I’m a terrible writer.
It doesn’t get much worse than this. And it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do with my life. It’s an obsession, an unstoppable drive. The very thought of writing, of acceptance letters and books and libraries and page after saturated page gathering atop my desk in small mountains– my body feels beautifully flooded. There’s nothing in existence that can compete with this passion.
So why am I so inept and unqualified to follow through?
I recently read an article extolling the virtues of hushed, spontaneous writing; no editing, no overthinking or second-guessing, just blasting the habit of retracing your steps so that you won’t waste time spinning along the same obsessive loop.
I’m an expert in all of these malfunctions and more, and I’ve accumulated dozens of dusty unfinished manuscripts to prove it. I keep them in old folders packed to capacity, reminders of my ruthless anxiety and ultimately, my failure. I hate them, I can’t let them go. At first they seemed so promising! Now, if I’m feeling hyper-ambitious I might revisit those poor malformed pages, confident that I’m detached and mature enough for some successful salvaging. Not once has this worked. Instead the story begins to feel like a traffic-jammed labyrinth; I’m trapped, encased in glass– how do I fix it, how do I escape?
Meanwhile, I’ve stacked in the back of my closet several mammoth plastic crates filled with journals– heavy leather, hardback, notebook-style– all kinds, all of them loaded with my daily details and explosive corresponding imagery, photos and illustrations and quotes and whatever else I can paste to the page to solidify that “here and now” factor. Journaling is my most joyful avenue of writing. It’s never a chore but always a thrill; it’s the optimum process of creativity.
I’m dumbfounded by prolific authors, those who crank out book after book. That’s who I want to be. Their compulsion must be otherworldly, an arcane blessing. While I savor the sense of accomplishment inherent in the completion of a poem or the breakthrough modification of a scene, it’s my own experience with journaling that I believe comes closest to the passion of the prolific. Writing shouldn’t feel like being waterboarded. I want to pounce upon my stories rather than flee from them.
The answer is simple, its execution is a Herculean labor.
But I’m committed to reclaiming that childlike exuberance with every project. Although it’s imperative at times to launch a Type-A rampage, ultimately I should be in love with my work. There will always come a time to edit, to solve the puzzle, jump the brick walls and crash through the dead ends. But I’ll never make it that far until I learn to let go, to accept my imperfections, and when sifting through the wreckage of the inevitable disasters, I’ll tell myself that I’ve got this, that everything I wrote about myself at the top of this post is bullshit.
Take a breath, take a break. It will be okay.