Writer’s Update: By the Power Divested of Me
Especially in light of all the things I’ve been writing about lately, I’m not looking forward to today’s post.
I want to be that person who knows how to deal with fear, with feeling like an imposter, staying motivated, being strong…
But I’m not. Not today, not this week, maybe not most of the time.
It has something to do with knowing that I’m not just flirting with the idea of being a writer this time. The process has gone in to effect. I’m on the road, I don’t have a place to live, I don’t have an income. This has to work. It’s do-or-die.
Correction: Okay, I won’t die. I am a middle-class white American female and for me to be complaining at all is actually pretty shitty, but this is my domain and I am a piece of shit. I’ve never really had a career goal before.
I’ve always wondered about my lack of ambition. Mostly, I’ve gone through life saying, “Oh, I can do that. So…I’ll do it.” Or, “That seems like it would be fun, I’ll try it; I bet I can do a good job.”
Writing is the first thing where an inner ambition has bubbled up as the cause of action, and I am afraid of it.
I am afraid because I’ve never dealt with this feeling before, yet I know it has to be followed. In The War of Art, author Steven Pressfield talks about how we fear the opportunities that are truly important to us.
The more the fear, the more necessity that we attack.
“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
When we’re not afraid of something, there is no challenge, so what’s the point? I need challenge. Look at my dating history for proof. Most creatives need it.
The challenge of writing is healthy, though. A worthwhile date.
So why do I still feel depressed lately? Why am I having trouble getting anything done or keeping anything going?
The little girl inside me is trying to take charge in my moment of weakness. She is telling me to eat bowls of ice cream and leave my clothes on the floor and pace around the house finding everything and nothing to do.
She wants to win right now because she is accustomed to feeling protected. She doesn’t like this “on my own” stuff.
I am struggling to call forward mature me, Adult Me, to quiet the little one. Because Adult Me is mercurial at best.
Getting lucky enough to housesit in this town where I know nobody was assurance that I could get the first draft of my book ready for editors. The most I’ve done is write its outline on little pieces of paper so that I can play mix and match with the structure.
Perhaps it’s lethargy toward the bulk of living that I assume awaits me. The reluctance to take on weight.
“Don’t wait for the muse….he’s a hardheaded guy who’s not susceptible to a lot of creative fluttering…Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be every day from nine ’til noon. or seven ’til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up.” -Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
I’m not showing up for the muse. Mostly I’m showing up for hours-long strolls around San Jose.
In the absence of allowing myself to feel inspired, I try to to take technical routes for improving my blog (formatting and such), little victories that make me feel like I’ve done something.
This morning I woke up thinking about Nelson Mandela.
In his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, he recounts 27 years in prison with such relative positivism that most of humanity’s boo-hooing (especially mine) is immediately recognizable as bullshit.
He did not let his environment destroy him. He found productivity and structure in an overbearingly desolate world: running in-place in his cell for up to 45 minutes, four days a week, creating and tending to a small garden in the prison courtyard, finding enjoyment in the walks to a rock quarry where he endured backbreaking physical labor.
Writing to his wife in 1975 (after 11 years of confinement), he said:
“The cell gives you the opportunity to look daily into your entire conduct, to overcome the bad and develop whatever is good in you.”
Though he was told he would die in prison, he showed up every day with his best foot forward.
My purpose is by no means on-level with Nelson Mandela’s. Ha!
But today he is inspiring me to show up. If only to pay homage to the injustices he suffered, I have to show up. I will write every day, and I will stay here at this desk, productive or not, until the work day is over.
I’m going to fake it until I make it, until the listlessness realizes that it’s useless and my spirit begins to regain some of its footing.
These are just growing pains . . . right? RIGHT?
I hope you can relate to rather than disdain my sobfest. Do you go through things like this? How do you dig yourself out? Or how do you indulge?
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