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Writing Demons: Anxiety, Cops, and Doing the Work.

Right now, I’m supposed to be meeting my boyfriend and his pals for a drink at a place called Soda bar. Instead I’m sitting in his bed, having just finished a Skype date with my college roommate, about to make a list of all the reasons I’m afraid to make a career, or even a serious hobby, out of writing. These are my demons, and I’m going to write them down for three minutes straight.

1. What good does writing do anybody?

2. Aren’t there more important things I could be doing to help people?

3. What if I can’t make any money?

4. I don’t have anything important to say.

5. I have no stories.

6. I’ve tried before and failed.

7. I can’t get out of my own head enough to create original characters.

8. I am slow.

9. I suck at writing.

10. I’m a bad judge of my own writing.

11. I wish I were somewhere else right now.

12. Writing isn’t practical.

13. There’s not enough going on in my brain.

14. I’m not smart or intellectual enough.

15. Writing is too hard and not concrete enough.

16. My words are inadequate.

17. Everyone else writes much better than me.

18. My words and ideas aren’t fresh.

19. I’m unoriginal.

20. My work doesn’t contribute to anyone’s life.

21. I am better of service by doing social work or something.

22. The world doesn’t need to hear my voice.

23. I have nothing to say.

24. Other people are way better at this than me.

25. I can’t be the best so why bother. There are already so many good ideas out there, why bother with mine?

Well, there you have it. Those are my writing demons, off the top of my head. Re-reading it, the fear seem mainly to be about comparing myself to other people, and about writing itself being a selfish profession. I also have this idea that the only book worth writing is a group of short stories or a novel– I am probably better at writing about myself than anything else, but I poo-poo the idea of a memoir or essay collection. I think I’ve worked so much on stories and character that that feels like the goal: it’s the one thing I’ve tried, and I never finish the stories or they come out like shit. Maybe I just need to change my perspective?

The bit about feeling like my ideas are shit or like I’m unoriginal probably comes from that; although looking back I’ve had plenty of kooky story ideas, and the issue ihas always been follow-through, reveisions, and endings.

I’m still reading Page After Page by Karen Sellers, and she suggests treating writing anxieties like cops: they’re maybe a bit overzealous in their protectiveness, but also helpful in a pinch. Anxiety, she writes, is what helps us during the revision process to kill our darlings. But maybe during the actual word-generation they could go have some coffee and donuts. Well, Sellers was writing before Trayvon Martin/ Eric Garner/ Michael Brown/ Tamir Rice/ every other black person shot by a cop happened. So now I really don’t trust cops. So I need a new metaphor.

Beyond that, she also suggests that the real antidote to these (ahem, racist) cops is just sitting down and doing the work. That’s kind of what this blog is about for me: a way to keep myself accountable for doing the work of noticing the world around me. And right now, as I snuggle under my boyfriend’s gray duvet and stare out the window, I’m noticing that there’s a lot of roadwork going on outside and realizing that the truck sitting next to the work site says “liquid nitrogen” on it. What kind of roadwork is this??

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