Monday, October 21, 2013

Leave it at the Foot of the Mountain

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”
            -Franklin D. Roosevelt
Writing is a silly thing to be afraid of, but there it is. Sometimes I hate it. I hate feeling this weight that is “the project” hanging over my head, blocking the sun and threatening to crush me some time soon. When I first sit down to write, the weight lands on my shoulders, daring me to move, daring me to be good.

And so I put it off. I wait. “No, not just yet,” I say. “I don't quite feel it yet. Another half an hour or so, then maybe I'll start.” I fumble around for something else to do with my free time, some other way to be productive and get myself to feel like I'm making progress, to put myself in a positive frame of mind. A lot of the time I am unsuccessful and just end up fumbling, not finding anything to settle on. Then I feel a little panicked. My mind spreads out like a patient etherized upon a table. Everything clogs up. I think about writing again, but, “No, how could I write in this state? My mind isn't focused.” Then maybe I watch something to try and calm down. Reading might actually be a better antidote, and sometimes I do read, but at the end of an episode, or chapter, or worse, a string of youtube videos, after all that I am, at best, back where I started. Except now it's at least two hours later, and what have I really done with my time? I wasn't productive, I felt emotionally sick, and because of this, didn't actually enjoy what I read or watched. Now I feel personally like a waste of time. Great.

It's stupid. I'm stupid. Why do this to myself? Why go through the same cycle again?

Right now I'm writing this instead of working on my novel. I picked up my laptop to write, and this happened. I felt like I needed to examine the state while I was in it, to share it, because maybe this sounds familiar to you. What do you do to fix this problem?

You write.

Full stop.

You shut up, you open the doc, and you just write. What are you afraid of? Hmm? Let's examine that. Bad writing, right? Yeah, but it's not just that. What's going on is slightly more nuanced. I'm afraid of not good writing. Of lack-luster, dull drudgery. He went here and he did this then he did this . . . I'm afraid of sitting there feeling worthless as I plunk down one uninspired line after the other. In the years I've spent learning how to write, this has been a very real experience. But every time I sit down and just write, once I get started I always feel better, because I'm making progress—some kind of progress. Why won't that sink in?

If you ever feel like I do, recognize when you fall into this pattern. Step back. Make some space, and say to yourself, “There I go again. There's that stupid pattern.” Now decide to change. Don't run away. Whatever it is, deal with the problem directly. Realize, “I'm avoiding writing right now. Writing is what I want to be doing,” and then do it.  Don't think so god damn much.  Drop the weight.  Fuck fear.

Write. You'll feel better.  

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