Being creative sometimes feels like a constant battle. It is a blessing and a curse. It comes and goes in waves. When it comes, it is exhilarating, refreshing, like I am a complete person. When it fades it's as if a chunk of me is handicapped, incomplete, defected. Its absence allows doubt, fear and self-criticism to creep in. It can become crippling.
When I'm on a roll writing comes natural. Scenes percolate in my brain, characters feel alive, settings are vivid. It is relentless. I think about the story throughout the day, my fingers anxious to hit the keyboard. I pull up my story and get right into it. You ever turn on a gadget or motor and everything hums as it's supposed to, all smooth with no setbacks or trials? You fill with relief that you can use it as intended? That's what it's like when me and creativity are on the same page.
Unfortunately, creativity is fickle. It doesn't appear on demand, or cooperate with my schedule. It can evade me for weeks at a time. Those times feel like my best friend is on vacation with no texting or Facebook access. I know it's not completely beyond my grasp, but it feels too distant to reach. It's essence exists, but it isn't strong enough to materialize.
This is not only frustrating, but sometimes paralyzing. Writer's block becomes paramount, a wall I can't get over or chip away. I grow irritated with myself, feeling like a fraud because I am not being the writer I know I can be. When I allow life to get in the way of a steady writing routine (blogging not included) creativity becomes more and more allusive the longer I go without writing. I liken it to a muscle that grows weaker from under-utilization. You can be the bulkiest, strongest person in the world, but if you don't eat the right foods and keep at the weight training, your muscles turn to fat, the tone you once saw blends into your body, no longer distinguishable.
When I don't make the time to write on a regular basis it's easy to berate myself that I am not truly a writer like all those posting #amwriting. They deserve the title. I am a fraud, a girl with a writing hobby. I tell myself that my dream of publication will never come true. Self doubt tells me that creativity was a fluke, and will not return. I am destined to be a one-novel writer. It makes me sad to think that the bliss I felt while in the world of my making will not happen again.
As most perfectionist type-A personalities can attest to, this feeling of defeat is hard to get rid of. It puts you in a choke-old, your sensibilities become tangled in what you haven't accomplished, overshadowing facts and past achievements. I did it once, I can (and most likely will) do it again. But, that was when I had monthly writing deadlines and a critical eye ready to read and react to everything I wrote. I had the on-going support of friends and family who encouraged me and helped me make time away from every day responsibilities so I could focus on writing. That is no longer the case. School is over. There are no expert readers with sage advice and challenging questions. To say I need some alone time to write feels like I am burdening someone with my responsibilities. It feels selfish and wrong.
But, that is exactly what I need to do in order to defeat the Fear Demons that settle in with me when I don't write regularly. The fears have distinct names associated with their roles:
- Failure: tells me that I will fail at accomplishing my dreams. I will not become a published author. I will be a disappointment to myself, and all those who believed in me.
- Inadequacy: teases me with thoughts that I lack the creativity and drive to come up with a story that anyone will want to read, my agent and editors included. It defies the logic that I have talent, skills and experience in writing that cannot be taken for granted, but I do it anyway. I also discredit it as a fluke, as though it came about by happenstance, even though I know better.
- Mediocrity: whispers that my best is not as good as all those other writers who are more disciplined than me, who lead lives that allow for regular writing time and spaces that breed their creativity.
- Depletion: laughs at me because I've used my one good idea. From here on in I can expect a series of half-finished stories with no decipherable plots, and characters that are unappealing and uninteresting.
Failure, Inadequacy, Mediocrity and Depletion are loud, unfeeling, and strong-willed. They feel like living, breathing monsters ready to devour my spirit. At times I feel up to the challenge and defiant. Other times they win and I feel defeated. It's a tough cycle that I imagine I will have to face the rest of my life, even if I ever get published. With every book, every rejection, these demons will surface, making me doubt myself, worry that I've wasted so much time, money and energy pursuing something I should have left alone a long time ago. But, if so many creatives can face these demons and write on, then I have to remind myself to soldier on, too and be stronger than the demons. My creativity is worth the fight.