I’m not gonna lie; shit’s getting real. The funds in my bank account are dwindling, the thought of writing YET ANOTHER cover letter makes me dry heave, and I’m not inspired enough my any of my ideas to bring myself to write them down. Between worrying about having enough money to buy food and pay my rent, the possibilities that my health will fail at some point and I’ll end up in the ER with a big fat bill, and the confusion about which way to turn next to get some desperately needed funds, I’m having a hard time remembering why I wanted to be a writer in the first place, let alone mustering up the courage to put words on paper.
The funny thing is, when I’m distracted by other pressing matters, the writing I want to do doesn’t just go away; it finds a way to squeeze its way out into the world when I let my guard down a little. You know how when you’re a kid and getting one of many immunizations and you’re all scared because they’re going to poke with that big fat needle? And so you tense up your teeny little bicep and it hurts like hell. And then afterwards you emerge from the examination room, your face red and splotchy and your breathing just a string of ragged sobs, and your big brother tells you, “You know, if you relax your arm, it hurts less.”
It’s so counter-intuitive to relax in the face of stress and uncertainty and a lack of inspiration. But I find that my words often tend to eek out of my pen and onto a spare receipt or envelope late at night, when I’m winding down and getting ready for bed, or in other words when I am able relax a little and let my guard down.
The other thing that helps me relax are encouraging, snark-free words from other, more established wordsmiths. I really appreciated Brendan Constantine’s post on Poet’s & Writer’s today, which speaks to the importance of getting it out:
“…it will always be true that our poorest work lies ahead of us. We’re going to write something truly awful in the future. We have to. Why do we have to? It’s often the only way to uncover the good writing. Like going through a kitchen drawer, sometimes we have to take out things we don’t need in order to get at the things we do.”
Constantine goes on to pinpoint what holds me, and a lot of other people, back,: the fear of writing crap, or even worse, crap that someone else has already written less crappily.
“Where I see many of us get stuck, again and again, is in forgetting the role of “chance.” No sooner are we enjoying a sense of success (even if it’s just saying “Well, that didn’t TOTALLY suck.”) than we are forgetting the experience of discovering our art as we went. Chances are (sorry), we’ll attempt to create something else, but this time out of sheer will. Under these conditions, we’re totally screwed…The best we can hope for is something almost as good as we used to be.”
Thank you, Mr. Constantine, for reminding me to stop gritting my teeth and letting me know its ok to sift through the kitchen drawer a bit until I find what I’m looking for.