Did ya miss me?
Yeah, I’ve been away from this blog. Sorry. It’s been a busy couple of weeks. Regular readers (handsome, talented people, all of them; many of them not even related to me) will know I was performing in the eponymous roles of stuffy Dr Henry Jekyll and playful, flirty and only slightly murderery Mr Edward Hyde. I’ve also been caught up writing my daily blog on the adventures of Rob Titchener, villain of the The Archers, and what he’s been doing since he left the show in February.
Last weekend I reached a dramatic high point in the story, with several long bonus editions. So between that, some actual ‘what I do for a living ‘ work I brought home with me and the general humdrum duties of being a grown up ( For example, I managed to get my strimmer to burst into flames yesterday!), I haven’t had much time to get my FatBlokeTalking head on. Sorry. I can’t believe many of you have felt particularly bereft, but all the same, sorry.
Today I’m going to talk about that slippery fish, confidence and self belief. The invisible shield we drape around ourselves, that changes thickness and efficacy depending on whatever activity you are engaged in. And just how easy it is to destroy that shield with a well aimed blow.
My Archers blog has had a really good week. Someone put a link on Facebook and I gained a lot of new visitors, and new followers signed up for email updates. I had lots of nice comments on the blog and emails as well. My bonus editions were well received. I was feeling good. Then I did something stupid.
Well, two stupid things.
First, I downloaded the list of email subscribers and compared it to an earlier list, trying to see if there was any useful data I could extract from timing, posts etc. What I found, was that although I had picked up dozens of new followers, I had lost one. One from right back when the blog began. They’d stayed with me through fifty posts, but had finally given up. It bothered me. What had I done wrong?
The second stupid thing I did? (and we’re not including incendiary garden machinery here, or my launching part of the plumbing into next door’s garden whilst trying to unblock our bath. Yeah, that happened too.) I googled myself. And it was great. There were numerous links people had put around the place and some smashing comments. All the more cheering because they were written by people who had no idea I would be reading them. But then I found one saying the ‘blog didn’t work for them’. That’s all. But it hurt; really dented my confidence. All those ego inflating messages meant nothing because one person just didn’t get the blog. I realise many writers, far more talented than I, have driven themselves half mad trying to please everyone. So I really should just suck it up.
Then, a couple of days ago, someone using a devilishly clever pseudonym had a go at my general writing ability, saying I was ignorant / stupid. I bit back. Shouldn’t have, but I did. And several of my readers also came to my aid. I’ll freely admit, I have trouble with apostrophes. And occasionally, if I am writing fast and haven’t had chance to proof read properly, I’ll make stupid mistakes of the ‘There, They’re, Their’ variety. The Archers blog is usually written in the forty-five minutes bus ride to work in the morning so I often don’t have chance to properly proof read. But, I’ll admit, it really stung.
It knocked my confidence badly. Because it is my Achilles Heel. Well, one of them. You can call me fat, ugly, hairy, graceless, naive or boring and it’s all water off a duck’s back. I either don’t care or I’m perfectly secure in the knowledge it’s not true. My shield is thick.
But it’s weak around my writing and acting ability. Shouldn’t be, because people have said many nice things to me to encourage me. We get a review after each of our plays, from the local NODA rep. (National Operatic and Dramatic Association) It is his habit to leave the penultimate paragraph of each review for the actor who has most impressed him during the play. Now, I’m not bragging. (Yes, I am. I am very much.) But of the seven plays I have done I have been awarded penultimate paragraph three times. Sounds good, but you should take into account that for two of those plays I was playing a very large lead role, Hercule Poirot and Jekyll/ Hyde. If I didn’t get it on those roles I’d have known I really screwed up. But having said that, I did throw a bit of a hissy fit when he criticized my accent for Poirot. So much so that I didn’t really hear the rest of the review when it was first read out. I stomped home and left a whiny post on Facebook. The next day, once I’d had the email copy and actually read it and saw the lovely things he had said about me further on, I felt a prize arse.
This isn’t a new thing. When I was about five maybe, there was a painting competition in my village. You had to paint a local scene. I remember painting a row of trees in the park. It was just awful. The scale was a disaster, some bloke walking his dog was as tall as the trees. Then, at the village fete, I was announced as having come third or something, and invited to come up on stage and collect my prize. (It was a book token. Kerching!) Dear God, did I kick up a stink, I bawled and screamed. I did not want to go on that stage. Not, as I suspect many people thought, through shyness, or fear, but because I was absolutely certain I did not deserve that award. Even at that tiny, tender age, I knew my work had been no good. Still, I did get the book tokens (I think I bought some Woofit books with them, by Michael Parkinson. I wonder if that stirs any faint memories.) In hindsight, I suspect tokenism. I could have just dropped it in a puddle and entered it and I’d have still won a prize.
So, what’s the moral of these ego-maniacal anecdotes? I don’t know. I get uncomfortable when people praise me and give undue weight to criticisms. Self centred as I am I can’t believe that it is only me who is like that.
One final thought, people have said to me in the past, about having the courage to go out on stage and act, sing, make a potential prat of myself, that I must be very self confident. Yes, I can do those things, but put me in a room of strangers and no script and I’m halfway out the window! The confidence changes shape, it morphs to the room. Having my son helped. Suddenly I have someone relying on me to be a good example. (I’ve often been used as an example, rarely a ‘Good’ one though.) And that can be a powerful spur.
To sum up then, assuming it is not just me who feels this way, perhaps the old adage of ‘If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all’ should apply. Especially on social media when inflection or even the wry smile you are wearing can’t be seen. Proof read your own comments to make sure they can’t be read a different way.
You do that and I promise I’ll work harder on the apostrophe’s.*
*That one was on purpose, but answer me this: ‘a week’s worth of news’ Is weeks a plural or does the news belong to the week needing an apostrophe? See, Satan’s Commas!