Believing My Own Hype (or Lack Thereof)

One of the things I see a lot, on Social Media, is the Art of ‘Bigging Oneself Up’. It's no big deal. Some people just tend to talk themselves up a bit sometimes. They accentuate the positive. They sell themselves quite hard as being productive and successful and happy… smart, fulfilled, ambitious, go-getting… the list goes on.

Although it can perhaps become a little tiresome when overplayed, I don’t see any great harm in it. As a matter of fact, I think it’s really quite a good thing. 

My main problem with it is that I don’t tend to do it myself. I’m not sure why. Do I simply not have the knowledge of how to do it? Do I have nothing to ‘Big Myself Up’ about? Or do I subconsciously look down on the good people who do it and think I’m so much better than them. I really don’t know. All I know is that I hope it’s not the third possibility much more than I hope it’s not the second. 

I think the reason I don’t talk myself up much on Social Media is a combination of laziness and lack of belief in the subject matter. To tell the truth as much as possible, I’ve always considered myself to be a pretty good writer, particularly in terms of drama/comedy. I’ve had about 12 or 13 radio plays produced, 15 or so theatre plays with one of them shortly heading into its 7th production. I've been on national radio and national television on the strength of my writing and some of the plays have been championed by some of the best playwrights in the country. I could certainly brag a bit and hype myself up a bit if I was so inclined but I’m not so inclined. Apart from this very paragraph, I hardly bother doing any of this stuff at all. 

And don’t go off thinking that I reckon I’m great because of this. It’s quite the opposite, really. I rather think I’ve let myself down but not pushing a little more, bragging a little louder, putting some more effort in to try to make some more good things happen for my writing work.

Because I’m a bit old, I guess I’m a bit old-school too. I always reckoned (and still do, in my heart) that how it works is that you write something really good and then you show it around and, if it’s good enough, somebody will spot it and encourage it and take it on and help bring it further towards some fruition. In my ancient mind, there is no real need to convince people that you are writing and being clever and that what is about to come out of your creative loins will be magnificent. None of that is needed, to my oldish mind. Just keep your mouth shut, do your writing work, get it out there and, if it’s good enough, it will find its own way. 

Make no mistake, this works. If you speak quietly but carry a big enough talent, you will definitely do okay. People will need you more than you will need them. Your work will be valued and revered. You will be fine.

It’s just that… well… not all of us are as quite as talented as that. Many of us are pretty damn talented, pretty darned good. Just not quite that good. For us, the moderate-to-slightly-above-average talents, the faith that our talent alone might see us through might not be enough. We need to help ourselves along a bit more. A little more talking things up, a little more self-aggrandisation, a little more hype.

This works in two ways. Hype raises the profile a little. It might annoy some people but it also gets those same people looking your way, paying a little attention where no attention was being paid before. That’s one way. But, perhaps more importantly, talking good stuff about yourself can make you feel better about yourself too. In a small way, you come to believe your own hype and you can feel more connected and empowered because of it. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Alas the converse is also true. One can come to firmly believe in one’s own lack of hype too. That’s where I’m at, I reckon. I don’t talk myself up, I don’t brag about stuff,  and the result is that I have sort of come to believe I have nothing to brag about. I am the kind of person who can ride a long way on a tiny droplet of positivity and encouragement. If writing was hair then my hair grows and grows when a molecule of hair tonic is applied. But encouragement and affirmation seems increasingly hard to find. Social Media, once a great source of the tiny boost, now seems compartmentalised, wrapped in a sturdy cling film of worry and negativity such that little or nothing that is not loud can seep through. For the longest time, I have chosen not to hype myself and now I wouldn’t know where to start or, indeed what to hype myself about. I really admire those that do. They are working it and they are making things happen. More power to them. 

I suppose I  could start, even this late, to ‘Big Myself Up’ a little more. But I never will. It’s just not who I am. I’ll keep doing it the old fashioned way. Keep writing, keep my mouth shut and keep showing the stuff I write as widely as I possibly manage.

This latter point is where I really need to improve. I tend to write stuff and it tends to get an outing and it tends to get well-liked and then I don’t really manage to do anything else with it after that. This is where I should do better. There and in the writing. Always in the writing, that’s what really counts.

The crux of the matter is that I’ve never really had the perfect writing product about which to publicly enthuse. I tend to write where my heart takes me. Considerations of marketability and future successes rarely motivate me to make something. The result is a fairly long list of not bad writings which do their job and which then become hard to raise any supplementary interest in. The writing is pretty good even if (just now) I say so myself. I should be happy with that and I generally am. It’s just sometimes I berate myself that I haven’t been a little bit more savvy about what I have done and what I failed to do.

