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February 2017

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Losing and finding the center

"For many of us, sooner or later there comes a point where work gets hard and there’s no support at all from the outside world. That’s when you feel besieged. The fear of getting it wrong stops you."

The above quote comes from a post by Tricia Sullivan on the inner turmoil that can result from too much second-guessing and self-criticism.

And then there's this post by Michelle Davidson Argyle about being paralyzed by too much feedback.

And this one by Dawn Metcalf on not writing when life gets in the way, and the self-perpetuating negative cycle that can result: "I felt like I'd failed across the board, which didn't improve my mood or my ability to write. And that is the flipside of having a public voice and a private life--there is so much of our stories that cannot be told because while being a writer is public, being a human being is private."

Sometimes, a writer's mind is her own worst enemy. We need to be listeners, sensitive, attuned to our environments. We need critique. We need professionalism. Yet those are the very elements that can turn poisonous on us. And on top of any inner struggle comes a pressure not to admit it, not to reveal weakness. To be honest and vulnerable and creative while also having review-proof hides and boundless optimism ... Got all that? And can you juggle on a high wire, too?

I have always loved the way Anne Lamott approaches the writing life in Bird by Bird. She talks craft and practical matters, but she admits that the writing life is filled with inner battles, filled with apprehension, mind games, self-doubt, despair. Not only with those things--of course, there is joy, too, or why else even do this?--but she shows that you can feel all those things and admit it and still write, still publish, still live.

I hear tell that not every writer experiences this, and to those who don't, all I can say is: I'm happy for you, bless your heart. But the writers who do go through this don't do it to be precious. It's not because they've bought into some myth of the tortured artist. The more writers discuss this, the more we realize how common it is, and the more we learn to recognize where some of the pitfalls lie. When we find ourselves lost, we make finding the center again a priority. We know it's around here somewhere.


((((((((((Jenn))))))))) Lovely.
Thank you! Hugs back atcha!
I'm forever grateful that I chose to start blogging for many reasons, not least is the wonderful, empathic, supportive writerly community I've found here. Just knowing I'm not alone when I'm feeling low about my writing is a blessing. As is knowing that most of us go through those low patches from time to time. We suffer, we support, we haul ourselves up by our bootstraps, and ... just sometimes ... we get to celebrate together too :O)
Yes, imagine how difficult the journey if one had to make it alone!
Great post, Jenn! Sooooo true. Thanks, needed to hear these words today :).
Glad it was helpful! :-)
I know what you mean about being your own worst enemy. Your brain can have you running in circles. Sometimes it's best to just do while trying not to think. Get out of your own way. Easier said than done - I know this too.
Often, the first person a writer fights is him/herself.