July 21, 2013 § 1 Comment
Writing about writer’s block because you have writer’s block is an old trick, but let’s see what I can add to this exhaustively long conversation.
When I was younger writing fiction was my favorite past time. I would spend all of my free hours in some cubby, writing story after story. I was writing mainly fanfiction, though I didn’t know what fanfiction was, or that other people wrote stories in already established universes. I worked on one story from Grade 7 to Grade 10 and just stopped one day. The story had been my obsession, then suddenly became something I loathed to the point of disgust. It still sits unfinished in a closet.
I never considered the idea of actually becoming a writer until I got to college. Once there, I realized I could take the thing I had always done for my own enjoyment and get class credit for it. I took every writing class I could take and wrote prolifically under the pressure of assignments and due dates. I was listening to a lot of Tori Amos, reading a lot of Leonard Cohen and Anne Rice so most of the things I wrote in college were angst-filled, indecipherable train of thought pieces, with true meanings that only I understood. I was very proud of all these pieces, and they got me good grades. They ended up convincing me that I had a path laid in front of me that would end in becoming a professional writer.
I ended my college career by having a nervous breakdown and having to drop out just 3 classes shy of my degree. I spent the next couple of years trying to keep my head above water in terms of money and mental health. The escape that had been writing left me. The crush of expectations had a lot to do with why I dropped out of school. These expectations also took my confidence in my writing from me. I would start to write and freeze up, trembling with anxiety. After a few abortive attempts, I gave up trying at all. I had a friend tell me that they knew one day I was going to be a famous writer. My stomach turned sour hearing this. I knew I had talked so much about my writing that now everyone around me believed this lie. I knew the truth. I had gone back and re-read the things I had written in college and tore them to shreds, literally and figuratively. I knew that I was a fraud, that my writing was weak, never good enough.
This is the whispering monster that still sits on my shoulder today. I’m not a good writer. My thoughts are scattered, my disjointed brain causes the words that I need to come out in jolting, discordant sentences. I had been told in my non-fiction writing class that everyone had a story that deserved to be heard but I knew the truth. No one wanted to hear what I had to say.
This deafening doubt sits on my shoulder heavily today. It convinces me to delete anything I think I should share. It takes the ideas I have for something to write about and shreds it to pieces, tells me all the reasons why I’m a hack, why nothing I think of is original or insightful or clever.
So I’m going to dedicate this section of words to my self-doubt. I have silenced myself because of you, lack of confidence. I have berated myself because of you, assurance of failure. To you, fear of achievement, I give you these words, and the next words and the next. It’s not up to you or me if this is worth saying. These words will exist anyways.
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June 30, 2013 § 1 Comment
“I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia. I composed a beautiful letter to you in the sleepless nightmare hours of the night, and it has all gone: I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way. You, with all your undumb letters, would never write so elementary a phrase as that; perhaps you wouldn’t even feel it. And yet I believe you’ll be sensible of a little gap. But you’d clothe it in so exquisite a phrase that it should lose a little of its reality. Whereas with me it is quite stark: I miss you even more than I could have believed; and I was prepared to miss you a good deal. So this letter is really just a squeal of pain. It is incredible how essential to me you have become. I suppose you are accustomed to people saying these things. Damn you, spoilt creature; I shan’t make you love me any more by giving myself away like this — But oh my dear, I can’t be clever and stand-offish with you: I love you too much for that. Too truly. You have no idea how stand-offish I can be with people I don’t love. I have brought it to a fine art. But you have broken down my defenses. And I don’t really resent it.”