Sometimes when I write, in fact most times, it feels like the walls are closing in on me. It starts with a compelling feeling that I must write, so I sit down and start typing…but then nothing comes, and I start to panic. The feeling of thinking I was on my way to wordsmithing gold was quickly replaced by a feeling that I wasn’t just going to waste a great writing opportunity, but the entire day.
But it goes beyond that. The feeling I get in these moments can be less ascribed to a feeling of nervousness, and more a feeling of impending death. Crazy things go through my head…
What if I write this, hate it, and have to delete it because it sucks?
Worse, what if I can’t achieve this message’s potential, and it dies on the vine because I can’t get it out the way it deserves to be said?
What if I write something that sucks, publish it anyway, and people like it? Who will I loathe more, myself for publishing it, or the audience for enjoying it?
What if I spend the rest of my life feeling this way, and never write a single meaningful word?
How close to death am I now? Gosh, I’m almost halfway through my life…
And on and on.
Laugh if you want, and I wouldn’t blame you because honestly, it’s quite ridiculous, but it’s so very strange to me that something as simple as writing can invoke such primal instincts. I’m not hunting for food to keep myself alive, or am I?
Indirectly, the pressure comes from feeling that it’s my job to write something so that I can put food on the table, but beyond that, I feel it’s my job to write something so that I can put on humanity’s table…to make people feel good in the way that great writers have done for me.
Writing was the only thing I never really had to work at, which has me wondering why I fear it so much.
Is it because I don’t want to squander my potential? I’m not sure…maybe.
Steven Pressfield has written a great book on the topic, and Seth Godin has spoken extensively on it also, but is it resistance? At times, yes…but not always.
Writing feels less like resistance than it does a greedy beast that wants to fight to the death in order to protect its sacred wisdom.
Every time I pick up a pen, I must prepare for battle. I have to, else risk being chased to the top of Mt. Doom, ring in hand, only to be tossed into the flames with that bitch Gollum.
Every piece of wisdom given must be fought for. The muse is heavenly, but her whip stings like fire.
And what happens when I am granted the wisdom? Sometimes it’s too much, and it’s like seeing god only to be blinded by the light.
It’s strange really, for something I respect so greatly to torment me in such vicious ways. Still, I respect the art of writing more than any adversary I’ve faced.
Yes, public speaking scares me, but only until I start speaking. Designing a website scares me, but only until I find my rhythm. But when I write, I leave a piece of myself behind. Flesh for flesh, blood for blood. It’s a contract with the devil, and for this gift, I’ve paid the price of my soul.
I’m not even that good, one can only imagine what a truly gifted writer must feel when crafting ageless works.
How did Tolkien feel when he began the Hobbit, or book one of the Lord of the Rings?
How did Ayn Rand feel when she began Atlas Shrugged?
Does Steven King ever lose sleep at night, fearing what he’ll face at the typewriter the next morning?
I’ve always wanted to write something epic, something truly worth saying, but if this is the battle I face simply writing this short 600 word story, what will I face when staring down the valley of one-hundred thousand words?