Earlier this year, squadmate Amy sent me a Sarah Cooper article. Beyond the fact that the article was painfully spot-on (I’m guilty of all of them except maybe the one-handed typing and the moustache), it was well-written and enticing. I went deeper into her catalog.
And I found “Do You Take Yourself Seriously?”
My heart sank as I read through it. Because no, I didn’t, not really.
These three quotes stood out to me, as what happens when you don’t take yourself seriously:
“You can no longer tell the difference between what you want and what other people want from you.”
“You resent people who do [take themselves seriously]. You look at people who promote themselves and their ideas and you think they’re egotistical or ridiculous.”
“You rush through a half-hearted execution and don’t give yourself the time you need to learn something new, or do it the right way. And when it doesn’t turn out the way you wanted you decide it was a total waste of time.”
Oh. Ouch. That’s familiar.
Cooper even expresses her own doubts about writing the very piece that I was reading, published on Medium. Her thoughts, as transcribed, sound so much like my own inner monologue does on a regular basis: “Why am I writing this? This is stupid. This is repetitive. Hasn’t someone else said this before but better? Do I even know what I’m trying to say?”
Oh. Ouch. That’s familiar too.
If those lines hit you in the same feels they hit me, I recommend a full read-through of the article, because Cooper takes you swooping over those immense pits of despair she bitingly describes in perfect detail, and then up, up, towards the light, in a way pull-quotes don’t capture.
The thing is, what Cooper’s talking about is very simple, though not very easy. It’s “just” a change in mindset. “Just” an attitude adjustment.
That is to say: It is both an overnight and a lifelong change.
After I first read this article about four months ago, I decided to take myself seriously. How did it go? One clue: I finished Portent after just over two months of really working on it. Another clue: I still had to edit myself in the above sentence from “I decided to try and take myself seriously” to “I decided to take myself seriously.”
Progress is happening, it just ain’t easy.
Such tiny differences — making a conscious effort not to pre-judge myself, giving myself as much benefit of the doubt as I would give someone I love, and treating my ideas like cherished possibilities — have made some huge changes in the way I’ve done things since September. I think about my art as a business in a clearer way, and I’m reading and learning and writing (privately, so far) about how to make my publishing model work. I pitch myself and my ideas to people I’ve just met (admittedly, they’ve mostly been online).
I know the magic of this revelation could fade, and that I might need a reminder in a few months to read Sarah Cooper’s article again. But that’s okay. It’s a damn good article.