Thursday, November 12, 2015
Writing as Constant Existential Crisis
One minute, you're working hard on something. You get past the block, you're tuned in, and the words just seem to flow out of your fingers faster than you can generate them. You're in the zone. It comes naturally.
Then you set it aside for a day. An hour. Ten minutes. And the next time you look at it, you think, "What have I done? What is this pile of filth that I am looking at on the screen? Everyone is going to hate this and I hate myself for thinking otherwise. I need to start over."
And in the moments when you have the courage, or the absolute gall, to release what you've written into the world, and you realize maybe it isn't that bad after all, maybe then you can breathe again. Or not. Because someone who will hate it might still be out there. A few of them might actually make themselves known. And it might cause you to work harder to make your points clearer and your imagery more vivid.
Or it might make you want to throw your laptop out the window. If you're lucky, it will land on one of the people criticizing you.
Lately, my problem has been comparing myself to others. Someone I deeply admire and respect just released a book on a topic similar to mine. And my first reaction was to think, without reading it, what an absolute gift he had just given the world. The fact that it took him so long to write such a work is mystifying, but now others may benefit from the wisdom of his prose.
My second thought was, "His book is going to be way better than mine. I should just quit. Game over, man."
Being a writer is weird. And it makes you think weird things about yourself. And it makes you think weird things about yourself in relation to other writers.
But their voice is not yours. Their life experience is not yours. Their style is not yours. And yours is not theirs either. You wouldn't do things the way they do it, or they you, and that's what makes each of you who you are as writers, let alone human beings.
So I think I've moved past my latest bout of self-loathing. I remember that I write as me, and people might benefit from it and others might hear the same point better from someone else. That's okay, so long as I stay true to how I best can say what I want to say.
And so I press on in the way I know, hoping that it's clear. Hoping that someone will hear it as I intended. Hoping that I can let go of the doubts and the unfair comparisons and just write as me. And I can sit back, look at what I've produced, and be satisfied.
But ten minutes later, who knows?
Being a writer is weird.