Neurotic writers are the shit! The raging mental illness Anne Lamott describes in Bird by Bird is endearing. David Sederis’ shame in Santaland Diaries is heroic. The seemingly endless tales of imposter syndrome from all of my heroes is embiggening. I suffer thusly. . .
And yet the reality, in my life at least, is depressing. I’m beginning to think I’ve been duped by some very talented tricksters. But, in all fairness, I can’t blame it all on them.
(though we damned well do it anyway.)
I mean, I keep writing, right? If writing is so damned terrible why do I do it?
(because it’s what we are. we have to own it.)
I am a neurotic writer.
(hmmm? somehow that should have felt better than it did. oh well. moving hastily along. . . )
In a couple days I’ll be participating in the most crazy-making things I do as a writer, NaNoWriMo. That’s what prompted all of these neurotic writer posts. Actually, to give you the full picture I need to go back a few months.
In May, after taking five different writing courses at Writespace, I was in overload: too many classes telling me too many different things by too many different teachers and too many fellow writers. I had been attending classes every weekend since January which meant no down time. Even without considering my Aspergers, it’s no wonder I was at my wits end. But add all the input on how to write, what to write, and the critiques of what I had written to my social issues on top of no time off and it’s time for a spectacular crash and burn.
(and let’s not forget all the how-to books and articles we were reading, too.)
My brains were frothing from my ears. Thing is, all this learning, for the most part, was just another distraction in my arsenal of procrastination. I’ve been learning “how to write” in one form or another since junior high, thirty plus years ago. Any class I take is just one more class at this point.
Because I needed to get to work, after a month or so off, to “recoup,” I challenged myself to write a journal style blog post every day for the month of June. The Journaling June challenge was good—the first couple days, then a problem through to the end, and then good again when it was over. Once I finished, I was feeling powerful, like I could do anything. I had a plan and motivation and after writing a couple posts. . .
(we went right back to the distractions.)
The writing got kicked down the street for another day. In mid September, because I had lost my momentum and impulse, I purchased four new writing courses: Helping Writers to Write and Keep Writing, Productivity Hacks for Writers, 3-Step Writing System: Blogging and Writing Secrets, and Becoming A Writer. I told myself this time all these classes were a good thing because one, they were crazy cheap—$15 a class and some classes were normally $200—and two, they would fire me up again.
I decided to start with Becoming a Writer because it was the shortest. Besides, the title alone suggested it as the best starting point. Also, I was sure Becoming A Writer was going to be a joke. I’m not picking on the corse. I’m thinking about me. I mean, come on! Becoming A Writer. Really? Like I hinted earlier, at this point if I’m not already a writer I’ll never be, right?
(eh, maybe we’re not)
Bottom line, it was cheap and quick, making it an easy win. I’m all about the easy win. Especially when I’m starting something that requires routine and work. I do best (i.e. stick with it) when I start small and inch my way up. Becoming a Writer was like a Couch to 5K exercise program. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
The crazy thing is, cheesy as the 3 minute writing exercises seemed, they generated a few things I was happy with. Things that I’ve been working on the past couple months. Not the least of which are the previous two neurotic writer pieces. And this one as well.
Whoa! Right? How’d that happen? It’s like some slight-of-hand magic trick. A switch-a-roo that changed the yucky broccoli into delicious chocolate cake.
Here is what I wrote for the Less is More prompt that started these three posts. In it, I was to write for three minutes with these instructions: “Take one of your main messages – let’s say you are a nutritionist and you want people to eat more vegetables – and express it in as many different ways as you can – in less than 140 characters.”
My “message” was NaNoWriMo because I happened to be thinking about it on the day the prompt came up.
Less is More Exercise
Participating in NaNoWriMo is crazy-making, so I’m writing about being the crazy writer.
I can’t think of a think to write. This is a stupid fucking lesson. I’m learning how to write tweets.
I’m going to spend the whole time writing garbage. This is definitely one I’m NOT going to repeat. Not worth it.
I’m spending more time looking at the cursor than I am writing. Ugh. I hate this.
Being so focused on the exercise and not the writing is a real detriment.
This is the kind of resistant self-talk that I go through as soon as I’m under any pressure. And this was only a three minute exercise. It made me start to think, why in the hell do I put myself into these challenges? And the grand daddy, NaNoWriMo, is coming. What the hell is wrong with me?
And the little voice in my head shrieked:
(because we’re fucking neurotic. and, despite all the pissing and moaning, in the end we feel accomplished because we have, in fact, done something!)
I really, really, hate the fact that my angry inner voice is now the voice of reason. Sometimes I feel this new “being helpful” thing is worse than all the negative stuff. I don’t want to admit that I’m lazy, that I’m only accountable when I push myself with crazy challenges, but I am. Or, worse still, that constraints like deadlines, or prompts, or specific exercises actually make the writing better once I’ve pushed through the initial resistance bullshit.
(there’s more than a fair chance that we’ve got the oppositional defiant disorder.)
Ya think? I mean, I have such a problem with authority I can’t stand ME telling me what to do. I mean, who the fuck do I think I am?
(and maybe, just maybe, we’ve finally started to take this writing thing seriously. not that we didn’t care before. we always have, which is why we ARE a writer, but everything we’ve been up against has been fighting harder than we could counter. but that’s starting to change. think about how many times did we attempt to quit smoking before we finally did?)
So, in the midst of all this insanity have I found the start of. . . the momentum for me to consistently do the work, and accept that I AM a writer?
(maybe. NaNoWriMo ‘17 did pull us out of the worst depression we’ve had, remember? perhaps we should try going with this rather than fight it.)
Yeah maybe. But. . .
(and there’s always a but. . . )
I can’t quite give up fighting it, can I? I mean, if I did, that wouldn’t be very neurotic, would it? And I have been making quite a good argument for embracing one’s psychopathy. . .
So it be written. So it be done.