So now I’ve hit the wall.
I can’t write.
Up until now, the book I started writing back in March, the one that came to me in the middle of a sleepless night, the one that made me leap out of bed to write it down, the one that showed such promise, has stalled completely. I don’t know why. It’s like I got to a certain place in the narrative and everything just stopped. So now when I open the document, instead of writing, I sit there staring at the blank screen, getting more and more frustrated and angry with myself and with the book because it won’t behave.
When I can’t write, I paint. I cannot paint to save mine or anybody else’s life. The thing that’s on my easel right now, I think I’ll call “Haphazard Blobs Attacking a Sea Monster.” It looks like nothing mortal. I don’t know what it looks like. It doesn’t matter, though, because I don’t care about the painting. I just like dabbing paint onto the canvas and making a mess – getting paint on my hands and my clothes, rubbing paint on with my fingers, playing in it. It’s like being a four-year-old again.
(Actually, if you turn the canvas upside down it looks like a school of tiny fish being consumed by a giant pink amoeba.)
That’s the point, though. I am willing to paint badly (and oh boy, do I ever!) I don’t mind messing up a canvas. It doesn’t matter. It’s just for fun. I know if I could adopt this same mindset about my writing, I’d be a lot better off.
The current problem? I have no idea what happens next. I think something needs to blow up or burn down – or maybe blow up and then burn down. I’m afraid to introduce such an element because I’m certain sure doing so will ruin it. Mind you, this is a rough draft – a very rough draft – and the only person I’m telling the story to is myself. Nobody else is going to see it, just like nobody is going to see my awful painting that looks like it was done by someone without opposable thumbs.
Every time I hit the wall I panic. I have to keep reminding myself: be willing to write badly. Be willing to write garbage. Be willing to make a mess. This novel has been problematic since the beginning, starting out first as one kind of story and then slowly morphing into something different. That’s not the problem. I know I can go back and rearrange things, take out and put in, rewrite, revise, edit. I’ve done it so many times before. I can do this. And of course the evil little voice in my head goes Are you sure? Maybe this is as far as you go. Maybe you don’t have anything else and this is as good as it gets.
The problem is this: in order to get past this current sticky patch, I have to write badly, and I hate that.
It’s hard to be willing to write badly. I want to think that I know what I’m doing, I’ve done it so many times before, hey I’m a veteran of these wars! It is so hard to allow myself to write badly because my ego wants to be the expert. My ego doesn’t need practice, it doesn’t need rehearsal, it doesn’t need to put in the time at the keyboard and make mistakes and have to start all over again. I should be past that now.
Well, I’m not past it. I hate having to write badly. I feel like I’m letting myself down. I don’t want to write a shitty first draft. I want to be first out of the gate and write brilliantly every single time. I’m afraid if I let myself write badly, everything I write from that point on will be crap.
It’s hard to create anything if you’re afraid of failure. (I’ve failed so many times, you’d think I’d be well-versed in the procedure by now, but no.) Being creative means stepping out on that limb that you don’t think will hold your weight; sometimes it means the limb breaks underneath you and you make a fool of yourself. Sometimes the limb holds, and you can advance a little. Sometimes you reach out for a limb you thought was there, only to find out it isn’t. And I think I’ve tortured this metaphor long enough.
I want this book to be good. I want this book to be read. I want someone to read it and when it’s done, sit back and think, that was a good read. I really enjoyed that. If I go ahead and finish writing it, there’s a good chance it will be rubbish. It might be the most embarrassingly awful dreck I or anyone else has ever produced.
But if I don’t go ahead and finish writing it, no one will ever read it. So I’ll write badly and I’ll finish it. I can do this. I can.