Write Before Thinking

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This is more for my own good than yours.

Putting too much thought into what I write here has led to the resulting lack of posts. Putting too much thought into the subjects I write about takes away from why I started this blog in the first place. The goal of this blog is not to get me a new job. Nor is it written in hopes of landing effusive praise for my writing. Rather, it exists to motivate me to write. And I seem to have forgotten that.

My motivation has taken a serious hit over the last few months. I was on a role for quite some time – hammering out chapter after chapter of Wreck My Life and the Life of Liz. But then I made a mistake and in the process stumbled upon a realization – what I had written thus far, what had taken three years of work (categorized by sporadic fits of creative effort), was nothing more than a flat, jumbled mess of dogshit. Worse than that, it was passionless mess of flat, jumbled dogshit.

Sure there were sections worth being proud of. Those passages in which I was firing on all cylinders, my writing skills, my command of dialog, my scene structure all wrapped together nicely in a passable example of storytelling. However, more times than not, the words I had labored so hard over turned on me. What was supposed to be a stunning insight into the minds of a disaffected generation turned into nothing more than a mob of 50,000 ungrateful words chanting, “you suck” in unison. 50,000 bastard children wishing they were never born. 50,000 bystanders screaming at me to jump.

Of course, the reality is they’re just words. Words assembled by me into a series of sentences meant to tell a story. A story that by my own admission, simply isn’t working.

There is an entire industry built upon the creation and regurgitation of inspirational quotes meant to prop up us sensitive creatives. But for every inspirational quote, (“Every artist was first an amateur,” comes to mind) there are at least a dozen equally self-defeating rebuttals, (“That you consider yourself a writer is a manifestation of your mental retardation.”) Self-defeating rebuttals that I buy into with startling ease.

To say that I am my own worst critic would be to sell the phrase short. Because I am, in reality, my own self-immolating matchstick man. I am the overbearing mother, the  disapproving father and the patronizing elementary school teacher.  I tell myself all the things I expect others to say with preemptive strikes of self-hatred towards my work and creative abilities while simultaneously propping myself up with saccharine affirmations.

It’s no wonder my keyboard sits idle for weeks and months at a time. These schizophrenic tugs-of-war are exhausting. They’re also completely and totally pointless.

Yet for some reason I allow them to continue. And why not? To be bullied into inaction has the perverse benefit of protecting my ego. It protects me from the realization that while I am making strides as a writer, my skills are certainly not where I want them to be (a difficult admission when your greatest fear is that of being average). By keeping Wreck My Life tucked away in its cozy file folder, I am able to ignore the fact that while I’ve already worked incredibly hard for an incredibly long time, I still have that much more incredibly hard and incredibly long work ahead of me. Better yet, I am able to cling to the belief that what I’ve written thus far is actually publishable. Because no matter how hard I try to convince myself that it is, I know that I’ve got a long way to go.

Again.

Of course therein lies the fundamental truth – writing well is hard. It’s something nearly all of us know how to do, yet something so few of us know how to do really well. And to call yourself a writer is to say that you know how to do it better.

Most of the time I believe this and when I do I am able to churn out some clever, affective work. Buying into this belief empowers me with the ability to write with the confidence of someone unencumbered by self-consciousness. It’s taken me a long time to get to this place and it is here where I am able to produce the kind of work I know I’m capable of producing. But like a squatter living in an abandoned building, I always seem to get evicted just as soon as I get comfortable  -usually when I make the mistake of thinking I’m better than the words on the page indicate. I’ll sit down to revise yesterday’s work and it’ll slowly, then quite quickly dawn on me that what I wrote was shit. And rather than accept that shockingly not all that I write will always be gold, I’ll instead kick myself to the curb. The next thing I know a month has passed since I last wrote.

It’s a vicious cycle that puts too much power in the hands of my self-esteem. More than that, it’s an illustration of a fundamental character weakness that allows my insecurity to manifest itself into apathy and laziness (hardly a way to treat something that I’m passionate about).

The subjective nature of creativity is unique in its ability to cultivate such reactions. After all, how does one not take personally criticism directed towards that which they have created? However, as understandable as it may be to feel wounded by external criticisms, to allow those that are self-imposed derail your ambitions is almost as insane as allowing such self-defeating thoughts to enter your mind in the first place.

Of course you and Oprah already knew this.

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Filed under: Trailer Trash, Uncategorized, Why I Write, , , ,

5 Responses

  1. Since I became a blogger, I find that I am like a satellite dish. Looking at the events of daily life in a whole different way and am flooded with ideas. I need to carry around a little notebook because as soon as I come up with one idea, a new idea comes to me and replaces the other. It can become overwhelming. Try jotting down things you see throughout the day, then see if you can write a
    creative blog from it. Maybe it will work, maybe not.

  2. troy says:

    “50,000 bastard children wishing they were never born.” …funny!

    If you search ‘Sus J’ on my blog you’ll find a post that kinda discusses the same thing. It’s easy to second guess yourself creatively all the time, and for myself (with music) I fall into the same pitfalls …ignoring what I should be doing because I’m stupidly concerned with what’s ahead. It is a vicious circle that even when you’re aware, it’s still hard to get out of.

    • peotrick says:

      That was a very appropriate post. I’m sure I’ll be muttering “Sus J” to myself in the near future. Thanks for the comment and the advice.

  3. Liberal Hippy says:

    go ride. then you’ll feel better.

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