Today after reading a post on Mudpie Writing I became inspired to respond to Marcy’s call to action. If you are a writer I recommend going to her original article, Want to be in My Book? She talked about how she works through her own struggles as she encounters writing roadblocks and at the end she asked her readers to reflect on their top writing struggles. I sort of got carried away with my response but I’m glad that I took the time to write something for each struggle because this exercise was very enlightening for me and it quite possibly may be a precursor to me really opening up with my writing…..maybe.
As I’m sure is painfully obvious, given the fact that I notoriously neglect t, am woefully inconsistent on social media and am overall very bad at regular communication unless you are sitting right in front of me, I usually don’t comment on much of anything. This is especially true of anything online, but also dreadfully true of in-person communications as well. In online setting; however, I usually draft up a response but then go back and disregard my opinion or feedback as inconsequential and after a little deliberation, I typically delete it. Why do I do that?
Something about Marcy’s post today struck a chord with me. Perhaps it was the fact I her post was ultimately concerned with the struggles writers face and the fact that my own reasons for never commenting publicly on anything is deeply rooted in my own sense of self-doubt and the fear that someone will eventually, or what would be more likely, possibly, read what I have to say and, heaven forbid, disagree with me and that fear is what really prevents me from sharing my writing and my opinion with others. However, as I’ve come to realize, the sad consequence of this is that many people do not know me very well. The truth is, I am a deeply private and reserved individual around strangers and because of this those people have no idea as to the methods with which I can express myself; this is quite possibly true for the people who think they know me as well.
In an attempt to branch out of my comfort zone, and open up in a way that is unprecedented for me, I’d like to share with you the many ways that I, as a 24-year-old aspiring writer, have struggled with all seven of the burdensome struggles a writer could be asked to endure.
Even as I write this I am beginning to doubt whether or not I should even continue. Already this nasty urge to ‘select all’ and hit ‘delete’ has overcome me. Throughout my, albeit, short-lived time as a writer I have experienced the overwhelming sense that I am wasting my time writing. Pursuing my degree in creative writing did a few things to balance this feeling, while I quickly learned that fantasy fiction was a big no-no in the academic workshop setting, I also learned, once I began submitting ‘acceptable works of fiction’, that apparently my work didn’t entirely suck. Back then at least I had that feedback. But now, I have no one, and my husband doesn’t count, not really, because he loves me and loves everything I write no matter what. I guess I haven’t really tested that theory though and thrown at him some truly awful concoction filled with sweeping leaps in logic and such, but the point is, I have always doubted my ability to write.
I find my struggles with perfectionism to be particularly profound when it comes to my treatment of my own poetry. I can write a poem and revise it until it feels absolutely perfect to me. Until I can feel the rhythm in each stanza. Until each word is so on point that I couldn’t find a better one even if I spent a year scouring through a dictionary trying to do so. Yet, I can come back a week later, read the same poem that I was doing summersaults over just a week before and crumple it up into the tiniest wad of paper I can manage, growling at if for being the dumbest thing I had ever written.
I’ve started to notice a pattern as I write. I start, then I stop, I pick it back up again, and then I get discouraged, so I stop again and then for some reason start back up again. At this point, it has become a predictable cycle that I have come to realize I just need to break through in order to end the craziness of it all. It begins with the monster of self-doubt creeping in the corner and then I cycle through re-writes and end up simply putting it all off because I can’t take my own frustration anymore. Usually, I try writing something else, unsuccessfully, of course, because I have no sense of focus at this stage and I tend to wander around aimlessly for a few months, yes, months, doing anything and everything else but writing. I eventually get back to it when I realize how desperately I miss it and how my life is so utterly incomplete without it.
The level of intimacy with which I am familiar with self-sabotage is downright miserable. In fact, I actually struggled, for years, with depression as a result of my own self-sabotage. Now, to be fair, this wasn’t entirely due to the fact that I put off my own writing and doubted its validity; however, if I were to be completely honest with myself, then I would have to admit that my writing certainly played a role in the years I struggled with depression. In a way, a very unhealthy way I must add, I considered the value of my writing to be in direct proportion to my own self-worth and since I didn’t have a very high opinion of my own writing ability, well, without going into too much excruciating detail, you can assume the level of esteem that I had for myself.
I often felt this in college during workshops. I would read a particularly promising piece from one of my peers and would immediately be green with envy at their ability to put so many words down on paper, or at the uncanny way they were able to develop their main character in a matter of a few paragraphs, or even the heartbreaking way they weaved together their story that I just had to read it again to feel that sudden feeling of loss once more. Each time I ran across a story or a poem like this I felt completely floored. I wondered how I was even supposed to compete with something like that, how I was supposed to even compare to a piece that made me feel so much, and I began to question if my own work had the ability to evoke that type of emotion. Yet, of course, the most critical side of my subconscious, always the easiest to be found even when it is absolutely not needed, would rear its ugly head and respond with a resounding “NO”. To this day, I think of authors and writers who inspire me and I cringe at the thought that I aspire to be recognized among their ranks one day. I am utterly jealous of their ability to write, to complete full-length works and to be published, plain and simple. Yet, mercifully, my jealousy does not stop me from writing entirely, it can, and often does, spark my interest and my desire to chase after the dream of being recognized as an author to read alongside those who I admire most. Thanks to my jealousy, I am spurred to continue writing, because although I envy the authors who I adore and whose books I practically worship, deep down I too desire to be envied.
Sabotage by Others
A lot of my writing struggles have been self-imposed. For sabotage by others, it isn’t that someone has seen my work and criticized me openly for it, but rather the fact that I fear what my writing will say about me if others read it; this is in large part why I keep so much of it to myself. The few stories and poems that I have posted on my blog are just a sampling of what I have up my sleeve. The rest I either have tucked away somewhere on my hard drive or haven’t mustered the courage to write yet.
Again, all of my fears are self-imposed. I’m far too private to really get out there with my writing and, as a result, be truly affected by the opinions of others; the closest I came to that was in college and that wasn’t enough for me. However, despite my lack of being exposed to the criticism of others that doesn’t mean that I am not a highly imaginative person who devises ways by which people could trample all over my work. Of course, I don’t need to imagine what other people would think of my writing. I could spend a matter of seconds tearing apart my own writing, getting frustrated at different phrases and the ways I insist on expressing myself, and after essentially ripping it to shreds decide to metaphorically toss it into the trash, which is what I am currently feeling compelled to do this moment; however, I have resolved to post this regardless of how desperately I would rather not.
Alas, these are my struggles as a writer. It is a love-hate relationship. I love to do it, I can’t live my life for very long without doing it, but it frustrates me to no end when I can’t seem to get it just right. I want to quit every few seconds and hit delete as often as I want to keep hitting the space bar. I love writing, I love the process, and for me, the struggles of being a writer are part of that.