Pressfield’s statement could be aimed at a specific group of people: noobs, because the question is more weighty than the answer for that group of artists. As we are tested in our post-noobs phase, the fear may still be present but it takes on a different quality and weight. Confidence becomes the issue rather than fear at the core of our working life.
I was raised to believe I was talented but paradoxically, that others would know better than me whether or not that talent was valued or worth spending money on. When I was a noob I had plenty of fear to reckon with and this was always mitigated somewhat by the believe that I had something to say and the language skills to do so in an interesting way.
As I do the work—something Steven Barnes constantly, and rightly insists matters more than even talent—confidence becomes a partner with fear. The fear shifts from ‘should I, how do I, what happens if, I write something and show it to others’ to ‘is this really ready, did I apply enough craft energy to this, which publisher needs this.’ When you publish something, after the elation wears off, the fear morphs into, ‘Aw hell. Can I do that again?’ This latter iteration is where the confidence issue arises. Experience and repetition of the sale/publication breeds confidence and that cannot be counterfeit.
TC Boyle, for example is an author I would certainly consider “wildly self-confident” but he’s no counterfeit. He’s merely well branded and substantially experienced—and he does the work. A post-noob—establishing author, Angela White, is equally no counterfeit, she’s a pretty feisty and tested writer; she does the work, has enough experience to establish appropriate confidence. Both Boyle and White are different personalities too, so their talent and ability tends to look correspondingly distinct.
I do see wildly self-confident counterfeits all the time in other areas. They are usually short lived, but they have their followings; fans who typically celebrity-hound personalities and tend not to be much focused on the creative content as the charisma of the self-confident counterfeit they admire, that day.
When I find myself asking, out of habits formed from my family of origin mostly, ‘am I really writer,’ it’s a kick in the ass, a warning sign that I’m not doing the work or working hard enough to produce content and put it in front of readers or publishers. My confidence struggle comes in the rewrites and craft-applied drafts because I don’t have enough credits banked to naturally breed consequential confidence. ‘Is this really ready’ or as Dennis Mathis put it to me, ‘is this a Bentley or a VW’ are the questions I struggle with everyday.