Why don't I just write?!?
|Photo by Rick Campbell|
My developmental editor, Diane, was expecting new work from me yesterday. After several weeks of not sending her anything, I had *promised* to send her something. But instead I sent her a message requesting an extension until noon today. Kind and generous soul that she is, she granted it to me.
But now I was doubly committed. I had to do this thing. So I sat down to write. (Hallelujah! So often this is my greatest challenge: just getting myself to show up to it.) I sat down with my computer did the thing that often gets results: I opened an existing writing project and started reading it.
Nothing happened. And then a mild panic set in.
I opened a different project, dug up my revision notes, and started reading through those. Again nothing. Internal floundering. The panic intensified.
"I'm never going to be able to write again!" a tiny corner of my brain screamed melodramatically.
"Quit panicking! You're freaking me out!" screamed another part.
"Everybody calm down. Take a deep breath. Stop judging and start noticing," said the kind, sane, practical part. (Thank God for that part.) "What's keeping you from adding to these pieces?"
"I don't know what to do! I know what must be done, but what if I change something and it sucks? Or worse yet, what if I change something and it sucks and I don't even realize it sucks? And these stories...it's been too long. I don't feel connected to them anymore. I remember what I was trying to do, but I can't pull up the requisite emotions and head-space to get back into them. I'm going to screw them up and they won't mean anything to anyone and I'll be a failure! I'll have failed these stories that held such promise before I got my incompetent mitts on them and I'll hate myself forever. I'm dooooooomed!"
Okay, maybe it didn't go *exactly* like that, but pretty close. There was panic and insecurity and a lack of connection to these stories, which until recently had burned so brightly in my soul and imagination. I couldn't work on these stories now; I just didn't have it in me.
And yet I owed Diane some writing. To distract myself from the approaching deadline, I started paging through my notebook. And stumbled upon a poem I'd written in October and had never transcribed. And a page or two later, the end of a story I'd drafted almost two years ago but had never figured out how to finish. So I fiddled with those and ended up not only having something to send Diane but also feeling at least halfway productive. Thank goodness for that notebook.
- The longer I go without writing, the harder it is to write. Writing is distinctly unlike riding a bicycle in this way. And probably in several other ways, as well.
- To get back into these stories I'll likely have to devote several consecutive hours to thinking about them. Note to self: schedule time to do this. (And then, for the love of all that's holy, please follow through with it!)
- I'm suffering from some serious insecurity about the worth of my work. In fact, several times I considered scrapping all or part of this blog post because I kept telling myself it was stupid and no one would want to see into my neuroses. But the kind, sane, practical part of my brain reminded me that it's not my job to judge what value others may derive from my work. My job is just to be honest. (That's a bit of wisdom I got from Diane, by the way.)
- When I encounter the fear-of-fucking-it-up, I need to make a copy of the story and make changes to the copy so that I can always go back to the original if I decide I don't like the changes I've made. It's worth a try, anyway.