I have a confession to make. All writers, no matter their success or failures face the same inner demon.
Even now, it is difficult to put into words the occasional bone-deep, mind-numbing fear we have to write. Crazy isn’t it? Our greatest passion and the thing that drives us becoming the one thing we struggle most with. I’ve known and heard of a similar thing happening to other artists and musicians. It is an age-old struggle, where genius and madness blur the lines. Those with the most genius face the worst inner demons.
I am not a genius by any stretch of the imagination, but like so many authors and artists before me, I feel very deeply. Since I was little I’ve always been able to sense other people’s emotions and empathize with their struggles. I looked at the world around me, in all its beauty and ugliness and clung to beauty and the dream of it that lived on inside my head. And while this trait has often helped me navigate tricky reality, it is also my greatest enemy. I’ve spoken of this before with several people who go through a similar struggle and know I’m (thankfully) not alone in this.
I wish I had the right words or research I could give you to “fix it.” I’m not sure if there is a way when the problem stems from our own innate insecurities. I often think in terms of impressionist abstract, but I’ll try to explain in linear.
This wicked, inner voice sometimes whispers to you, often right before you begin an important project.
Will it be enough?
I wasn’t sure what happened to me after I attempted to come back to my former writing routine after the winter holidays. I had a fairly solid game plan for the 2018, with every intention of putting it into practice.
This year, I told myself, I will learn from last year’s mistakes and find that perfect focus.
I told myself every night leading up to the new year, tonight is the night. Each night I pulled up my manuscript and my notes and stared…then stared some more. I turned off the machine.
It was too late in the evening.
I should go to bed and read a while instead.
Excuses and casual brush-offs.
I didn’t think too deeply, didn’t dare look at my inner struggle too much. Finally I chose a night, determined not to give the same excuses. I told one of my best friends, a fellow author, that I was going to write that night. And in the same e-mail my confession took form, spelling clearly the problem I hadn’t bothered to name.
I was scared and didn’t know why. I was struggling with a very real and very ridiculous anxiety over writing.
Last fall I wrote religiously every night and kept track record of progress, word count, etc.
This method had helped me in the past. But then I took a break and life caught up to me. I wondered, facing the new year if I could do it. Could I re-write and re-release Silver Hollow as a series? Could I publish more than one book? Could I justify Indie publishing while we have been going through so many crisis’ in real life?
I felt extremely selfish.
It was all so very human if you think about it. I have a lot on my plate these days that I didn’t before. So there are days I do choose to turn into bed with a book instead of squeezing in an hour a night to finally write. I try not to feel too guilty about that. Some manuscripts prove harder to write than others and right now Silver Hollow is on the complex-brain-waves level that require my entire concentration and focus. I didn’t want to pick up the story and write crap, after all.
Of course, as my friend reminded me, that’s what rewrites are for.
I wrote a few hundred words that first night, then revised some more the next. I didn’t push myself too hard to write every day. Instead, I opened the document and brainstormed. I thought about the story when I wasn’t looking at it. Somewhere in between the hard-to-write scenes, I began to rediscover why I loved this story. I remembered this was my first book baby and I love it even more than its first incarnation. The metamorphosis of Silver Hollow has been wonderful and terrifying in turns. At times I find just the right tone, words or prose that was missing from the original. I like to think of this as the re-modeled version. Silver Hollow 2.0. Same basic story, but taken in by a wiser hand. The story I wanted to write six years ago.
Falling out of routine and then attempting to jump back onto the moving train is a frightening prospect.
You push yourself so hard to create, not just spewing nonsense but with each book and story improving. You seek the muse, the enlightenment, the perfect moment when what you’re trying to create really comes alive, if only for a moment. The rush and joy of those moments is heady, addictive. It’s what pushes you to give more.
After this last year, a part of me just didn’t know if I had enough to give. I gave so much of myself to my family as we overcame cancer and accidents and unemployment struggles. It can be so hard to give when you are already running on fumes, feeling empty. Then again, I feel like that’s a running theme with a lot of creative introverts like me.
Am I enough?
Will this be enough?
It isn’t so much a desperation to please, as much as a desire to rise above that darker introspection. We have this ingrained need to reach for the stars. Missing the starlight by even an inch makes us angry and pushes us harder to try again. But there are so many in-between torturous moments. When you narrow your eyes at your work and criticize and second-guess.
In today’s world it seems everyone is so eager to throw out insult and take insult.
The world dancing carefully around itself, tip-toeing on eggshells. Writing, like any art form can and should be an expression of the soul, a voice of reason and freedom. Say what you mean to say, not what you perceive others expect you to say. Give them the story they deserve, but also be true to your convictions and beliefs. Do justice to the story, to the characters you spend more internal time focused on than the living and breathing. If it sounds a little crazy and messed up, well… I suppose it is.
Some days I give into the overwhelming drive, the need to create and everything is beautiful. Shades of gold and rose and the evergreen of trees in a winter forest. Others, I struggle with the dynamics and interplay of scenes with the critical eye of a playwright. Cut unnecessary words, allow prose only sparingly (people have no patience anymore, remember.) Write something that makes your heart sing.
Today I write about the struggle most of us go through because I want you to know you aren’t alone. Second-guessing ourselves is part of human nature. It keeps us from making too many mistakes. But we should never allow fear to rule us. Take the fear and turn it into passion. Instead of worrying about whether you have it in you, think of what life would be like if you didn’t create. A little anxiety now and then is normal. Don’t worry about word counts. Write as much as you are able. The next day, check what you wrote and revise it, then push on.
Without great risk, there can be no reward. The best things is life are worth fighting for, even if the battle is within yourself. Don’t ever give up, because you give into moments of weakness. What seems like weakness to you may one day become your strength. When we understand ourselves, how we create and what we need to be inspired; when we acknowledge the good and the bad, we learn how to overcome.
We rise above. We reach out our hands and together touch stardust.