The inner critic

Life can be stressful. Life can make you insane. And what it does to your writing is even worse.

Writing for me has always been a fun, sort of theraputic thing to do. Whenever I was getting too stressed, the world would just go away for a little while and I could get something on paper. But I noticed a curious thing lately – when I tried to put my writing to the grindstone, it became bad. Not awful but I was getting blocked completely. My writing became stunted, ideas became tough to find, and I ground to a halt. When I did produce something, it was awful.

I learned a valuable lesson: my writing muse is not a draft horse. It cannot be saddled to any cart you want to pull it along. You need to have passion for your work. You need to care. Recently, I picked up a creative project which I just didn’t care for entirely and now? I’m saddled with it. I’m turning the old writing instinct into the draft horse, and I hate it. It’s going very badly too.

In that case, it’s  a matter of ‘well you just have to do it’ kind of thing. But what it inspired in me was a desperate sort of hatred of my own work and kicked in one of those lovely periods every creative person has in their lives: the self-doubt phase. We all go through our moments of ‘my God, is my work shite or what?’ Some people take it further than others. My roommate told me about a time when a friend of hers hated all her writing, so she went ahead and burned manuscripts. I would rather sit in frigid water humming the Macarena for hours before dropping my work on a fire. I am not THAT self-destructive yet. However, that doesn’t mean that for the last few weeks I haven’t wanted to lock all my stuff up in a drawer somewhere and not look at it ever again. And where does that all come from?

Inner insecurity. There are a million people out there trying to write, I said to myself. Does that mean I’m any good, good enough to make it? What makes me better? Am I better? What if my stuff is just awful and I’m one of those people who can’t see it?

And so on. And so forth.

It just kept going from there. Thankfully, I got workshopped last night in my writing class for a new short story I put out, a little quick thing I put together called “Of Ghosts and Skies.” The story is a departure for me because its something that does NOT have anything supernatural in it, at all, and I don’t intend to add anything supernatural. (Funny thing, of course, I used an analogy about a ghost in it and automatically people who have read my stuff started to assume the character I was talking about actually WAS a ghost… grumble grumble pigeon-holing). I gave it over and there were  a lot of positive responses. There was a lot of critiques about what to work on, of course, but there was a lot of positive response.

Afterwards, I spoke to my professor. She said that stress is the killer of all creative things and that, perhaps for a little while, I have to at least just let my writing be fun. The trick, she said, was to allow yourself to be imperfect, because in that imperfect process you can achieve something great.So I’m going to set the goal for myself: Don’t demand gold, just dig for a few crystals and arrowheads in the ground. If you hit gold, cool. If not, go forward with what you’re doing. And so that’s what I’m going to do.

Postscript: So I’ll also admit something here… the class has asked me to try poetry and I am. I am intensely reticent to share any of that poetry. Most poetry I find from people is just angsty high school emo crud that should be scraped off the proverbial shoe at the door. Yet there is something cool about giving this a shot. I just don’t know if I can ever show any of it to anyone. We shall see.

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