#SelfDoubt vs #SelfConsciousness

There’s this actor, maybe you’ve heard of him, a fella by the name of Tom Hanks.

Mr. Hanks has been in a fair number of films, he’s produced some, he’s directed some. My personal favorite of his movies is the one pictured above, Cast Away, and it was my favorite movie of all time for a long time. I still watch it about once a month; it helps me process loneliness back in solitude and gratitude when I need to.

Cast Away did not make Tom look glamorous. Hanks’s character (and to play the character you have to look the part) started off the story overweight and a control freak of time (which he tries to explain to the Russians, if you want irony in 2017); by the end of the story he is shaggy and rail thin, no longer a lover of seafood, grateful for something as small as a Swiss Army knife, and someone in awe of time and fate. There are now a lot of photos and memes of this film on the web and social media of Hanks looking nearly gross; ain’t nothing gorgeous in it.

For the past three years Hanks has also been working on a collection of short fiction for publication. The work isn’t necessarily Pulitzer-worthy, but it’s entertaining and touching in some places; one short story is so funny it took me about two hours to read it. Shortly after I finished the book I looked for media supplements on the book; this task was a bit of a struggle because the book was released right before the release of Hanks in the film The Post, and most interviews involve the book for about 30 seconds and the film for about 12 minutes. But there was an interview filmed for The New York Times, on their program Times Talks, where Hanks was interviewed primarily about the book and answered questions from social media and the audience.

One question asked Hanks how he overcomes self-doubt. The question was ambiguous enough to apply to any career in creative work, and Hanks answered as though it applied to his acting, since that was the creative work most folks knew him for. His belief is that self-doubt is the same as self-consciousness; get rid of both and you can create. Sometimes the role requires that you look ridiculous or that you do something you don’t want to do to play the role because there might be a picture of it later…you have dispense of that. You have to make the mistakes and trust the process, he explained.

Just before I read the Hanks book I read another book, Sourdough, by Robin Sloan, that took me to the same place as Hanks’s thoughts on creative process. In the book the main character of Lois has to deal with Silicon Valley hipsters who are too cool for school in product development and nutrition; she also has to deal with analog purist foodies who think that anything high-tech is a fad or corruption. Lois, from the Midwest and feeling far from cosmopolitan, finds joy from simple food and makes mistakes in learning to cook and bake, not to mention making lots of mistakes in marrying tech and life hacks in that cooking and baking. Lois looks silly a lot. Lois is nowhere near glamorous.

Yet, in the reading of Sloan’s book and Hanks’s book and his interview, I feel like I’ve got a standard to move toward. Make mistakes, Jo; so I go back to cooking myself, making messes. I pull out the baseball novel I was working on and botch it up or improve it for one of my writing sessions; I do the same with sessions devoted to other writings. I very well may be making all kinds of mistakes right now in this blog post. I think that’s the place where the best stuff comes from, and I’ll continue to do so. ✨



Someone asked me once, in a situation of project survey research what my passions were.

Communication, I answered, and teaching. For me, the two dropped into the same slot, interchangeably; if you were a good communicator, you could teach the world through action, not just words, and if you were a good teacher, you could reach the world through your actions, not just your lessons.

But what of those who don’t communicate well? I find myself wondering how it is they make it across streets, cook meals, navigate interactions to keep themselves alive. How can those who are so bad at interaction even function?

This isn’t a judgment, mind you. It’s downright curiosity.


The world, more and more is finding ways to look out through a technological lens. There is an app for iOS (and probably one for Android, I imagine) that you can download to text while you’re walking. The camera in the phone reveals what’s in front of you so that you don’t become lost in the words, like Google Glass, I’m told. Look at the world, but through a lens.

We’ve been doing that for years, I suppose; looking through travel destinations through cameras instead of experiencing them, swinging telescopes around to far-off planets or apartments to peep in. We watch television because of the pasteurized nature of what it delivers. Does this contribute to a lost art of communication? Texting is communicating, you might say, but if it’s happening at the same time as walking, driving, eating, listening…then is it communication? Or is it yet another pasteurization, hoping to filter what is really in front of us?

I think of that when I pick up my phone, sync it to the folding keyboard, and miss the birds lining back and forth from trees to nests, miss the moon on my morning walk, use the headphones to filter out the inarticulate conversation on the train.