A conservatory of Ldotter blogs.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Writer's block. . .

. . .has been known to strike me for some pretty extended periods in my life. And, I've been told by more than one person that the only way to break out of it is to write, write, write. Well, since I'm starting to feel a little anxious, I thought I'd write about writer's block.

As most bloggers are writers, a good number of my readers may be able to sympathize -- at least those who have experienced it for extended lengths. I remember being in college hearing someone complain of writer's block because they were having a hard time getting started on a paper, I just wanted to strangle them. And, considering the fact that it was in Illinois, and I would eventually be spared the death penalty, if I had to do it all over again. . .

To someone who feels compelled to write -- and I do see it as a compulsion -- it is nothing short of demonic. You are the Randall "Tex" Cobb to the written word's Larry Holmes. Everyday is fifteen rounds of bludgeoning, after which, all you can say is, "I'll be back tomorrow."

Of course, it's all just matter of anxiety, to state the obvious. But, the frustrating part about it is that I know I'm capable if stringing together a few sentences without completely embarrassing myself, so I don't really have a reason to be anxious. Yet, there I am -- convinced that, if I continue any further with the paragraph I just started, I'll be ridiculed across the Internet. People will forward my blog entries to their friends with subject lines like, "FW: FW: FW: What absolutely SUCKS about blogs!" That Andrew Sullivan will beat a hasty path back to the blogosphere to introduce the "MFCB Award for pathetic attempts at passing oneself off as a writer."

A lot of what causes this is, as I recently told a friend, a slacker complex. It's a stifling presence that gnaws at the conscience like a hyena. She told me that Truman Capote referred to it as "free-floating anxiety". And, that sounds plenty apt to me. God knows I'm not going to quibble with Capote's choice of words as I'm struggling to come up with anything that reads less jarringly than the assembly instructions for a computer desk.

One longtime friend told me some years ago that the anxiety stems from a fear of success. I scoffed at the notion at first -- convinced it was the fear of rejection. But, given some thought, I think he may have a point. Because, while I don't get two tons of fan mail (obscure SNL reference) every week, I do get occasional compliments on my writing. And, they are deeply appreciated.

But, it always makes me a little self-conscious when I get mail like that. I read some of the things people write to me, and in my head, there's this little voice telling me, "Boy, wait'll they figure you out!" And, it seems to me that it's no stretch at all to think that it's that thought lingering in my head when I sit down to write the next entry. So, it follows that it's the sense of success that I get when people tell me they enjoy my writing that I'm running away from. The fear that I'm going to write something that I'll never be able to top -- and that it really won't be all that great.

Luckily, this isn't a constant, unremitting sense. Because, up until very recently, I've used the positive feedback as a reason to put more of myself into the craft. And, it is a wonderful feeling when you sense your confidence building as you write. At times, you hit a stride where you hate to stop writing. You want to find something else to write about -- anything. Just something to muse upon and wrap words around, please.

There aren't many feelings that can top that if you have a writerly inclination. It's the feeling that you're doing what you were put on the earth to do, and that you're somehow earning your keep within yourself, and that your thoughts are being put to some productive use, regardless of whether or not anyone recognizes it.

Thankfully, I don't have as much trouble with the old devil as I have in the past. The episodes seem more brief and less oppressive the past couple of years. It could be that I'm finally growing a little more comfortable in my own skin, which is essential. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don't believe in your writing, the words don't come.

With any luck, this entry is another step toward more regular writing. I know it's not exactly the most riveting topic, so I appreciate those of you who indulge me as I make this slow, fitful return. Just bear with me a little longer and I'll be back in fighting trim.

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