Monday, December 6, 2010

Don't Tell Me Present Me is a Shitty Writer.

Prompt #2 – Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?

Most of my writing these days is, or should be, academic.

Things that inhibit my academic progress include, but certainly aren't limited to:
- A preemptive fear of failure
- Impostor syndrome (for those not mired in the hell of academia, Impostor Syndrome is a sinking feeling that one gets when they're immersed in higher education, and are convinced, on a personal, usually baseless level, that they're not actually smart enough or qualified enough to be there or to participate in the academic dialogue. It's fairly common, usually ridiculous, and utterly stupid. Incapacitating nonetheless.)
- A lack of sleep, and consequently motivation
- And, going back to Emerging, my inability to concentrate on one single thing for any length of time.

I'm working on all of these things, but none of them are easily remedied.

Things that inhibit my other writing include
- All of the above
- I just don't wanna.

I tend to sound like a whiny, cranky child when I talk about my writing. I've heard, for years, since elementary school, really, that I'm a great writer, that if I could only adhere to deadlines or some other goal that isn't mine, I'd be a great writer, I could really make something of myself doing it.

The thing is, I've never wanted to make anything of myself with my writing. Or, if I have, it's been lost in the years and years of people telling me that re: writing, I wasn't living up to my potential.

I always figured that writing was a difficult enough profession to break in to (for so many reasons), that it was best left to people that do have that drive, that want to, need to write, to be writers. I've never had that. Writing has always just been a thing that comes out of me, no more or less than anything else I do. I've never needed it to define me, to push me, or whatever it is that "real" writers feel when they're cranking out words.

It's such a crapshoot anyway, and there are so many people who want it more than I do, what's the point in trying to break in to that ratrace? I'd rather pursue the things I care about - even if I feel like I'm no good at them. At least I'm passionate. (Note to self, future post about what happens if it turns out that the last 10 years of studying media theory/communications have been a bust, and I'm actually a shitty market analyst out in the real world.)

Besides, I've never received criticism that, "oh, this is good enough as is, you're good now", it's always been "Future you could do so much better than present you!"

Well, guess what. Future Me doesn't give a shit. (I'll save talking about my construct of Future Me for another post.)

What generally prevents me from writing, now, is the idea that it's not good enough. It's good, but if only I were better, if I paid more attention, if something about Present Me were different, somehow meeting everyone else's expectations and goals would make it all better, would validate what's coming out of me now.

Which makes writing anything of substance, for anyone but myself, painfully difficult - because I don't believe it's good enough.

It's not that I'm afraid of the editing process (I do, however, have a strong aversion to it), I just don't believe that anything I put out is worth anyone else's time. I just don't have that drive.

And it's frustrating - I think, for the most part, that Present Me is isn't a half bad writer. I write like I speak, for the most part, and generally, that gets a pretty good response. I see the schlock that everyone else puts out, and often think "well, fuck that, I could do better." (There's a story there about coming from a family of journalists and Pulitzer winners, but again, I digress)

But then I remember that critical response is always "Not good enough, not good enough, not good enough."

I don't know what I need to eliminate that mental block - I've never been driven to write a novel or to be published, so it's not like that sort of validation is first and foremost in my process. I do have a few ideas that I'd like to see become part of the public dialogue, but I don't know how to get them there.

I guess that's part of why I'm Reverbing, publishing these words in a public forum for the first time in nearly 10 years. Throw it out into the ether and see what happens.


  1. Once approach I'm taking is that I know no matter what I do, a lot of people are going to think it's garbage - so there's no point in worrying about what they think. I'm trying to concentrate more on what *I* want to get out of what I do (and I couldn't write my way out of a wet paper thesaurus so it isn't writing) and then just put it out there to see if anybody responds to it. Maybe yes, maybe no but if it speaks to me and satisfies something in me (which is hard as hell to tap into when everybody else's voice seems so much louder!) then for now, that will be good enough. Good luck with your writing and I think you'll find it's a pretty supportive community here @reverb10

  2. No writing isn't my thing any more than proof-reading is... sigh. "One approach..."

  3. "I've heard, for years, since elementary school, really, that I'm a great writer, that if I could only adhere to deadlines or some other goal that isn't mine, I'd be a great writer, I could really make something of myself doing it."

    I used to be smart. I'd go to class, I'd mostly pay attention, and my grades would be far above those around me. (I think it was probably the same for you.) I'd get praise for something that wasn't that hard, and since it wasn't hard I didn't think it deserved praise. So I tuned out the praise. That led to me not trying at all, but still doing well and getting good marks. That led to me being a truly lazy SOB and doing just enough to get by. I didn't try hard because I didn't think I had to. And now I have a cubicle job in a room with 40 people and no windows to the outside world.

    Just because it's easy for you does not mean it has no value. I probably figured that out too late. What those people saw in your work is how good you are and how great you'd be if you believed you could be great. What you saw was something that came naturally and therefore probably wasn't so special. In the words of the philosopher turned Senator, "That's just stinking thinking."

    "I do have a few ideas that I'd like to see become part of the public dialogue, but I don't know how to get them there."

    - Step 1: write it the fuck down.
    - Step 2: who cares? you wrote it. the hard part is over.

  4. I'm not going to say anything nice, 'cause I don't want to devalue your role as the world's best asshole, but thanks. That makes a lot of sense.