So of course, I sit down to write a post about writing, and I have writer’s block. Of course.
It’s the perfectionism-goblin that does it. He’s taken up residence on my shoulder lately, and he’s started clearing his throat more and louder over the past couple of weeks. Every time I put fingers to my keyboard, he hops down and starts stroking them, and suddenly I can’t write anymore.
Sometimes it makes me wonder why I keep at it, this writing business. It’s simultaneously the most painful and the most necessary thing I ever do–and I do it to myself on a regular basis. The perfectionism-goblin is persuasive and quick. He likes to whisper in my ear me that I’m not really cut out to write my way through life. A lot of the time, I listen to him.
But not all the time.
For as long as I can remember, my world has been textured with words. I started composing poems before I could read. Writing, for me, has always been as natural as breathing. When I can’t write, I talk, and if I can’t talk, I get frustrated and edgy, as if I’d been denied permission to sneeze or orgasm. People have different ways of setting their world right; for me, writing is the primary way.
But writing demands creativity. And the creative process hurts. Every time I delve into a writing project, even a blog post like this one, it feels like peeling back layers of skin and muscle and running coarse sandpaper over my bones. The pain is proportionate to the scope of the project; so I end up choosing small fiddly things to do, easily started and easily finished, and burying the inklings of larger pieces until they either sprout furiously or die.
It’s so easy to end up digging for inspiration in the swamp of everything sickly and rotten about me. The times in my life when I was most creative, when I was in college, were also the times I was sickest–my insulin resistance was uncontrolled and wreaking havoc on my body, to the point where I could not stay awake unless I was hopped up on sugar and adrenaline. I would sleep all day and write all night and have only scraps of consciousness left for socializing and studying. I admire people who can, but I haven’t yet found a way to live in sunlight and the written word at the same time.
And, of course, there’s the perfectionism-goblin, and his slacker friend procrastination. Even before I start a project, they remind me how much it’ll hurt; once I decide to grit my teeth and work through the pain, they find ways to get in my way. And then, if they can’t stop me from finishing a written piece, they’ll point out every possible flaw, repeatedly, until I hate my work to its very core.
So here I am, a writer who struggles to write. I’m about the opposite of prolific; I stay bottled for days or weeks or months. I feel guilty, and then frustrated, and then as if I’ve started erasing myself. So why do it at all? Why put myself through the process of something that I’m not always convinced I’m cut out to do?
Because when I finally let everything loose, it’s like nothing else matters. Suddenly, I feel whole and alive. When the cork comes off that bottle, and I can really sit down and aim the words so that I know will hit their mark, it’s like no other feeling in the world. Those are the times that I realize I’m doing what I do best, and damn the rest. When I can push the goblins aside and really write for an hour or two, I always end up punctuating my last sentence with a huge sigh of relief.
Like I will when I finish this post.