December 21, 2010

Exorcising the Demons



I’ve been writing for some time. For far longer than it would seem based on the work I have out there. It took me a while to get serious about it, to throw away all the artistic pretensions and delusions. I struggled through a lot of those misconceptions before reaching this point, before finally approaching writing as a task requiring careful and considerate work. Only at then can you ever produce anything worthy of being called art.

Foolishly, I had thought I was done with the struggles. I don’t mean with money or recognition. I don’t even mean finding my voice—I’m always learning something new. The struggle is with myself.

I’ve always been my harshest critic. I can never fully exorcise that voice in my head. It’ll disappear for moments only to come roaring back. It pushes through the successes, ripping doubts from my skull-space and forging them, beating them into a vicious Möbius strip of nigh self-loathing. Sure, it whispers to me, you had a story published, but that’s it—it’s the most you can ever hope for. You won that contest—so, what? Someone raved about your story—so, what? Now, you’ve got pressure to produce, you fucking looser. Good luck with that.

The dystopian undulations of the Möbius Strip of Shame starts me thinking too much. I start doubting. I start second guessing everything: paragraphs, sentences, dialogue, grammar, and even the goddamned comma. Story construction and dialogue feel forced and hollow. My brain traps itself in a Catch-22 circuit. I write and re-write the same paragraph, aching for one sentence that sounds…not good but just right. Hours tic away. I get nowhere. That one sentence twists and further feeds the angst circle—see, you’ve been here for hours and what do you have?

One poorly written sentence.



Rationally, I know it’s all bullshit. I know it’s in my head. I know I can write. I know I can construct a sentence. Away from the keyboard, I can even step back and be objective. Work has been stressful the last several months. We’ve had a tremendous amount of students in crisis. A number of personal medical appointments have eaten free time and mad money. Remodeling the kitchen has, until very recently, been the focus of every weekend for almost two months. Thursday will be the start of the first real vacation I’ve had in well over a year. Stress has been stoking these fires and choking me with black smoke.

I know all of it.

And I know I’ll get through. It’s just frustrating—I wish I could discover some easy means of pushing it all away when it starts, cutting the Möbius Strip so it unfolds and unfurls into multi-dimensional sides.

What do you do?

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