I hear the voices whispering to me – those neglected characters inside my head, begging me to pick up the pen and start writing their stories again. But when I do – when I put my fingers on the keys or hold a pen — my muscles tense and my mind seizes. Why can’t I write on my stories? What am I so afraid of? This – this blog — is easy. But when I’m writing “for real” on something I care deeply about instead of just doing for fun, I freeze. Why am I so afraid? And when did I decide my stories are “work” instead of “fun??”
I know I tend to hold myself up to impossible standards. I feel like if I can’t blow the competition out of the water on my first try I’m a failure and it is better to never try than to fail.
But those voices, those characters speak to me — a constant murmur of discontent and anticipation underlying everything else in my life.
I know what I should be doing – what I was meant to do, what I love to do. I should be writing. Writing like a fiend, like a woman possessed. I should feel possessed – overwhelmed by my characters and my ideas, like my stories are just as real as my everyday life. I know how that passion, that craven hunger for writing should drive me, how it should leave me exhausted and haunt my dreams. I remember the panic of realizing I didn’t have a pencil with me – how I was sure inspiration would come at any moment and was terrified of not being ready. How the writing ruled me. How I’d jerk awake at night and fumble in the dark for the pencil and paper I always kept next to my bed.
I wonder what happened – what stemmed the flow or out-shouted the roar of torrential words. Where did it all go? Did it disappear word by word as my illness crept into being? Or did it vanish all at once – raped out of me? I’m terrified to know. I don’t want to know. Don’t want to remember that chaotic time before I challenged my helplessness. Is it time to stare down the demons again? Do I need to flush them out, drag them squealing into the light? Rip them and defeat them, turn them inside out so they can become my friends. Allies. Is that what I need again? Is it time to remember what happened in the half-lit dark when I ran away from my mind? I think it is and I think I have to.
The demons – they are different this time, smaller with pin-needle teeth and barbed hands to fit themselves into my tiny crevasses and broken places where I think I have healed, but have not. Tenacious they cling, they skitter and hide like cockroaches confronted with light. Wriggle their way into the narrow gaps in my armor. They’ll suck the life from me if I don’t hunt them down. I must force what is weak to become a strength.
Stop. Stop with the vague and bloated similes. This isn’t a frickin’ parable. It is my life. Come back to the question and try again.
I stopped writing because I was sick and because I didn’t want to face the truth. I was in survival mode. If I wrote I’d have to reflect on my life and I wasn’t ready to do that at the time. Then I just got in the habit of ignoring the gnawing urge to write. Then, the longer this went on the more convoluted my excuses became. And at some point the excuses and avoidance became fear.
I’ve always been afraid of failure. Remember in 5th grade how well I did the first time in the long jump, even though I wasn’t really trying? Then, when I saw that girl with the tight beaded braids fly, I knew there was no way I’d beat her. So I gave up. In fact I stumbled and jumped short on purpose so I wouldn’t have to compete.
I’m a woman now. I have built a life that is beautiful now. There is no reason to hide from self-reflection. As for competition and fear of failure – I need to face those fears, stare them in the eye and write anyway – every day.
Like I read on Pinterest – I need to write until not writing makes me anxious. I need to live life drowning in words.