Monday, September 17, 2012

Fear and Writing in Syracuse

The most difficult part of writing isn't revision or composition, it's getting started. I am often stopped by just two questions: Do I have anything to say? and What right do I have to say it? Much as I don't believe in writer's block, those two questions are often enough for me to give up. I hear them asked as if there is a voice (a really nasty, troll of a voice) inside my head mocking me.

That voice, those questions, as much as anything have kept me from publishing these daily essays for a while. I've had things to write but have lacked the will to say them. It has been less a question of finding ideas and more a problem of fearing putting things out there. I worry a little about criticism. I worry a lot about the possibility of being ignored.

I can think of few things that frighten me more.

On Aaron Sorkin's show The Newsroom, the lead character Will McAvoy is what I would call a highly-functioning narcissist. He needs a giant TV audience to feel loved. Meanwhile, in day-to-day life, he is unapproachable, careless, and often a bully. Only in the guise of a nightly news anchor can he create for himself the illusion that he is lovable and loved by people who exist for him only as numbers on a spreadsheet. The transaction of love becomes easier for him because he controls all sides of it.

I use Blogger statistics instead. How often was that last entry viewed? What comments did I get on it? Have I been approved?

I'm not completely lost to narcisissm (though I wish you'd move so I could better see myself in the mirror), but I tend to lean that way. If I don't get fifty page views, that's proof that I shouldn't have tried to foist myself on anyone after all. Who am I to intrude?

Getting over that sort of thing isn't usually too much trouble, but then I get into ruts where it is. The cure, believe it or not is to just write. Once I get started that way, things go. I punch out 750-1000 words in 15-30 minutes. My inclination then is to just post the damn thing and move on, but when I revise it always gets better. So I go back in and cut it down. My best entries are about 500-600 words (but no, I'm not going to change the name of the blog) because I have cut down to what the writing is really about. I do the revision listening to the piece as though I have never heard it, don't know any of the players, have no history. By the time I'm done, I hit publish and post links on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.

Then I stare into the pool waiting for it to show me I'm lovable.

Or not.

The next day it's time to do it again. Some days it starts all over with the fear. Other days I'm in the groove and good to go. Each day I'm faced with the choice of taking the day off, giving into the fear. Seems to me that the better choice, whether I feel the I have the right to or not, is to write on.