Posted by : Sherri Cornelius Thursday, May 10, 2012

I’ve been thinking about my reluctance to write. I used to think it was garden-variety writer’s block, and it seemed very clearly connected to stress: the normal stressors at home; the pressure of having an agent and the expectations that went along with it; physical restrictions, such as migraines. Then there are little bullshit reasons, like not having a suitable writing space (though what that might be I haven’t figured out yet).

I feel like an asshole, knowing other people write in the face of greater pressures and still being unable somehow to overcome my piddly ones. But the one thing I’ve known the entire time is that it’s a mental block. The stress isn’t only an excuse, it’s a real reason. What I haven’t known is why stress shuts me down.

So the reason I’m finally writing about this is because I think I've placed another piece, possibly the most important piece, of my psychological puzzle.

Now, I’ve mentioned the fear of success in passing in previous reflections on writer’s block, but I’ve never taken it seriously. I mean, how douchey does fearing success sound? “I’m so good it scares me.” Right. But last night I was telling my kids how I didn’t apply myself in college, a typical parent’s warning to learn from my mistakes. All night the memory nagged me, the memory of what it felt like to choose to skip voice lessons that last semester, to avoid going to the piano practice rooms (and then when I got there to study history instead of playing scales), to be glad to excuse my slacking by pointing to my full-time job.

And it felt familiar. Well yeah, of course it’s familiar because I went through it, but it felt recently familiar. And then I made the connection. It’s the same thing I do today with writing. The same reluctance to begin. The same restlessness when I finally sit down to write. The same anxiety about what I should be doing as opposed to what I am doing, and it doesn’t seem to matter what those two things are. In fact, they switch places regularly.

Once I realized this connection I started to make others. I’ll go into those in the next post. This is a biggie. I hope I can see it through.

{ 7 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. I can relate to the fear of success. For me, it comes down to being unsure if I can live up to the accomplishment of doing well, and all the trappings that go along with it. And the fear that I'll be exposed as a hack and a fraud. But I'm finding now that the hunger to make all my efforts finally pay off is eclipsing that. The fear that I've spent all these years trying to be a writer but with nothing to show for it is greater. Because, honestly, when I try to think of what else I can do, I got nothing. I simply HAVE to make this work. I've invested too much of myself.

  2. This is all horribly familiar to me. I did the same thing -- with almost all creative endeavors except woodworking, which I fought with other time constraints and even weather to get to. I struggled with writing the exact same way, and you've voiced a lot of internal issues I had/have, too. Especially the what I should be/am doing switcheroo that goes on. Ugh.

    Looking forward to the rest of your enlightenment, and by the way, this theme is cool.

  3. I'm also looking forward to Part Two!

  4. My own fear is more specific: I'm afraid I can't write anything people actually want to read.

  5. [...] Last time I made an unexpected connection between the failures of the two huge artistic ventures in my life, singing and writing. (And yes, I do consider myself a failed writer at this point, but I hope to change that.) This realization brought other, smaller connections to light–things I’d already identified independently, but when interconnected make a sizeable web of self-sabotage. [...]

  6. It's interesting you should post on this - Darc goes through many of these same internal arguments also. I suspect it's fairly common for the creative types. Creating - whether writing or painting or whatever the passion is - is so joyful that it feels like it must be wrong somehow.

    At the same time, there are pressures to be "perfect," whether those pressures come from internal or external sources, they still exist and must be dealt with.

    It came be a little paralyzing to try to produce something under all that!

    Looking forward to the other parts you've got coming up. :)

    I like the new theme, btw. :)

  7. Fear of success is fear of lots of things. How would success affect one's family? What about friends? How would friends feel if you are successful in your goals and they're not? And we all see the vitriol thrown at successful people. JK Rowling is loved and hated after all. And people will expect things of you. You will have to keep working hard to be remain successful and not a one-hit-wonder. Success brings a lot of crap along with it.

    Sometimes I think I identify so much as an outsider, a struggler, a failure-at-my-dream...who would I be if I became "a success?" I read something about how David Sedaris became successful by writing about what a loser, misfit he was. So now that he is a can he still write those stories...and those stories made him famous.

    Anyway, keep writing. Please.


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