Monday, July 21, 2014

When Writing is a Hate-Hate Relationship

I'm sitting here at the local coffee shop, staring at my computer screen, moving my fingers over the laptop keys and hating every word that blooms beneath my fingers.

No one talks like that. Can't you even write dialogue anymore?

Stop writing dialogue! This isn't a play, this is a novel--or it's supposed to be.

You completely forgot all about X character. What is he doing? Why is he even there?

This character has no voice. No personality. You should just scrap everything. It's been almost a year and you're only on Chapter 2. This is going nowhere.

These are the thoughts of an adult: a self-aware, hypercritical, detail-obsessed adult. An adult with, arguably, too many years of reading and editing and negative feedback under her belt. An adult who feels as though after all the writing classes and literature analyses she's been through, she should be a million times better at what she's doing than this, godd&*%it.

But I'm not. I'm not better at all.

I desperately miss the days when I'd write a sentence and immediately love it so much that I'd write another. And another. Every idea I had was Awesome. Every piece I wrote was Great. I wanted to show people my writing all the time, every time. I was spinning straw into gold. I couldn't fail, so why would I ever want to stop?

My most cherished time as a writer, I think, was when I tried my hand at comedy writing. This was in junior high school, at a time when I felt like an old soul in a land of kindergartners. My friends were dating each other left and right, breaking up and hooking up and cheating and professing love as quickly as they breathed. It was ridiculous. None of it was love. None of it even really mattered at all. And so I parodied it. I took all of their antics and boiled them down into Soap Opera Digest accounts that I scribbled hastily into a spiral-bound notebook.

Of course, I couldn't keep gems like that to myself, so I shared the first "episode" with one friend, who liked it so much that she stole the notebook and passed it around her next class. By the end of the day, not only had every person who had been "featured" in the episode read it, but they were begging me to write another one! And when I did write another, they were hankering for more! Insatiable! It was quite literally the best feeling in the world: I had an audience, and they wanted to read my writing before I had even written it.

Back then, I thought my writing was hilarious. Brilliant, even. I was cocky and confident that I had a bright future of notoriety as a prize-winning author ahead of me. And now here I am, nearly 30 years old with no great prize in sight and having been unable to produce one single written work I'm truly proud of since I graduated college. In this desert of creativity, I've grown to hate writing--not because it won't win me the fame and fortune I once imagined, but because I hate both the act of writing and every bit of self-criticism that comes along with it as well as what I produce. None of it seems finished, and when I try and pretend that maybe I'm just being too hard on myself, the feedback from contest or two reminds me just how far I have to go. And if it's not finished, I don't want to share it. And if I don't share it, then the part of writing I love most--the entertained audience--is missing. And so I'm left with my own frustrated, dissatisfied self.

If only we could be our childhood selves again.

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