Cocky – More or Less

When you slide over to the Internet, to look up a definition of something, even before you have typed one sentence of your thing, then you know you may not be standing on the firmest of ground.

Cocky – very confident, usually in a way that is slightly annoying.

Drat. It seems that ‘cocky’ is not the exact word I should be using here. That ‘slightly annoying’ part is not really what I’m after. It’s the ‘confident’ part that I want to write about for a few paragraphs. I could change cocky for the longer version but if I put ‘cocksure’ in the title you never know what kind of traffic this post might attract.

Cocky isn’t quite right but, never mind. Let’s try this anyway.

I wish I was a bit cockier. That’s going to be the point of this entire thing. However, I also wish I was a bit less cocky. That’s where it all might get a bit messy. But look around, Ken, isn’t it pretty messy already? Just plough on.

I somethings think like I have three lives. There are the two obvious ones, my Professional Life and my Family or Private Life. Two is possibly enough for most people. Two is quite enough to juggle. But I also have this third life. Let’s call it my Writing Life. Like ‘Cocky,’ it’s not exactly the right word because one could righteously look at me and say “Writing Life? What Writing Life? He’s scribbled a couple’ things here and there… does that make a Life? What pretentious garbage is this going to be? Where’s the funny stories gone?” All quite justified.

But I’m not really talking about achievement or recognition. I’m more talking about the places I live in, inside my head. In there, both work and family loom very large indeed. But, make no mistake, writing is in there too and, when the other two lives are not clamouring for attention, as they so often are, then the writing life is always waiting, poised, ready to take its place.

In terms of being Cocky, when it comes to Family/Private life, I think I strike a fair balance between being Cocky and not being Cocky. It’s the other two lives. That’s where I feel something is a bit off-kilter. These are the places where I wish I was a bit Cockier… or maybe a bit less… I’m not always sure.

A little expansion. In a few months, I’ll turn sixty. No biggie. A number on a card, some candles on a pretty intense cake. All good. The point of it is that I’ve been around the block a bit at this stage. I’ve seen some shit. I see people on telly saying, ‘I’ve been in this job for 25 years, with the world-weary attitude of someone who can no longer be surprised by anything, having done absolutely everything. I snort gently into my mug of tea. I have been doing my job for over 40 years at this stage. Chew on that, Motherfucker. 40 years! And guess what? I know nothing.

That’s how it feels anyway. At forty years, I should be the Maestro, the Guru. I should be the Crème De La Crème. Yet, here I am, scuttling around, second guessing myself. Is this right? Is that right? Am I doing the right thing? I am pretty darned brilliant at what I do but every day remains a school day. Ask me something and I’ll check it before I answer. I’m really good but I just don’t know it.

So, yeah, I wish I was a bit cockier – as in confident without the annoying part.

This effect bleeds effortlessly into my Writing Life too. If I throw a writing CV together for some random submission or other, people tend to look at it and say things like, “What? You’ve written all that?” and I’ll hang my head a bit and nod. As with the Professional thing, I’ve been doing it for a very long time. I’ve read a lot, I’ve seen a lot, I’ve written a lot. Yet, every day is a scuttle, a doubt, a subtle conviction that none of it is all that good really. I write for the pleasure of writing. It seems to release in me the sort of drug that runners produce when they run. I get a little involved in it, I get a little high. I have to keep doing it because I feel significantly worse if I don’t. The more of it I do, the better I feel.

I just wish I was Cockier about it.

It’s come to a stage where I write fairly intricate things and I polish them up and make them as good as I can… and then I do fuck-all with them. After a play of mine goes on somewhere, it goes in the proverbial drawer and stays there until someone literally comes looking for it. That’s not how it’s done and I know that. I’ve got to be out there, submitting, showing, getting gently refused and brutally rejected. That’s how you get stuff moving. That’s how you get stuff on. But you need cockiness to do that. You need to be a bit cocksure. I wish I was a bit more.

That’s it’s for this week. Goodbye.

Except it isn’t. Not quite. Not really.

Read back a little. Look at some of the sentences that are buried right there in my little diatribe about how very useless I am.

“I am pretty darned brilliant at what I do…”

“I’m really good but I just don’t know it…”

That’s what makes the problem that little bit more interesting. Somewhere, deep inside the milk chocolate coating of self-doubt and low confidence, there is a nut. A tough, fat, nut that you could break a tooth on if you’re not careful. That nut is a significant deeply buried belief… that I am brilliant.

I mean, what can you do with that?

If it were a simple matter of lack of self-confidence, you could work with that, you could perhaps overcome it somehow. But it’s like that image of a little devil on each shoulder. The strong healthy one on your right, telling you that you’re an idiot, the emaciated willowy one on the left whispering about how great you are.

It’s a conundrum.

How I resolve it, how I live with it, well, it’s easy really. This battle between Great and Stupid, between Maestro and Fool, maybe, just maybe, that's the conflict that keeps me writing. The grinding of these two tectonic plates might just be the friction that generates the words, just like it is literally doing right now.

I’m not bothered about resolving it. Why should I? I’m 60. It’s who I am.

I'll just deal with it.

1 comment:

Jim Murdoch said...

Cockiness, the ability to blow one’s own trumpet while marching to the beat of your own drum. (Suddenly Leo Sayer’s ‘One Man Band’ starts playing in my head.) I have been accused of being cocky and there was a time (late teens to early twenties) when I was very sure of myself and my abilities. I think my wife leaving me was what put an end to that because I really didn’t get why. I mean I REALLY didn’t understand and it was a long time before I started to get it, years and years. The thing I learned eventually and haven’t been able to shake is this: it doesn’t matter that you’re good or great or even the best. It should, by rights, but it doesn’t. People aren’t interested in fine dining; they want Big Macs® and giant-sized Cokes®. When I started my blog I did it to get people’s attention. My plan was to be good and professional and earn people’s respect and one day someone would nudge a publisher friend and say, “There’s this guy, Murdoch…” How fucking naïve of me. (Sorry, forgot I don’t swear). Self-deprecation is all well and good and I’m as guilty of it as the next man but it makes no difference. I should’ve been born in 1939 along with John Cleese and Margaret Atwood. Took Mum twenty-one years to get round to having me. I’m in the wrong world. Always felt that.