Elusive

writers blockI’ve set a timer for 20 minutes and turned on the classical music. I’ve used the bathroom and closed all the irrelevant tabs in my browser. I’ve had a healthy breakfast, ingested the proper amount of caffeine and checked all the truly urgent things off my to-do list. It’s time to write something.

Yes, this is yet another post about how hard it is to write. It seems as though my inability to write is the only thing I am able to write about these days. I have lots to say about how I have nothing important to say.

Other authors have lots to say on the subject, too. “Make time to write.” “Put your butt in the chair.” “There is no try, there is only do.”

Okay, that last one was Yoda, but I’m not allowing myself to stop typing long enough to check the spelling of a word, much less find just the right quote to suit my needs here. Every click away from this tab is another rabbit hole to wander. There are whole days that disappear as I meander the infinite offerings of the internet. I stop to check whether I’m right in thinking that Arthur Miller write the Crusible (post-timer aside: hot damn! I was right!) and I look up eight hours later to find that the sun has gone down.

I’m backspacing way too much already. I have no self-control. None. I have an amazing talent (whoa, big head much, Sol??) for motivating other people and absolutely no ability to hold myself accountable. I have literally made more than a dozen minor edits to this paragraph already and I’m not even done typing it. WTH? (Just did it again. I put a period and was compulsively driven to change it to a question mark. And I fixed three typos in that last sentence. And one in that one. For the love of God. I can’t stop.)

Okay, so let’s say I allow myself to fix stupid mistakes while I’m typing, since that’s a fight I’m not likely to win with myself any time soon. The whole concept of sitting down to actually write something has moved beyond me. The fact that I am blogging at all is a huge improvement over the last month, during which I’ve written a grand total of two blog entries, five emails and a whole recycling bin full of to-do lists.

It’s not that I’m not getting ideas. I’ve had ideas. I’ve had the urge to write, even. I’ve actually had the thought, “Wow. That’s a great idea. I’d love to write that story. I’m not doing anything right now. I could totally go grab a notebook and start writing.” And then I sit there, not moving. I have even followed this thought immediately by opening Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in quick succession. What the ever-loving hell?

If I am being brutally honest–and that’s the whole point of this post–I’m terrified. It’s not a logical or rational fear. It’s a completely ridiculous and unfounded panic that sets in whenever I think about trying to write. It’s the almost imperceptible voice in my head that whispers insidious things in my ear with its serpent-like lisp.

What if you can’t think of anything to write?
What if you think of something, but you can’t finish it?
What if you finish something, but it’s total shit?

What if you think you’ve written something good, but everyone else thinks it’s total shit?

What if you write total shit and somehow trick everyone else into thinking it’s something good?

What if you actually do something good and people expect you to do it again?

What if you try and you can’t think of anything to write?

And so on.

My timer just went off. I’ve been writing for 20 minutes. It’s total shit. But it’s honest shit. And it’s a bunch of words that used to be in my head and are now written down. Maybe I’ll come back tomorrow and continue berating myself for succumbing to fear. Or maybe I’ll write something else. But I’m going to make a sincere effort to be here tomorrow for 20 minutes.

 

inspired by Daily Post’s 7/26/16 prompt: Elusive

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8 thoughts on “Elusive

  1. I have many of these same feelings with my work. And they’re justified – I make new updates to my game and sometimes everybody just HATES them (well always, I get hate for them, but sometimes it’s a noisy minority spewing the hate rather than everybody). I have the advantage that I have to keep pumping out updates, like it or not. They have to happen, so I just do the work and face the hate. Outside pressure is always the best way to get yourself to work! But you can’t always find outside pressure. I do seem to recall entering a contest a month used to be your goal… those can provide outside pressure (not great, since you have to make yourself sign up, but it’s something).

    I think this will not help you at all, but I need to say it and maybe it’s one tiny piece of straw for your camel’s back: I love your writing and am always amazed by what comes out. Even if it’s your ranting stream of consciousness, it’s still great writing and a powerful voice. I’m sure you’re twisting that into one of your what-ifs: “what if my next thing is so bad even Mikey hates it?”, but you know, I don’t think you’d have any MORE confidence if I didn’t praise your work, so I might as well share the praise I feel.

    You’ve won multiple contests now, that’s a lot more than most writers can claim. It’s not outside pressure, but it is outside praise – people who had no reason to like you, but they liked you more than everything else they read! I know, that’s just another part of the cycle of self-doubt (“what if I can’t do it again”), so that probably doesn’t help either, but at some point all the praise has to add up to “You know, I think I can do this, at least at a competent level.” And surely you intellectually know that at the very least, your writing is always competent. You don’t have to make high art, you just have to keep cranking stuff out and see what happens! I give you my Hamumu Promise that your work will always be at least competent There can be no shame in producing competent work, so the what-ifs can go suck it. Make competent work and hope it’s brilliant. If it’s not, it’s still competent, and you’ve gained more skill for having written it.

    So I hope your lizard brain can catch up with your human brain and see the competence. Basic competence destroys all your what-ifs. And then it would allow the brilliance that I see in all your writing to continue, and then you’d win more contests, buy me a yacht, and have an undeniable pile of proof for the lizard brain.

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  2. Most people advise to ignore these internal questions. I take the opposite approach. Ask them. And ANSWER them. Worst-case scenario. Guess what? The worst won’t end your world.
    This is how I conquered my fear of public speaking (I never had this problem with writing, for some reason). I was all psyched out about having to speak, and said something like, “What if I fall on my way up and then get flustered and can’t remember a thing and my voice shakes and…” My good friend standing there said, “Oh, it’s okay. We’ll all laugh at you, and you’ll turn red and feel horrible for a couple of hours, and then we’ll all get over it and go on with life.” I realized she was right, and that was the end of that.

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