Writing at Gunpoint


Sometimes I hate writing.  Well, it’s not so much that I hate writing as I hate feeling the obligation to write.  I enjoy writing.  I love the feeling of words and thoughts and proto-emotions in my mind flowing out onto whatever media I’m recording them on and having them sit in front of my eyes waiting for their turn in the spotlight.  I love the idea that the words I commit to electronic paper might be read by someone else… just the right person at just the right time, tweaking them just the right way that a  glimmer of understanding is shared.  So I’ve got this blog.  And I’m working on this book.  But today, and maybe just for today… but it was yesterday too… they’re bringing me more guilt than anything else.

A big part of why I’m writing this post now is because I haven’t written one in weeks.  It’s not that I have something particularly special, insightful, or even interesting to say, it’s just that I have a blog, and blogs need to be written in.  Seriously.  I feel lame because I write about two posts a month.  REAL bloggers write every week… or several times a week… or every day… I’m never going to develop a following if I don’t keep churning out material.  Why does that matter to me?  I don’t know, but it does.  So I write.

But even as I’m writing this post, I’m feeling like I should be working on my book.  I’ve got like a chapter done.   And some outlining and rough work, but as far as stuff being actually drafted, I’ve got a chapter done.  I’ve discovered that sitting down and writing for content, with a message and a purpose, is far more difficult than spewing my thoughts out on the interwebs.  I’m way off pace.  When I started, I was incredibly excited.  Now I just feel like I’m failing again.  It’s another one of those things that starts good and becomes labourious.  Another reason to doubt my abilities and subject myself to introspective scorn for my lack of focus.  Another point on the busy side of the ledger that counts my abilities against the areas in which I’m found wanting.  I mean, right now I’m looking at the handy-dandy word count down at the bottom of the wordpress editor and thinking about how much more work it’s going to be to get the post up to a respectable length and how little of value I have to say. I’m actually debating stringing together a bunch of random words, just so I can see the number increase.

The thing is, no one is forcing me to do this.  No one has been complaining that I’m not posting enough.  No one is getting on me about my lack of progress on my book.  No one is hovering over me telling me that I’m worthless if I’m not producing.  I can do that all by myself.  [Here’s where I broaden this out in an attempt to be relevant] We all do.  Well, most of us.  I think.  So it seems.  Somewhere along the line, our joy is stolen.  Our love becomes obligation.  Our hobby becomes pressure.  Like we need more pressure.  We judge ourselves by standards no one has set for us, and when failing against them, we project that failure into the way we think other people see us.  We feel like we’re expected to do something, so we do it.  We don’t want to let people down, whether they actually care or not.

That’s enough we.  Back to me.  I’m working on something right now and you’re just going to have bear with me.  It’s not just feeling this obligation to the judgment of others that lays on the pressure, I really do want to do this.  Why is it so bloody hard to do something I want to do?  Maybe it’s because staring at a blank screen makes me feel stupid.  Gawking at an unfinished sentence leaves me feeling useless.  Keeping a train of thought going can sometimes be like… whatever.

I’m unemployed.  Right now, at this time in my life, this is my best opportunity to write.  I’m simultaneously terrified that I’m going to get a job offer before I’m finished the book, never picking it up again, and that I’m never going to get a job, causing me to lose my house and starve with my family on the street and not have a laptop to finish my book on.

I feel like I have something worthwhile to say.  I’ve had people tell me they enjoy my writing.  Still, when I look at the sheer scale of the task, and the monumental arrogance it takes to write a book that says people are living their lives wrong, it’s more than daunting.  I start thinking less about what needs to be said and more about filling pages.  I don’t want to write filler.  No one wants to read filler.  No one wants to eat filler.  That doesn’t have anything to do with anything, I’m just saying… although I do fear that once I finish my book people will be more likely to eat it than read it, let alone buy it… whatever (again).

