Monday, October 22, 2012

On being a "writer."

What business do I have calling myself a "writer?" When was the last time I actually sat down and wrote something? (Well, okay, a few weeks ago. But that was just a bit of fanfiction which was discarded about a half an hour later for some food and a game of Solitaire. So it doesn't really count).

While showering today (yes), I realized that I have not actually sat down to write in a very, very long time. I have lost all inspiration. I am in a rut. I can't even think about writing without feeling a bit nauseous inside, solely because doing so has become this looming and ominous.... thing. I get an idea, sit down to write it, become bored or distracted halfway though, reread, hate what I have done; lather, rinse, repeat. Every. Single. Time. And because of this, I have literally become scared of my own writing. Scared that I will never actually finish anything and that, if by some miracle, I do, I would never be able to send it out because anyone in their right mind would hate it and I should just give up and live in my parent's basement for the rest of my life.

It wasn't always this way.

In third grade, my class was assigned a sort of "creative writing" project. Now, at the time I despised the thought of sitting down and conjuring up words for a stupid grade—so much so that I actually did not do the assignment and was made to stay in during recess to finish it. It was then, as I sat in front of the window, my pencil scratching rhythms across the page, I realized that I actually kind of loved writing. I don't exactly remember the initial plot of the story I had come up with. Something about a group of siblings and their magical cat? I don't know. But I do know that from then on, I could not stop the words. They threatened to spill out of me every time I held a pencil and had paper within an arms reach.

In fourth grade, I fell in love with the Harry Potter books. By fifth grade I began writing fanfiction (though I had no idea that it was a thing). In sixth grade, I took my work to a new level by adding my own characters to the stories, and by seventh grade I began my first novella and was handing it out to people to get their thoughts. The novella was finished by eighth grade, and that is when I began working on the sequel (which was never finished due to the aforementioned problem). In high school I was introduced to advanced writing classes and discovered that a lot of my peers also dreamed of becoming writers. Seeing them do so well made me self-conscious about my work. I no longer felt unique or important. Heck, anyone can write. What made my work so special? And it was then that I began drifting away from the thing I loved most: creating words, worlds, characters... Expressing my thoughts through the only way I knew how. I thought I had just fallen into a writer's block of sorts, but this "block" has lasted about eight years now, with no end in sight. In becoming critical of my work, I began to see no point in going any further. Sure, I would tell myself that I dreamed of one day becoming and author; a writer whose words inspired others and helped them to see things differently through the eyes of my darling creations, but I never again had the courage to follow it through. When I reread my old work—the first novella that I had ever finished, waaaay back in eighth grade—I see an entirely different person. One whose thoughts and words were not influenced by what anyone else thought. Someone who created characters she loved and wasn't afraid to be cheesy and funny and serious, all at once. Someone who wanted to write and did it because she loved to. I need to stop. Turn around. Get back to that point where I wasn't so pressured to be perfect. Not that anyone is pressuring me. After all, hardly anyone has ever read anything of mine, simply because I am too afraid of rejection I have not even received yet. The pressure comes from myself. I fear that my writing and I will never amount to anything, and so I don't bother doing it. It needs to stop. I need to sit down and tell myself to stop being such a baby, pick up that pencil and write, dammit. There will always be someone better. There will always be pressure from the outside; publishers with their minds on other projects, readers hoping for a different outcome, unimpressed critics, people who just don't "get" your work. But me? I cannot be my worst enemy and best friend. I need to settle somewhere in the middle. I can write and I will write and I will not stand in my own way. Writing isn't supposed to be perfect. It should be flawed and messy and beautiful. What makes you a writer is not how fantastical your wording is or whether that subject is too racy or opinionated or not at all correct. What makes you a writer is how much of your heart you put into your work. You will probably be turned down hundreds of times before you find that one person who is willing to show the world your work. But, in all honesty, you don't need them to bring your words alive. They are already alive because they are yours. Maybe you hope your book will be stocked on the shelves of bookstores everywhere, someday. Maybe you still aspire to touch people with your private world and that there will be screaming fans begging for your autograph, pushing you up there to JKR status (okay, exaggerated example). And that is absolutely okay. But for right now, try not to think about all of that because it will be what trips you up. Right now, you should do your best to just enjoy the actual writing process—living in your world, getting to know your characters, and loving all of it. Perfection is like a swear word in the writing world. Make it flawed. Make it beautiful. Work out the kinks later.

I will leave you with this quote by Anne Lamott, who seems to know exactly what I am going through at any given time:

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.”

I am a writer. I will write.

No comments:

Post a Comment