Friday, December 30, 2016

Losers and Other Voices in Your Head

Mandy, 1987-ish.

Part of not writing or not creating whatever it is you should be doing but aren't, is dealing with the tumult and fray that are the voices in your head. I'm not talking diagnosable voices that might lead to some sort of prescription or anything. I'm talking about the voices of doubt and derision that tell you that you can't. That you suck. That you're a loser for even thinking anyone would want to read anything your lame ass would write.

Every time I'm faced with the blank page, those voices start to clamor. Voices from the past. Voices from my own psyche that tell me I'm not good. I'm not worthy. I'm a piece of trash and no one would ever want to read anything I wrote.

"Who do you think you are?" they whisper. "You're just a loser."

"Loser" is the secret key to the darkest door in my brain. Walk down a spiraling staircase and descend into the pitch and cobwebby spaces of my gray matter — there you will find a little girl huddled in the corner. It's difficult to even write these words because I've given you access to the most vulnerable space within me. You now have the means with which to hurt me, easily.


It's my kryptonite.

I'm 45 years old and still I'm walking up the slow slope of Woodbank hill towards my house, the one with the peeling paint, the broken garage door and the overgrown grass. I'm still trying to get past one house as quickly as I can, before the Catholic school kids come out of their garage to play basketball in the driveway.

Too late. Always too late.

"Your mother's a drunk!" they shout. "You're a loser!"


Once planted it's there forever. Why? Why can some little snot-nosed, private school brats infect my brain like that? Maybe the only reason it resonated with me is because it's what I already believed about myself. Maybe it wouldn't have mattered a whit if I liked myself.

I suspect that's the real truth of the matter.


The blank page sits there and taunts. "Loser, who would want to read your stuff?" "Loser, don't post that on Facebook, Jesus." "Loser. Nobody gives a damn."

All the voices that clamor for your attention. All the voices that want to bring you down. But then another voice, perhaps the voice of the divine. Something calls to you and says, "You're fine."

That twinkle. That sparkling little light that reaches down the deepest cavern of your biggest doubts and tells you that you can.

And so I do.

Each time that I do, some kind of victory is won. And maybe that's why you're here too. Maybe you've been in the dark. Maybe you want to see the light. I'll hold my candle up and show you the way.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Writing Is Contagious. Like An Infectious Disease From Which You Will Never Recover.

My six year old is proud of her writing. So innocent! So naive!

My friend John is blogging now. He's been blogging every day. And each time I read his short quips, it makes me want to write in my blog. But then I have nothing focused to say and I don't really write "short" anything. I back my way into stories, books and blogs and it takes a bit of meandering before I find my way.

Perfectionism is hurting my ability to write. If I don't have something profound and tidy to say here, I don't say anything.

If I can't make each chapter of the memoir I wrote perfect, I don't edit. I have a completed memoir. A 300-page finished book that just needs me to make some minor tweaks and edits. But right now every time I open that giant file, I feel exhausted and weighed down by all of the ways it's not perfect.

I submitted a short short story to a number of literary journals recently. And I also submitted a longer nonfiction piece (one of the chapters from my memoir) to some as well. Overall, I submitted to about 30 journals. I've gotten about three or four rejections so far. One rejection wasn't "quite" a total rejection. They offered to publish my story if I changed the ending.

But I don't want to change the ending.

The ending is the one thing that's perfect.

Unlike everything else I'm not writing and not editing and not doing.

I had a point with all of this but I can't quite find it. Everything related to writing feels oppressive and heavy. Each rejection pulls me a bit deeper. I try to laugh it off, but it doesn't feel good. Maybe I'm not editing my manuscript because I fear rejection? If I never finish the edits, the memoir can never be rejected.

And if I never write in this blog, I'll never have to be rejected here either. No comments? No problem! No likes, who cares!

Why do we write anyway? Is it navel gazing and egocentric? Is it to connect to others? I suppose if it were the former, the lack of comments or likes wouldn't matter. If it's the latter, the inability to publish or to have a conversation about it, that would feel like failure. But still the ego's in there, I'm sure.


Is everything about a fear of rejection or failure? Is that why we fall off the wagon? Cheat on our diets? Don't exercise? Don't do our homework? Procrastinate at work? I feel like there's some wisdom at my fingertips, but it eludes me.

It's probably something quippy like, "What would you do if you couldn't fail?"

Maybe I'd write a self-help book. Maybe I'd go on the motivational speaker circuit. Or maybe I'd just sit here writing shitty blogs and collecting rejection letters like lost loves and missed opportunities.

Okay. Time to rethink that motivational speaker career.