The Woes of Self-Confidence in a Creative Industry

I open this post with a warning that there are spoilers for A Sister’s All You Need Volume 11 as well as more minor spoilers for Animeta and Pet Girl of Sakurasou in here so if you’re invested in any of these then I’d advise you to click away now.

Still with me? Okay, let’s get down to business. This weekend I finished reading Volume 11 of A Sister’s All You Need, which spends its time following protagonist Itsuki as he struggles to get over writer’s block. I’m a big fan of this series in general, but this particular book hit home in a way that I find incredibly relatable and always find fascinating when I experience it in the media I consume. I’ve chosen to focus on these three series because I think the protagonist of each is best placed to showcase what it is I relate to in these stories.

Itsuki, Miyuki (Animeta) and Sorata (Pet Girl of Sakurasou) all aspire to become something. Itsuki wants to be a famous light novel author, Miyuki wants to work in animation and Sorata wants to go into game development. All three are inspired by their heroes and with a young naivety, they assume the path they’ve chosen is open to them with little issue. Or even if they do have to overcome hardships they’ll be able to make their way forward regardless. In Itsuki and Miyuki’s case, they do get to spend time working in their respective industries, but as time goes on they suffer and struggle and eventually, they’re left questioning what they want and if they can even accomplish it.

In Itsuki’s case, he is the most successful with two well-selling series (one of which has just had an anime) under his belt. But even so, this bout of writer’s block makes him question every decision he’s made and to overcome it he decides to write something not born of passion and love, but something more robotic. Something which exists to continue the work but isn’t loved by the author or reader. It makes both him and us realise that there is nothing simple about working in the creative industry and that a simple path isn’t always the right now. Without passion, you won’t have readers because your work loses the shine and lustre it once had. But I suppose that goes without saying.

Miyuki and Sorata meanwhile both make leaps and bounds when it comes to developing their skills and improving, but they always feel like they’re on the outside and that they aren’t good enough to stand beside their heroes. Even the other newbies Miyuki joins her company with seem so much skilled than she is that she ends up in a constant pit of despair as she watches them pass her by.

Frankly, I relate to these kids because although I am not a fiction writer or an artist or developer, I am a critic. I’m not creatively minded in the way of creating my own works, but it is my responsibility to consume the work of others and present my opinions in an open-minded and well-constructed manner. I don’t particularly find that difficult in itself, but what I do find hard is recognising the worth of my own thoughts and feelings the same way Itsuki and these other characters do. I struggle to see my work as being anything even remotely close to the people I respect and admire when in truth I have every right to stand beside and work with them. When there are so many other talented people around you, your friends, your rivals and more, it can be tough to see where you stand.

This is why these stories appeal to me. I can relate to their thoughts and feelings in an almost painful way, but they also serve as a significant motivator. Because as much as these characters fail and cry, they always realise the value they have and that they and their work are important to someone out there. This is something I think we all need to hear from time to time. Although A Sister’s All You Need hasn’t turned that corner yet, I have no doubt it will and I’m sure like other stories it will become something extremely important to me and those like me.

I suppose my point is that although I wish we could be free of these fears and intrusive thoughts, they also serve a purpose narratively speaking and I will always appreciate a creator who can express the sentiments appropriately and with the care and finesse they deserve. Like these characters who find themselves thrust into the role of the protagonist, I will work hard to overcome my own demons, so we can all find ourselves in a much better place.

I hope you will forgive this self-indulgent post and if you read all the way through – Thank you. I always want to write about this subject when the storyline comes up and this felt like an apt time to finally do so, but I think I also wanted to finally put my feelings into words and maybe having written this blog post I can stew on them a lot less often. Here’s hoping anyway.

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