9: I think I am sabotaging myself with self doubt.
Why haven’t you sent a pitch yet?
I told my friends to ask me this question from time to time. The idea was to have them keep me eager and the thought at the top of my mind. The reason was that although I knew exactly what I needed to be doing (pitching), I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to do it. This is a pattern of behaviour with me. This pattern of behaviour is what this essay is about. Stay with me.
So I told my friends to ask me this question every couple of days (they haven’t asked me in two weeks.)
Why haven’t you sent a pitch yet?
The first answer I could articulate was that I didn’t feel qualified enough. I wasn’t the kind of freelance journalist that pitched stories. I wasn’t a freelance journalist. I wasn’t a journalist.
Maybe somewhere in my mind, I have an imagination for who that person is, for who the people that do the work I admire are. I consume a lot of high-quality journalism. Along with feelings of revelation, curiosity and wonder, these stories leave me in awe.
“Wow, this is so much work.”
”This was so well done.”
I have an appreciation for the amount of effort that goes into producing good work. This is why I got into this field. I liked this form of storytelling, I liked what it could reveal about the world. I liked the power it had. And I guess, I wanted to wield that power too.
But the problem is this. I don’t believe I am worthy. Deep down, I don’t believe I can do this… any of it.
Incase you are new here: My name is Mo Isu. I am an audio producer based in Lagos, Nigeria. I am currently attempting to build a career in audio journalism. I have taught myself everything I know so far. You are reading issue 9 of my newsletter detailing this segment of my journey. Read the about page for more
Afraid of failing afterall
I finally sent a pitch. Not for an audio story, for a written one. Probably the easiest, or one of the easiest stories I can tell at the moment. I know a lot of the context for this story because I have lived within and in close proximity to this story for years. For this story, I don’t have to seek to learn new things. No, let me rephrase. With every story, you will have to seek out new lessons but this is one of those stories where perhaps I can be assured that I will find what I seek.
So after two weeks of first commencing work on the pitch, I sent it. It took me two weeks to make this pitch. The editor replied in a day. They had questions.
Why this story? why now?
What will your story sound like? What do you have to say? Why are you the best person to write it?
Basically, questions demanding that I prove myself to be what I say I am. Prove that I am a storyteller with a story that deserves telling. The questions have propped up the latest clue into what I think might be my problem. My first reaction to this is to run away. To simply never reply to the editor’s email. Take these questions as a sign that I shouldn’t be doing this. Maybe it’s not worth the effort. Maybe I am not worth the effort.
I found myself asking if this is the same reason I stopped my application to flutterwave early last year. I applied for a position in customer success. After the application, they sent an email with a breakdown of the hiring process which included an exam. That’s where I checked out mentally. I mean, I didn’t really want to be a customer success person at flutterwave, I wanted to be an audio producer.
On a different occasion last year, a friend asked me to apply for a similar position at another tech company. I did not apply.
I mean the main reason I did not apply to those things was my lack of interest in them. My real interest is in audio and storytelling.
But I have started to ask myself: Do I stop things when I realise how much work they are?
Am I a big fan of wanting things but not as much of a fan of wanting to do the things?
In many ways, my favourite part of work is having done the work not having the work to do. But now I am wondering, do I have this to an almost detrimental level.
For my entire adult life, my fear has been that I will never grow from being just a beginner at my endeavours. So far, I always switch from one interest to another before I go from beginner to intermediate level. Audio production is the farthest I have gone in anything. I wouldn’t call myself an entry-level producer but - and there’s always a but.
Whenever I see entry-level jobs for producers in audio companies in the US or the UK, I always think about how unqualified I am. I never apply to things that are looking for experienced producers. I haven’t even applied to anything that is remotely challenging in a long time. When I look for jobs in audio, I use the keyword ‘intern.’ My friend sends me things she thinks I would be a fit for but I just ignore them. I say I am not ready for that yet.
I am wondering about this.
A different friend of mine has been trying to get me to apply for an MFA for two years, I tell him I am not ready. He asks what that even means.
I say I want to relocate but I am not making any progress, I am not taking any of the actions that I should be taking. I am not doing the research. I know what to do but I am not doing it
It was actually on a recent call with a friend on the matter of relocation efforts that this clicked in my head. Maybe I am self-sabotaging.
I have a whole narrative about how I embrace failure. I am constantly asking for feedback so I can improve. I think the work process should include opportunities for people to make mistakes and quickly learn from their mistakes I talk about failure a lot. I talk about some of my own big failures as well.
But- and there’s always a but.
I seem to be terrified of failing. Crippling so. I am scared of it. I am scared of breaking out of my comfort zone. I do a lot of uncomfortable things but they are within a small threshold. But it’s true. I am afraid of failing. It scares me so much - so badly. I am scared in ways I didn’t realise I was. I am just now coming to terms with it. Coming to terms with my fear.
I am so afraid, people. I am afraid of many things. I am afraid that I will never do anything important with my life. I am afraid about what my place in the World will be. I am afraid of being told no.
It’s all very scary.
Right now, I am afraid I will be exposed to this editor as someone who is not a journalist. I am afraid that I can’t make any of the things I like listening to. I am afraid.
Alright, I am going to write a reply to the Editor now.
Thank you for reading and welcome to all the new subscribers. I really hope you stick around with this newsletter. You can check out my about page to learn what this whole thing is really about.
This week, I am listening to:
Podcast: Rough Translation - Season 7
Rough Translation’s current series is on work and work culture from all across the Globe. As you might have noticed, I obsess over work and there’s just so much about it that I am curious about. I am finding this series very interesting. From how the french take their lunch breaks very seriously to how Koreans change their names at work. I just listened to episode 6 where two siblings, one in Lagos and one in London have a conversation about how Lagos’ hustle culture changes you.
I had ‘Manchester Orchestra’ playing as I worked on this newsletter but I have spent a good amount of time this week listening to ‘Thunder Jackson.’ I think The maze is a great song to start with on the Manchester Orchestra album but for Thunder Jackson, I am currently obsessed with Love Sick Doctor.
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