiences by insisting they don’t count. For example, if you do a good job, you tell yourself that it wasn’t good enough or that anyone could have done as well. Discounting the Positive takes joy out of life and makes one feel inadequate or unrewarded.
Discounting the Positive made me think of the Danny Kaye quote because in many ways that is how an artist feels. I know I come by my ability to write so naturally that it amazes me to hear others tell me they can’t do it. Now I know I’m no Pulitzer prize novelist, but I can still sling a series of words together to make a cohesive if not entertaining read. That is something I’ve always thought everyone could do and the only reason everyone wasn’t a novelist was out of choice and lack of desire. After all, not everyone likes to read, so why would everyone enjoy writing.
It wasn’t until I ventured into the world of writers and began sharing my work with others that I realized not everyone can do what I do, and many others can do it so much better than me. I have a lot to learn as an author, about my craft and myself in the face of my art. Still, there remains my motivation and the things which hamper my production. All of these affect my art in some way, yet none are as detrimental as my inability to accept that I can do what it is I set out to in words. If I don’t believe in myself, if I don’t feel that what I do is special and intrinsically mine, then I risk walking away from my dream.
I know this cognitive therapy can help me overcome my fears of inadequacy and failure in everyday life. But I also believe that it will help me quell the beast that has eaten so many artists in the past. As much as it would be great to attain the ranks of Poe and Hemingway, I do not want to be slayed by the same beast that took them before they were too old to write.