Of late, I have been suffering from a particularly brutal and nasty form of writer’s block. I have no end of ideas. I write entire paragraphs, indeed essays or out-lined novels, screenplays, in my head. A character or an idea appears in my head, fully realized, as if downloaded directly from my subconscious into my consciousness faster than your neighbor can hog your wi-fi to watch PornHub when his wife leaves the house for groceries.
So, the idea, the thing, the form, what is said, needs to be said, has almost never been a problem with me. It is the making the words and sentences transfer from my brain through my hands and onto a piece of paper. Always, this has been the largest stumbling block to my writing. The immediate moment I start to type or write long-hand, I begin to self-edit, criticize, delete and otherwise begin to question why I even bothered in the first place since obviously this is all complete shit and I need to beg for my old job back. Like the high wire artist, I always feel as if I am one tiny butterfly’s whisper from complete failure.
From there, if I manage to actually produce a paragraph without coming completely unglued, it will then sit in my drafts folder for weeks on end. Because honestly, who really wants to read this? Everyone is going to know, everyone is going to find out I am a complete and utter fraud. I’m not a writer. I’ll become just another one of those assholes who tells strangers at parties to check out my blog.
People will smile and nod and think, oh my god, who invited her to the party. Everyone will see I have nothing add to the conversation, the great conversation that has carried on between writers, philosophers, artists and teachers since humans began trying to make sense of their world around them by telling stories and painting pictures on cave walls. What, if anything, new could possibly be said? What do I have to offer?
That’s always running in one corner of my brain. The other corner runs the constant Impostor Syndrome script. I don’t belong here. I flunked out of community college. I’ve never really understood Foucault. Until a good friend of mine spent an afternoon at The Metropolitan Museum of Art explaining Rothko, I’d never really got him. Phillip Glass makes me want to crank up Lynard Skynard. Despite trying, I can not sit through most of PBS’ Great Performances programming. Who am I kidding?
As for writing about my own life, my own experiences, lots of people with a slew of qualifications much more impressive than ‘owns keyboard and has wifi’ are writing much better and in a much more informed way about breast cancer or politics or film or any of the other forty-eleven things I have an opinion on. I have dear friends who in a five sentence email can make the most salient, cogent, compelling case against Hemingway without batting an eyelash.
Why do I put myself through this? Why? Is it narcissim? Is it that special brand of self-centeredness that comes with depression which says I am the piece of shit around which the entire world revolves? Everything bad happening is my fault? No, I don’t think so. Enough years of therapy and enough years of simply being alive have cured me of that.
Do I really have something to add?
This is essentially the internal dialogue that begins running as soon as I open my eyes in the morning. It often only ends when I give up, push the notes, or my laptop away, or push my chair back from my typewriter and say to no one but the dog, “this is complete shit, let’s watch some TV”. To which she is always amenable, since it means curling up with her head in my lap and watching black and white westerns, her favorite. Stasia is fond of any scene involving horses, cows, or sheep. She will tolerate people but loses interests if there is too much dialogue between cattle stampedes or Calvary charges.
There are special nights when my internal dialogue starts when my head hits my pillow, like last night, and despite all the chamomile tea in the world and the best sleep remedies modern medicine has to offer, there is no sleep, no sleep at all, not even the hope of it. There is only waiting until it is late enough in the evening/morning that I know I will hit the Waffle House at exactly the right moment between the midnight pukers and the working stiffs, like last night and this morning.
My friends are lovely about propping me up and prodding me. Insisting I publish this or that and that I am better than I give myself credit for. I get lots advice on faking it until you make it. Not to put too fine a point on things, I have lots of experience in faking it, just not this kind.
In summation, even though I have been publishing rarely and reluctantly and very much half-assedly this last few weeks and months, know I am plugging away at this. If I can get over myself and take the plunge I know I need to take, take that first big step off the cliff, I’m pretty sure there will be net to catch me. I hope you are a part of it.