Confession of a Neurotic Writer

Last week I made a goal to write every morning right after waking. This was not for my blog, but for my novel in progress. Monday – Thursday I did great. I got up, sat down, wrote and was pleased with myself. However, Friday morning, I was leaving early to go to see a client in Santa Barbara and I didn’t write. Then followed Saturday and Sunday and I still didn’t write on my novel. Now here we are into Monday and it’s 8:37 pm and I still haven’t written on my novel. What is going on? Well, let me just tell you…

I shared my writing in progress with my writing friend who is one of my former students. Normally, I can share and all goes well and I am energized and ready to get back to work. But this is where the mind games come in and I am convinced that mind games are the fundamental stumbling block of humankind – or, at least, me, for lack of complete clarity regarding others. The minute that my writing friend made a few comments, this is what I did in my mind. Get ready, it’s not pretty.

I said to myself, “Hmmm… he didn’t react with as much enthusiasm as I expected, therefore the story must not be working.” But wait, that’s just the beginning. Then I went on to tell myself, “You know fiction is your weak spot. This story really isn’t good.” Ah, but if that were all I said, then it might be okay, but no. I went on to emphasize, “You know, you really suck at fiction. It’s obvious. You have no idea where the story is going. Why in the world did you ever think you could write fiction? Particularly a novel?”

I wish that were the end of it, but it’s not. No, that darling, lovely, sweet voice that pretends to be “helping” me, but instead is dragging me right down to the mud hole so I can get completely covered up with muck and mire then adds a few more zingers. “You know that you aren’t very smart. I mean, really. Think of all the other people out there who are capable of doing this better than you. Why are you even trying? You haven’t gotten very far. Oh my. Have you looked at yourself lately? You as a novelist? Oh, dear, this is pretty pathetic. Maybe if you take off a year and actually read a few novels, well, then, maybe if you’re not still so stupid, well, maybe then you could begin to consider working on a novel, but don’t get in any big hurry since we have already established that the world is full of people who can do this better than you can.”

I know this all sound neurotic and sad. “Poor Len,” you are probably thinking. “You really are rather pathetic with all these second thoughts. Perhaps you are better suited constitutionally for something else. Have you considered exploring other mediums for your creative leanings?”

I know that it is boring to yet again read about my endless self-doubts, my neurotic tendencies to degrade my capabilities. I would feel hopeless except then I read something a famous writer or two or three – writers I admire – have to say about the writing process. For example, William Goldman wrote, ““Writing is finally about one thing: going into a room alone and doing it. Putting words on paper that have never been there in quite that way before. And although you are physically by yourself, the haunting Demon never leaves you, that Demon being the knowledge of your own terrible limitations, your hopeless inadequacy, the impossibility of ever getting it right. No matter how diamond-bright your ideas are dancing in your brain, on paper they are earthbound.” Or David Sedaris, when he writes, “Speed eliminates all doubt. Am I smart enough? Will people like me? Do I really look all right in this plastic jumpsuit?” Even Shakespeare had this to say, ““Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”

When I read that these men ever entertained self-doubt, then I feel better. I am in good company. The key is to recognize that the road may be paved with some pretty bad prose, but over time and a few re-writes, something good might be whittled out of the work. If not, then at least I’ve stayed out of the bars for one more night…

On that note, I am going now to write anything on my novel in progress and consider that a victory. Baby steps. That may the only way for me to do this, but I guess, over time, even they will get me moving forward.

Sleep well, my friends. I will now take my neurotic self and go write some fiction, however poorly…

Wish me luck. dorothy parker

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Pat Bean says:

    Len, you make me feel like you’re my twin sister. I spent a totally wasted past three days toward meeting my writing goals.

    1. Ha, Pat! Well, join the club. I guess this is just part of the process, my dear.

  2. This couldn’t have come at a better time. I especially needed this today. The truth is it’s every day. I have a deadline and have barely scraped the surface. Thank you. ❤ ❤

    1. Glad this came just when you needed it, Tess. Good luck and thanks for letting me know!

  3. Wendel Sloan says:

    If writing fiction gives you pleasure, then any additional rewards are icing on the cake.

    1. I can usually operate with that sensible belief, Wendel, but some days are harder than others and when faced with those days, logic just flies out the window. But I am back on track today and I’m simply enjoying the writing process. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  4. ladywinfred says:

    How often in our lives has the exact thing we needed to hear reached out and enfolded us in the realization we’re not out there alone flapping in the breeze, that someone with more years of writing experience suffers the same nagging, debilitating doubts that we do? This post was one of those times for me, Len, and I am profoundly grateful for your honesty and courage. We can do it, sister, we can kick that Demon’s behind into tomorrow and get on with harvesting the words within us that have for so long lain dormant. Write on, mamacita!!!!!


    1. Thanks, my dear. Yes, it doesn’t matter how long one writes, that Demon remains alive and well. Glad this was helpful to you!

  5. Mary Jo says:

    Like Pat, I also could be your twin sister, Len. This is a fabulous post!

    1. Thanks, Mary Jo. I hate that you have these same thoughts, but, then again, I guess if Shakespeare had second thoughts, we’re in good company! Hugs.

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