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.