Get Over Yourself and Write
There are a million reasons not to write. I’m a writer and I suffer the same woes, so I sympathize. But let’s get serious with ourselves for just a moment. We also tend to go sympathizing too much sometimes. Let’s give all the sympathy a rest, shall we?
Here are a few of the most common writerly worries. Instead of massaging wittow huwt egwos and makin’ it aw bettow I’m going to get tough and tell some of you to get going already! Tough love responses to writer’s worries. Got it? Here goes.
1. I’m not good enough. I’m a phony. I’m not as good as people think I am.
Finally, the truth comes out. Here it comes sweetheart…You are not Raymond Carver. Hemingway would break his pencil over your head as part of a freak tuna fishing accident on his boat in the Mediterranean, and Virginia Woolf would politely ask you to help scrounge up more wood to warm her room, and then move the whole dang house while you’re away. The dirty gum stuck under the table of this misery about being no good is really a more embarrassing fantasy of ambition–of wanting to be as good as the stars that shine in the writer’s night sky. Get your boots back down to terra firma Buzz Aldrin and write as yourself for a change!
2. That highly selective contest/journal/MFA program only likes work by their cronies.
I hear this one a lot. It is surprisingly popular wisdom and it is unsurprisingly untrue on so many levels. In fact, it would only be on the worst possible level of complete and utter unprofessionalism that any legitimate purveyor of writing would ONLY admit work made by their sycophants. In some cases, there are laws prohibiting that–and we all know how if there’s a law against a thing, that thing almost never happens. But seriously, the real source of this writer’s campfire tale of rejection for life is the confusion caused between policies of selection seen as wholly elitist and those that are highly democratic. Great journals and magazines want great writers. Many of them and all of the good ones SOLICIT writing from the best. If you’ve won a National Book Award, the editors don’t think you need to be bothered with hitting refresh on submittable for the next 180 days. Right, that’s true, but take your BINARY thinking glasses off for one second to inspect the salt on this pretzel, Bud: While they do move stars (however they define them) up to the front of the line, almost all of them do select writing from writers they don’t know and have never met from the slush pile. Nepotism is a real force in life. And you should get it to work for you too. So go win a National Book Award already and quit chewing my ear off about how unfair the world is!
3. Very few people can understand my style of writing. It’s so ….
What? So bad? Then make it understandable then, what’s the big deal? Believe it or not, this is another one of those problems I blame on the Romantics–Lord Byron, Coleridge, Wordsworth–you know the gang. You’ve seen their tags all over the concrete walls of popular culture. “Art is spontaneous overflow of emotion.” “Geniuses are born not made.” “Style is an expression of self.” Or, “Neo-Classicists are going down–Rumble on 5th street tonight! Thou durst beith there!” You’ve seen their marks, the crazy finger signs, the frilly shirts. For the writer who worries that no one understands her writing, remember this. Your style is not a prison house! There is no unwavering style that should be yours to your own detriment. Change your style. Make it more legible to the audience you’re addressing. That’s a writer’s job. That’s the job of a writer who’s writing a grocery list. Know your purpose and audience and fit the style to the task. Write something any one can understand for Pete’s sake and then maybe you’ll change your plaintive excuse the way I change my tires.
4. All the rejection is killing my drive and sapping my motivation. I’m not inspired anymore.
Okay, so tough love is overrated sometimes. Here’s the thing. If your mood is not ultimately lifted for having written, then perhaps writing is not for you. Rejection sucks. The only reason why I endure it is that the payoff of writing itself far outweighs the sting. If it didn’t then I would alter my circumstances so as to avoid receiving any more soul killing rejection. Writing ought to make you feel better. That’s the simple answer. So, hey, if you’re sticking your hand in a fire and screaming at me that something is burning you, I’m going to let you figure out the solution for yourself Johnny Storm!
5. I can’t write. I have nothing to write about!
Salinger once quipped “There are no writers anymore. Only book selling louts and big mouths,” and the commercial forces behind this writerly worry of having nothing to write about is behind his frustration. Writing is an art, not a product packaged in plastic so thick you need a blowtorch to open it, but if you force it the bag pops open and you spend the next five agonizing minutes picking up little bits of lexical epiphany and spilled verbal eureka off of your kitchen linoleum. Here’s the rub, Sam Walton, your writing doesn’t have to march off your assembly line like so many whatsits and whoodads. If you have nothing, fine. Live with that for a while. Let it marinate (not Mary-o-nate, as said by certain louts I know). After all, nothing is that magical vapor from which the entire universe banged into fiery existence; it’s the dragony void the supreme maker wrestled with at the beginning of time and space, before there was Taylorized production, Simon and Schuster, peeps of every color, and designed obsolescence.
6. I just can’t write anymore. Nothing helps. I don’t know what’s wrong.
Sometimes, we tell ourselves truths through lies. How’s that for porch psychology! Here’s the deal Wolf Man and Dora, Sybil, all of your faces of Eve, you don’t really mean it if you are stuck in a repeat and rinse cycle of bemoaning the loss of something you threw out. You want me to see you stuck in some Greek tragedy, like the soccer ball kicked by the gods for sport, but that mysterious force that disintegrates the pen and the keyboard the second you touch either with the intention of writing something down is a hard pill for me to swallow. In my Family Guy cut away of you, the cut scene I see right after you complain to me for the zillionth time that you can’t write anymore, I see you all Jaba the Hut on a couch with every flavor Ben and Jerry ever made emptied on your torso like a crayola pyramid watching endless TV talk show drivel and then a marathon of melodrama (Lifetime movies) with titles like “Mamma, May I Marry Danger?” and “My Husband the Hamster Rapist”–all while that open Word document sleeps on reliable standby over at your writing table, unoccupied these last 90 days. Wake up to yourself!