I have a confession to make — I don’t write much new work. Mostly, I revise what I’ve already written because starting something new is grueling for me, like planting a new lawn one seed at a time. Yuck!!
When I think about it, my attitude surprises me because I’m always up for a change. I like new things – I move every few years in fact, and the start of a new project, a new class, a new book, even a new bottle of shampoo sends a little shiver through my belly. But when I come to start a new writing project I feel like a ten-pound bowling ball has slid down my throat and settled in my stomach.
Take this morning for example. Yesterday, I sent off three pieces for consideration, and most of my other work is out there in the world being considered. So today, you’d think I’d relish the idea of starting a new project. A clean slate, fresh screen, new ideas . . . nope, instead I took out the garbage, cleaned out the cat litter, and now I’m writing my blog rather than start a new essay. What is wrong with me?
Part of the issue is, I think, that I put so much pressure on myself to craft something good the first time. I know, I know. Everyone says, especially Anne Lamott, that first drafts are shitty, and I teach my students the same thing. Yet, here I sit, an idea in mind and no desire to put it on the page because it might not be good enough. Hell, I know it’s not going to be good enough, and so I’m scared.
What if I can’t really write? What if my few publications were flukes? What if all the teachers I’ve ever had were just being nice when they told me my stuff was pretty good? What if I’m a fake?
And here, after writing this tiny piece of new work, I come up with the answer – I’m scared that I can’t, even with a massive numbers of revisions, do this work well. I’m scared that I’m not a writer at all.
Now, I can find the remedy to my fear and bowling-ball gut – I can write. Isn’t there some adage about getting back on the horse? Off I ride.