It’s the pressure that takes the joy out of it.  That takes the joy out of so many things.  In this, right now, I’ve got nearly 900 words that aren’t in my book.  That’s about 3 pages that I’m sitting here trying to decide if I’ve wasted.  I’ve taken time that I feel like I should have been working to blog.  I guess there’s still some sense of accomplishment in that.  At least I wasn’t spending the time not enjoying watching TV because I felt like I should be writing…

I’m going to find the joy in words again.  I’m going to sit down and write.  I’m going to say things that are profound and entertaining.  I’m going to believe I can do this, because if I don’t believe it, then I know I’m not going to do it.  I’m going to do the guilty TV thing.  Or the guilty computer game thing.  Or the guilty reading thing.  I want to be able to live my life without feeling like I should have been doing something different.  I’m going to pray that God gives me the message.  I’m going to pray that he unlocks my mind so that things can pour out onto the page that are worth reading…  that I can feel good about writing…  that will make people smile… that will make me feel useful.  I will not give up just because it doesn’t feel fun anymore, but I’ll seek to push through to the place that I started – the place where thoughts have meter and melody and putting them to paper is making music.  Because that’s mad cool.

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About Aaron Mark Reimer

Aaron Mark Reimer was born in 1980 on Prince Edward Island, Canada, and his parents promptly moved him west to Ontario. He is a pastor, a writer, a speaker, a musician, and a bit of a geek. Published works include The Art of Being Broken, Worshipping Through John: A Devotional For Praise Teams, and a short story about going to Jupiter with his dad that he wrote when he was seven. He has one wife (Vanessa), two sons (Dúnadan and Taliesin), and many cats. Follow him on Twitter as @IAmAnErrorMaker

Posted on July 10, 2011, in Ramblings. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I always find that process is my poison. I hate accomplishing things but I love when things are accomplished. I revel in the glory that is my complete sentence. My thoughts strewn about the electronic paper lawyers at the scene of an accident. I too wish I was entertaining, thought provoking, insightful, eloquent… alas, I am me. I am nothing more than the flesh and bone that some character named God knit together in my mother’s womb. I can never be more than that individual who was fearfully and wonderfully made by the Creator of the universe. I can never be all that I expect myself to be and must settle for being the beloved child of a holy and living God.

    It’s not that we don’t have the right to complain, its all just a matter of perspective. Keeping the pace doesn’t make sense in some cases, especially if you are keeping pace to a schedule formed without proper understanding as to what realistic expectations you could hold yourself to are. (I don’t think that was a run-on-sentence, but it felt off to me…) The thing is that when you allow your own sense of introspective hate (to quote a famous DT song) to consume you, you will accomplish nothing but wallowing in self-pity.

    I don’t write this as a criticism but to spur you on to accomplish something great! Spurs don’t tickle, but horses seem to respond well to them. I know that your book will be an amazing read, I am excited to be a part of the process, even if the only thing I can do for you is purchase it and recommend it to a friend. You are a good man with an even good-er heart and I am excited to see what pops out of that brain of yours. Stay focussed, believe in yourself and for God’s sake, get to work!!

    • Thanks, Mikey. I really do appreciate your encouragement. Also, you and Karen are an awesome writer :P. As for the pace, my plan is definitely achievable for me, it’s primarily laziness and procrastination that are the problems.

  2. The great obstacle of writing is the lack of passion in what you believe.I’m not saying you do not have passion but I have found that it is easier to form ideas when the subject is what you are interested in and that people would be drawn to that subject as well. Sometimes you have to withdraw from writing for ideas to form because staring at a page only frustrates the writer and discouragement steps in. Take a break and let God form the words that He wants you to say. Sometimes an idea will form while sitting quietly in God’s presence.

  3. I love writing. I do it all the time. There’s really nothing about the writing process that hangs me up, washes me out, or gets my knickers in a twist. There are times when I think I might be experiencing a block, but then I just talk to myself about what I’m writing, and the words start to flow again. Sometimes simply sounding things out, rather than writing them, helps to fuel the mind-finger connection.

    More than that, I don’t tell myself “I can’t.” I mean, it is true that if I say I can’t, I can’t. As Henry Ford once quipped, “Whether you say you can or you can’t, either way you’re right.” So I don’t waste my time with self-deprecating remarks that masquerade as humility when what they really are is simply a form of self-abuse. I tell myself that I [i]can[/i] write, I [i]can[/i] philosophize, I [i]can[/i]… Eventually, with enough self-affirmation, I begin to re-wire my neuro-network and reap the benefits of telling myself that I [i]can[/i] do whatever it is that I’m setting out to do. As neurologists are wont to say, “What fires together wires together.” In other words, what you program into your brain is what you will live in reality.

    Think about it.

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