We’re All Bitched From the Start

Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby, was the most celebrated writer of the Jazz Age and during the highpoint of his career, made more bank than anyone.

He also had a wife, Zelda, a frustrated writer and schizophrenic who was jealous of his career and like her husband, struggled with alcoholism. She was institutionalized in the early 1930’s and by then, the couple had been living beyond their means for so long that the author – whose serious literary output had sharply declined – was deep in debt and to make ends meet, was forced to write light pieces for magazines, work that in no way showcased his enormous talents and was dismissed as “selling out” by other literary giants of his time. When he published “The Crack Up,” a confessional magazine piece (unheard of and scandalous in the 1930’s) that detailed his personal struggles with depression, it was roundly ridiculed.

Scott Fitzgerald often turned to his friend, Ernest Hemingway, to share his worries. In 1934, a deeply insecure Fitzgerald was fretting about how his fourth novel, Tender is the Night, would be received.

“You, who can write better than anyone can, who are so lousy with talent you have to – to hell with it… For Christ’s sake write and don’t worry about what the boys will say nor whether it will be a masterpiece nor what – let the spectators yell when it is good and hoot when it is not.”

“Forget your personal tragedy,” Hemingway advised. “We’re all bitched from the start.”

Hemingway keyed in on something deeper here than the raw, vulnerable hope for favorable reviews that any creative soul feels in the moment of launching a new work. Personal history, previous efforts that have failed or been met with criticism, lack of experience, challenging present circumstances – our personal tragedy or drama – can fill us with crippling insecurity or shame that paralyzes whatever genius, artistic or otherwise, we know deep down we possess and are meant to be putting out into the world. A brilliant young friend of mine with a vast barrel of talent is presently stymied by shame that she has “failed” so far to live up to the potential that she was assured her whole life (and knows) she has. A friend of mine who was wealthy by the time she was 30, but lost a fortune through a spectacularly messy divorce, is plagued by stress and worry that her entrepreneurial genius has abandoned her as she tries now to rebuild her life.

Not only do we fear external judgment of the work we put out into the world, for a multitude of reasons that are largely irrelevant to the work at hand or ahead, we judge ourselves as unworthy of success. Our insecurities gnaw at and affect our current efforts or even inhibit us to the point that we fail to do the work at all.

No one, not even the most successful person we can think of, is spared from emotional pain, difficult circumstances, past events or personal qualities that are the psychological and emotional food of self-doubt and self-imposed limitations. Some are better at hiding it. Some are better at pushing forward in spite of it.

But here’s the deal – it’s the human condition.

Like writing for Fitzgerald and Hemingway, you know there is work that you want, and are meant, to do in this world. There are efforts that, in their very undertaking, make your life meaningful and satisfying. Whatever personal drama inhibits that process is noise. The enemy. You must forget it, kill it, ignore it, push it aside.

Being Her Now means you make the effort, you dive in and do those things that matter to you, that fulfill you, that define who you are, no matter your insecurities from the past nor your fear of how your efforts will be judged in the future.