So on I go. Don’t expect any tantalising teasers of big news coming down the tracks. There isn’t any. It’s just me doing what I love to do, banging out my words. There are currently three plays being written. One nearly finished, one about a third of the way through and one whirling magically around in my brain. They will all be on the page, in time. 

In an ideal world, that really should be enough. 

Meeting Friends

On the way over I flew the plane, just like I usually do. 

Of course, I don’t mean I actually flew the plane, I just sat in my seat and paid close attention to all the workings of the flight. The angle of the wing flaps outside my window, the subtle interactions of the flight staff, the level of the clouds far below. 

I’m not a particularly nervous flyer but I often have this almost subconscious feeling that the flight somehow needs all of my attention, focus, and help in order to proceed satisfactorily.

It’s silly, I know, but it got me over.

This week, I went to London to see some old friends. 

It was the archetypal ‘flying visit’. Getting in one afternoon, gone again early the next morning. There was no particular event or anniversary. It was just a confluence of calendars and train timetables that meant some people could all land in a Soho pub at the same time and have a drink or three. It turned out to be a truly lovely evening with truly lovely people.

There are, of course, some other people I would dearly like to meet up with and someday, hopefully, we might manage it. But this particularly thing could only have happened if it was short and fast and very, very small. The alternative was that it could not happen at all. 

For some people, the oddest thing about this would not be the meeting up or even the travelling to do so. It would be that a few of us had never-ever met up in person before. For my part, I had only ever shaken hands with one person in the room. Still, I knew them all so well. They were friends, the best of friends really. For eight or nine years now, we have come to know each other across the expanse of Social Media. Not in any intense, phosphorescent way but rather in that long term slow burn that comes from stories and small happenings and music and sadness and fun.

People who don’t know any better might well say, “Ack, those are not friends at all. They are strangers and the meeting you describe was just some pathetic exercise in novelty and futility.” How wrong anyone who thought that would be.

It is true that there is some danger in jumping to conclusions on Social Media about who is a friend and who is someone who talks back to you when you speak. But time addresses most of those questions. By my own little definition (hard-worked-out) if your heart swells a little at somebody’s good news and shrinks a little at somebody’s bad, and if that feeling is in some measure reciprocated, then there is friendship there. It helps, too, if nothing more is needed from the friendship than just that. That there is never anything more to lose nor anything more to gain from the friendship than the friendship itself. 

Perhaps friendship, in the end, is a bit like a boomerang. You throw it out and if it comes back, it is probably real.

Whatever about any of that, we had a lovely evening. There were laughs and smiles and stories and gossip and, if I am anything to go by, a subtle level of fascination at how people are a little different in the flesh than they are on a computer or a telephone screen. How there are aspects to them that one would not normally see across the social ether. But because they are good friends, all those little differences only serve to make the people even better than they were before. 

There is, apparently, a drug that is released through increased levels of human interaction and eye contact and such. I don’t know much about it although Joe Hill’s book ‘The Fireman’ talks about it quite a bit (and is also very good.) It’s called Oxytocin. I think I may have overdosed a little on that drug the other evening. In these few days that followed, I have felt somewhat elevated and empowered and with a slightly better regard for myself than I would normally have. Is that crazy? It seems even more likely because, now, three days later, it finally seems to be wearing off and its absence seems to conversely help to prove its existence. 

To widen it out a bit. I think it’s a good thing to reach out and meet up and bond a little, particularly with people you regard highly. I think it’s like a small work-out for the soul. 

I think, in the tight airplane seats from which we view the world, many of us share that feeling I had. That we all have to watch everything warily all of the time to make sure that the world continues to fly okay. If we take our eyes of the bigger picture for a moment, if we stop reacting and worrying and fretting, then everything will somehow fail. 

It ain’t necessarily so. Take a moment, trust the auto pilot for the shortest of times. Have a slice of pizza or a slim glass of Prosecco or a languid stroll in a park. The world will glide along by itself for those few moments and, when you come back, you’ll be stronger and better equipped to make sure it continues to fly right. 

Thanks to the people who rendezvoused in The French House in Soho the other evening. It meant a lot to me because it meant a lot to you. It wasn’t hard to tell. 

Let’s do it again some time. 

                      * * *

On the flight back, early the next day, I read my book and listened to my old classic ipod and didn’t pay very much attention to anything else at all. The plane was okay. We got home just fine and thus a singular day trip was successfully completed.