Sometimes, It’s Okay To Give In to Your Writing Demons
My writing demons are loud today. They are vicious, criticizing everything from my skill to my intellect.
Why do you want to write? There are so many writers out there who are better than you. You shouldn’t even bother.
Despite their intensity, I’ve tried to write. I have. I’ve got a half dozen, half-completed drafts sitting in Google Docs. The problem is that I don’t have the words to give these stories life. Every time I try, it’s like giving mouth-to-mouth to a corpse. Perhaps the stories are already dead to begin with, or maybe I don’t have the force of talent to give them life.
Sometimes, I believe being an avid reader is a writer’s curse. The more you read, the more you realize how shitty your writing is, how little you know about the world, how there are people out there with more depth and insight and experience in their pinky than you have in your whole being.
There is a loneliness that can be rocked. Arms crossed, knees drawn up, holding, holding on, this motion, unlike a ship’s, smooths and contains the rocker. It’s an inside kind — wrapped tight like skin. Then there is the loneliness that roams. No rocking can hold it down. It is alive. On its own. A dry and spreading thing that makes the sound of one’s own feet going seem to come from a far-off place. ―Toni Morrison, Beloved
Morrison’s words — you feel the loneliness in your bones. How can I put writing out there when paragraphs like this exist?
Sometimes, I feel ashamed for my lack of talent. My shallowness of thought. My inability to express my ideas as profoundly or resonantly as other writers. I realize comparison is a dangerous game, and I still play it.
Rarely, do words come easily. I’m stilted and awkward and nervous in conversation, and I usually feel that way in my writing, too. Only, I have the opportunity and patience to revise my words in writing, so they have more fluency and precision than my speech.
It’s dangerous wanting to be a good writer, and maybe even a great one. Interestingly, my love of writing reemerged after the birth of my daughter. I’m sure a better writer could plumb this reflection and turn it into an article. Today, I’m not that writer.
I imagine content creators like Tim Denning who can pump out articles in an hour and I lament my laborious writing process. My articles take hours. I want to be a writer, not a content creator, so I wrestle with words, take longer than I should, and hold them up to a standard I never seem to achieve.
I know I’ve only been writing regularly for seven months. I know that I write all the while taking care of a toddler who struggles with sleep. I know I give up sleep and my precious free time to write. It doesn’t mean that I deserve or should expect success and recognition.
I’ve had some success. I’ve also had my fair share of stinkers — articles that have dropped and fizzled like an Alka-Seltzer in water. I want to write an article I’m proud of. I want to write something that inspires me. I want my passion for what I’m writing to leap off the page. I want to connect with readers, especially when I feel so disconnected these days.
Instead, I’ll listen to Anne Lamott’s words and accept that I may not be able to write that article today.
The problem is acceptance, which is something we’re taught not to do. We’re taught to improve uncomfortable situations, to change things, alleviate unpleasant feelings. But if you accept the reality that you have been given — that you are not in a productive creative period — you free yourself to begin filling up again. — Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
Tomorrow, I’ll try again. I’ll try not to erase every sentence and scratch through everything I’ve written down. I’ll try not to look at my shitty first drafts through my inner critic’s eyes. I’ll give myself the gift of being imperfect, playful, and joyous in my writing. Because acceptance isn’t about staying in discomfort forever. It’s about accepting the moment and having hope for better moments to come.
… be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. ―Ralph Waldo Emerson