Perfect Attendance

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I‘m drained. My eyes ache, my jaw hurts from popping every time I try to stifle a yawn, and my brain feels like it‘s been padded with wool. But I’m here. I sat in front of this damned keyboard as a small victory to celebrate my return to Creative Carnage after a two-and-a-half-year-long hiatus. Surprisingly, coming back after all that time to write a blog post has the same dynamic as when I’ve been writing in the trenches and need to return for my daily tally mark. It seems to me that I can think of a million other things I need to complete before I can focus on writing, whether I’ve been away for a day or a couple years. And it’s odd because it’s not that I don’t want to write. I love that I’m a writer. I’ve been yearning to get back to this blog ever since I left, but there’s this easy to give in force that wants to shuffle me away.

At first glance, someone could call it ADHD or procrastination. There’s no shortage of labels we can Velcro to our lives these days. I think it’s more than that, though. I think the root cause is simple: I’m afraid. Of what, I could say several things:

  • Finding out that I’m actually a talentless hack,
  • Not being prolific (a word I’m starting to hate)
  • Not being able to do this full time one day
  • Nobody else caring I’m a writer
  • Even worse, of giving up because my standard of success is measured by my goal to be published one day. I know, I know, that’s egotistical and frivolous. But I want that egotistical and frivolous and seemingly validating and glorious benchmark all the same.

Been there, done that

Even after all the blog posts I’ve written about how to combat those kinds of fears that create roadblocks to writing, I still have to face them. I kind of thought I would be exempt since I already wrote about them. Alas, they still seem quite adept at uniting their tiny voices to whisper doubts in my ear with their coppery breath. Luckily, my confidence has strengthened over the years to stave off the demented chorus. I attribute that to having survived countless novel and short story rejections (#winning).

But, I’m not completely impervious to doubts or falling off the track. Especially on the days when the defenses are low, and I pause and think, Am I unhinged for wanting something that seems hell-bent on being out of reach? During those moments, I can’t help but wonder if maybe they’re right. Whoever they are. I have no clever trick or tip on how to overcome that. It’s just a drag. All I can tell you is that I force myself to sit down and write through it.

Why? Two reasons

One, that process of returning builds something up over time. It solidifies the much-needed reminder about writing: It is more than just recording when things are purring along optimally. You know, when all the chores are done, I’m feeling emotionally stable (ha!), I’ve got my 8 hours of sleep, and all the right words are practically slingshotting themselves from my mind to the screen. Learning to push pass excuses or lengthy to-do lists is one of the best things for a writer. The only way to do that is to practice doing it. Put writing first. Whether it’s something as small as committing to 15 minutes every day, or freewriting before you go to bed, or allotting a couple hours to work on your work in progress once a week, carve out a sacred time and fight for it.

Two, I show up in the face of doubt because the disappointment that would come from not trying at all and staying safe is bigger than the fear of putting myself out there and failing. I have a half-baked theory: fear tries to shuffle me away from writing (in all its clever forms) because it’s safer to not write. It’s safer to not know the extent of my abilities and to stay in my comfort zone. I don’t have to expose myself there like I do when I sit down to use the thigh abductor at the gym—that machine where you open and close your legs in front of everyone, unveiling both your insecurities and your private parts. But I want fabulous legs more than the feeling that I look like an idiot at the gym. Pretty much the same thing happens in writing.

May the Force be with you

Whichever mind tricks bring you back to writing, try them. Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who don’t ever need that kind of incentive and love the feeling of writing versus having written. If so, get off my blog. Haha, just kidding . . . well, sort of. Anyhow, the biggest challenge to being a writer is showing up to your craft. Not much else can be done if you don’t do that. So buck up, get your butt in the chair and write!

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