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June 14, 2010

That Electric Jolt to the Soul

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 3:43 pm

I just came across this comment I scribbled a few months ago on Anthurium‘s entry about writer’s block, professional jealousy and internal motivation. I’m reposting it here so that I’ll be forced to reread it again and again, because I could always use the reminder.

(Yes, I obsessively reread my own blog – and pretty much anything else I write, including stream of consciousness journaling, grocery lists and text messages. Now if I could just take the step from neurotic rereading to rigorous editing, we might get somewhere…)

. . .

I empathize SO much with this piece.

One of the major themes for me this season has been facing up to my incredible professional/artistic inferiority complex – including some of its specifically gendered aspects, the debilitating jealousy it induces in me towards the people I perceive as ‘real writers’, and the way that holds me back both from writing and from building mutually supportive professional and personal relationships with other writers.

Mostly, I’ve been thinking about this in regards to some of the other writers I know down here. (After all, I tell myself, not only are they Realier Real Writers Who Can Really Write, but they ALSO have the Antarctica Card – which I normally believe is the only saving grace I have going for my amateurish ass. 😉 )

Still, let me say this: As a writer, Violet intimidates the everliving fuck out of me. Like, sometimes, when I want to get shit done, I actually *avoid* reading her work because I’m know it’s going to throw me into a tizzy of despairing self-doubt. But the fact that she wants to collaborate with me – that she actually has enough respect for my work to be willing to put her name next to mine (and sometimes, I even manage to convince myself that’s the reason – rather than just because she likes me and is trying to be nice to me 😉 ) – has done huge things for my confidence. And having confidence in my writing makes it easier to write. And it makes me a better writer.

In other words: I get the seeking-outside-validation for your work thing. But I don’t necessarily think it’s a crutch. There are two sides to that coin. It’s important to have internal motivation to create; sure. But you know you have that. I know you have that. We all have it, or we wouldn’t *be* artists in the first place – because art is hard, and ultimately, we don’t do it for fun. (Even though, sometimes, it IS really fun.) As the notorious Mr. Gaiman once said (roughly), “You don’t become a writer because you want to. You become a writer because you CAN’T DO anything else.” Even if nobody was ever going to see my writing, I would still write because deep down, I know that if I don’t write, I’ll die.

But nobody creates in isolation. I know that sometimes I write things and post them in places where I know I have fans, in hopes that people will gush all over me about how great my writing is – and when they do, I get annoyed because I think what I wrote was crap and thus these people must be imbeciles who don’t know what they’re talking about! Which makes me not want to write, since clearly my work is so bad it’s only appreciated by dumb strangers. In reality, I don’t know these strangers; I don’t know if they’re dumb; I don’t know how their literary tastes run; they could be twelve year olds, they could be writers themselves, they could be reviewers for the New York Times, I don’t know. They’re just anonymous names on blogs. But I convince myself they must not have any taste because obviously, if they like MY writing, how could they? It’s a bit of a Groucho Marx complex. “I don’t want to be a member of any club that would have me as a member.” It’s totally a massive tangled ego thing.

Still, there are some people whose personal and literary opinions I value so highly that when they tell me they like my work, I can’t ignore it. Even my nasty-ass mobius strip of an inferiority complex (or, to steal from Buffy, my superiority complex and the inferiority complex I have about it) can’t write these people’s opinions off. When Violet, or Phoenix, or Whitney, or Josh Alvizu, or my brother, or *you* tell me you want to read more of my writing…it inspires me to write more. I don’t think it’s self-serving or egoistic to write to that audience. I think struggling to impress people whose work and opinions I respect forces me to become a better, more authentic and more honest artist.

I have occasionally thought of making a list of said folks called “THESE PEOPLE LIKE MY WRITING” and posting it over my desk… But, uh, I haven’t because there are like a million people in my room all the time and that would be really embarassing. I keep a little list in my head though and sometimes, when I’m really struggling, I pull it out of my brain and look at it – and it reminds me that, even if I’m blocked right now or everything I’m coming up with seems like crap, that there are people who think I’m a writer – not because I dress like a writer, or call myself a writer, or *want* to be a writer – but because I write things, and they want to read them.

Then, sometimes, I still don’t write anything for WEEKS – but that little kernel of inspiration helps fend off the feeling of desperation that says, “I’m not writing right now because I can’t write” and reminds me that “I’m not writing right now because struggling to write is part of real writing – if it wasn’t, then writing wouldn’t be work, it would just be a hobby.”

And I can’t believe I just articulated all of that – because it’s been bouncing around in my head for months, but I haven’t been able to put it into words. I needed a spark of inspiration.

Which I got from you.

Thank you, A.

I like your writing.

. . .

Incidentally, this is my 100th post on this blog.

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