5 min read | 1,313 words
Writing is like Christmas with relatives: a love/hate kind of thing. When it’s going well, when you’re in a rhythm and shit is clicking, you’re flooded with joy and excitement and peace and all that other cliché feel-good bullshit that borders on euphoria. You wonder how you could possibly do anything else; why you would want to. But when it’s not going well, when you’re burnt out or have nothing to say or forget what you have to say or don’t know how to say what you have to say, it shits on your face a huge and heavy pile of stress and frustration and insecurity and self-doubt that you can’t get out from under, and that leaves you questioning your self-worth and life’s trajectory for weeks.
Seriously. Writing is hard. Even for those of us who enjoy it, and who feel called to it; who feel that it comes naturally (except for when it doesn’t).
I’ve noticed that since being in this new space my dedication to writing seems to trudge through bipolar cycles, maniacally hovering exclusively at either end of the “How committed to this am I?” spectrum: either I’m thoroughly committed to it (“Let’s fucking do this!”), or I’m not (“Fuuuuuck this I give up forever"). I have no idea if there’s a pattern to these cycles aside from the pattern of existing (on repeat), or what triggers them. I haven’t paid attention as closely as I should to figure that part out. I just know that these cycles, they come and they go. And when it’s good it’s ✨✨✨, and when it’s bad it’s 💩💩💩.
When I’m committed to my writing that commitment is unwavering. I literally can’t stop doing it. I spend every free moment at work click-clacking words into one of (at the time of publishing) 107 draft posts. I spend every moment not near a computer dictating words and sentences and entire paragraphs into a running note on my phone that, at last count, is a few weeks old and more than 12,000 words long, or scribbling in one of four notebooks I leave in my car, my bag, my desk at work and in the kitchen at home. I constantly talk through essay topics and structure with anyone who will listen, which is usually just the voice in my head. I spend hours referencing old blog posts and photos and contacting friends to verify, as best any of our drugged-out brains can, details from the past. I read read read and write write write with rabid fervor and at the same time; I usually devour three or four books in a single weekend while also knocking out one or two solid essays/posts. I will skip the gym, sleep, the pool, sometimes even work, to write.
But when I’m not committed, when I’m hovering over the “Fuuuuuck this I give up forever” end of the “How committed to this am I?” spectrum, I willingly and happily have absolutely nothing to do with writing at all. Like a crazy person, I actually on purpose bury my laptop under a couch cushion or my bed and leave it there for days, sometimes weeks (not an exaggeration in the slightest). I don’t read anything. I don’t write anything. And I definitely don’t think about doing either thing (while somehow also whining, at least internally, about not doing either thing). (I binge on Netflix shows or spend extra time at the gym or pool instead.)
My problem, I’m convinced, has nothing to do with passion. I feel like I have to clarify that to you and reiterate it to myself. My problem, I’m convinced, has everything to do with commitment to the craft. The passion is always there, but the ability (or maybe it’s the willingness) to act on it? Not so much. Why? Who the fuck knows.
It’s not that I don’t want to write because it’s too hard, or because it takes too long. It’s not that I have nothing to say, or no idea what to say or how to say what I have to say. It’s that I don’t know where to start. It’s that when I sit down to write or type the static in my head, nothing comes out. My mind doesn’t go blank, it goes haywire. Into overdrive. Jumbling everything together in a vicious and messy dark mass of overwhelm, insecurity and self-doubt. Decision paralysis.
I’m either asking myself: Who’s actually going to read any of this shit? Why does anyone care? What makes my story, my writing, special? How can anyone stand to read this word vomit? How does anyone think anything I write is good?
Or I’m asking myself: What do I share publicly in this space? What do I save for later, for “real” publication in a book? If I share all my good stuff now, I’ll run out of stuff to share later and then what even is the point if I have nothing left to be published published? What do I keep to myself and not share at all? What’s the point of writing at all if my writing isn’t going to be read? (Practice? Bullshit. I can practice writing without sharing or publishing it, so don’t feed me that tripe.) Paralysis by analysis.
Part of my issue is I keep placing parameters on my writing when I know I suck at having parameters placed on my writing. I always have. Word count, deadline, topic. Give me any of those and I can’t give you shit in return. Or, maybe all I can give you is shit in return. My inability to write when given parameters is innate, and why I never became a journalist. My writing thrives when it can be what it wants to be, what it’s supposed to be; not what someone else says it has to be.
Turns out that in this space that I’ve been having trouble filling, I’m the only jackass putting parameters on my writing. Naturally. I’m the only person telling me that I *hAvE* to write about a certain topic in a certain way with a certain number of words by a certain date (lulz yeah right). I’m the only person telling me what I should or should not post; what I can and can’t post; in what order I should or can post. I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself to abide by an arbitrary set of posting rules that I created for this space using a logic that I know (I guess???) made sense in the moment but that I can’t figure out now.
This is how I make myself feel:
I don’t really know where I’m going from here, or with this rambling mess of word vomit. I’m not giving up or disappearing (hell to the fuck back to the hell no nope no way), but I also feel like at this moment I’m not really moving forward with my writing. And that’s really fucking frustrating. I have a lot to say; a lot to share. But I keep not being able to get any of it out. I keep freezing (WHERE DO I START? HOW I DO DIS?), or second-guessing myself; questioning whether or not what I have to say matters or is relevant; if it’s well-written; if it belongs in this space; if I should save it for a future book; if it’s long enough or too long; if it’s interesting or entertaining, or (*gAsP*) boring or cliché or offensive.
Anyway, there’s really no point to this except to say I’m stuck and it sucks but I’m still trying and maybe now that I’ve let out this brain fart instead of trying to hold it in forever it’ll take away some of the (self-imposed) stress and maybe, JUST MAYBE, I can start writing productively again.