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The Dunning-Kruger Effect: Am I Really As Bad As I Think I Am?

First, to quote from the wiki article, this is the definition of the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled people make poor decisions and reach erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to recognize their mistakes. The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their ability as above average, much higher than it actually is, while the highly skilled underrate their own abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

I happen to suffer from the latter, though I think highly skilled is overselling it. Part of the issue is, I really have no reliable way of knowing if the reviews, or stories I write are any good. Hence, I have no accurate way to know which side I’m on; the unskilled who thinks he’s great, or the great who thinks he’s unskilled.
In the interest of laying all my cards on the table, I do currently think everything I write is utterly, devastatingly terrible.
I’m willing to be fair about my skill level due to a number of factors. I’m relatively new at writing fiction, and reviews. I didn’t start the process until about six years ago. It sounds like more than enough time, but in writer years, six is about one, or two. It’s kind of like reverse dog years.
Likewise, I’ve been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. While I don’t view it as a crutch which should effect my writing much, it is nonetheless always at the back of my mind. I’m very self-conscious about coming off like a complete moron, because for many years, I just assumed I was one. Often, I still beat myself up over not having the largest vocabulary, or being as smart as other people. And, just as often, I’m all but crippled by self-doubt. I’m my own worst critic, and this is no pity party, but the script usually consists of lines like this.
“You’re a fucking idiot, and no one in their right mind would ever pay to read anything you’d create.”
“What’s the point of even writing reviews? You are a joke, and everything you write comes off as idiotic, and uninformed.”
“This story is crap. You spent two weeks of your time, and what you cranked out was this horseshit. Why do you even bother? Just give up, before you embarrass yourself further.”
“You know why (insert name here) has more readers? Because you are a terrible film critic/fiction writer. A delusional horror nerd who thinks he has valuable insights, when he in fact has nothing of substance to offer.”
Or, how about this little gem.
“You wrote a book. Congratulations. It sucks.”
Yeah, it’s often not very fun in this torture chamber known as my conscious mind. Whose on the bench today? Oh right, same dude that’s been on it for the last twenty-seven years.
So what was the point of writing this article? Well, I guess it’s to let you fine readers know that despite all these doubts, and all the torment I put myself through, I will continue to create posts for you to read. Will continue to write stories for you to read, awful though I may assume they are. For a while, I’m sure I’ll continue to think everything I clickity-click into being is dreadful. Perhaps, I’ll continue to think everything I write is dreadful for my whole life. I have no way of knowing. But, the act of creation is what’s important. If given the choice between the worst possibility, that I am terrible at what I do, or simply not doing anything, I will always choose action over inaction. Because I have to try. Because I will not sit idly by and do nothing, simply because I’m afraid. Because there is also the other possibility; that I am a good writer, and I’m too close to the work to know it. That I’m obsessing over the few ugly or dead trees (spelling errors, grammar errors, lack of vocabulary, rejection emails, perceived low number of readers), and not seeing the forest (a few published stories, some positive feedback, readers, no matter the number). Not seeing the vast wilderness I’ve thought into being; the landscape of ideas and creativity molded into life by dry hands and fingers, covered in sensitive skin.
Ultimately, it isn’t up to me to decide if I’m any good at this. It’s up to you. And some of you will have issues with what I create. It’s just an inevitabilty. Here’s to hoping that more of a percentage enjoy these creations enough to keep the machine running, more than ever.

4 Responses to The Dunning-Kruger Effect: Am I Really As Bad As I Think I Am?

  1. 6 years? I felt you been writing for much longer!!

  2. Spooky Sean says:

    Well, fiction, yeah, only about 6 years. I’ve been writing non-fiction, for school and such, like everybody else, for much longer. And, I was an English major, though it was the film and drama focus; film and drama was actually my minor.
    I have been writing poetry, off and on, though never in any attempt to get it published, since I was about twelve.
    Yes, I’m aware that for someone who hasn’t spent much time on it, my fiction has evolved in leaps and bounds in the short time span I’ve actively pursued it. And, I managed to write a book, albeit in the form of a letter, of 200 pages.
    I’m a big Lovecraft fan, and I studied his career. He didn’t get around to At The Mountains of Madness until later in his life, so I figured, why wait? Might as well crank one out before I’m almost even ready to. It was great, a really rewarding experience. Though, it’s the most vile and nihilistic tale perhaps ever told. Think the Marquis De Sade, by way of Clive Barker, at his raunchiest.

  3. Sounds cool!!

    I feel like an stranger with Engineering and MBA trying to write poetry (though thats in Hindi), and putting something down on my blog…

    I feel so bad that I started writing so late in life… almost when I finished Engg. thats now 5 years back

  4. Spooky Sean says:

    I’ve had my whole life to master the English language, and you’ve learned it in 5 years. Don’t feel bad about your poetry. I commend you for being able to write and understand English so well. I sure as Hell wouldn’t be able to write poetry in a different language than English.
    Practice, practice, practice. It’s how you learn to master anything, and everything.


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