Friday, June 10, 2011

On being comfortable with beginnings...

Posted by Jennifer B. at The Writing Cocoon

A sort-of continuation on yesterday’s post - I actually wrote most of this a week ago, but it feels like it relates to Dr. Pinkola-Estes’ note, too.

Beginnings. I used to love them. I remember August of every year being such a magical time when I was a child: selecting shiny new packets of pens and pencils; laying out stiff, new school clothes and snipping off their tags with fingernail clippers; and picking out a new lunchbox, its matching thermos brightly painted.  Everything was fresh and anything was possible at the beginning of a new school year. The beginning was my favorite part, for it held the promise of malleability and hope.

Something changed for me between the worlds of school days and work days.  Now, the start of something new fills me with fear and dread. My only thought is: when will the beginning be over and the middle, or better yet, the end come?  The anxiety of the great unknown stretching out before me is a crushing weight.

I’m finding it the same with beginning to write. The beginning feels like I’m drowning.  There is so much to learn, so much to do, and so far to go that I can’t even begin to imagine the end result.  I have to fight the urge to shut down completely.  This is before I’ve faced my first re-write, criticism, or rejection letter.

When did I stop being adventurous and become so frightened by every shadow? The fear gobbles up every last bit of joy. It is a ridiculous and pathetic way to live, so how do I reverse this creeping tide of terror?

Maybe it is something about being an adult, or my particular shift to adulthood and my personal reaction to that shift.  One too many things went catastrophically wrong, and I lost my faith in “everything’s going to be okay in the end.” Let’s face it, life doesn’t always work out for the best. The problem is, I can’t really be in that mindset and be creative. For me, creating is an act of faith: in myself, in life, in others. Somewhere along the line I let my world get too small, the walls closed in, and I just stopped living life. I existed, but that was about it. It was my defense. Not a good way to live.

Writing feels like being open to the world again, and that’s why I loved Dr. Pinkola-Estes’ note so much.  At its core, being creative isn’t about perfect grammar or perfect writing or a dream publishing deal. These external things are not trivial, but I can’t imagine them being a sufficient motivation for writing. I also have to find a way to be open to that passion and creative drive, which means being open to life.

I’m trying to concentrate on the creating, the joy in imagining my characters and their worlds, to focus on today’s task alone, and to accept that feeling of free fall and just go along for the ride. Today I don’t have to be a great writer, I just have to write. I can’t help but wonder: if there is no joy in the process, what is the point? This is a hard lesson for me at the moment, but it feels critical to my success. I suppose there is something in all this about patience and perseverance, too, things that don’t come easily to me.

Here is one of my very favorite poems, “Housing Shortage,” by Naomi Replansky. It fits with what I'm trying to express, but she says it all so eloquently and succinctly.

Tomorrow - some content about my WIP!

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