I have a tendency to get compulsive about things. I think writing is becoming one of those.
I’m sitting here, facing the possibility of a lazy Sunday ahead of me where I just play games and sit on the couch and knit, and the possibility of not writing is terrifying to me.
Okay, should be no big deal, right? Spend half an hour or so on writing something or other, call it a day. Except even that won’t work, because a) once I’m really into it, it’s difficult to stop, and b) I’m also going through a period of profound self-doubt and anxiety regarding my ability to do this well. Which I thought I was over, but ever since a bunch of awesome things happened I’m looking ahead to 2014 not as something that I can and should enjoy but as something that must meet and surpass the standard of 2013. I’m not allowed to have dry spells. I’m not allowed to pull back and take it easy. I always have to be better, and the better I am, the better I have to be, all the time.
This is why I’ve written over and over about how “if you’re not enough before the gold medal, you won’t be enough with it.” It’s not a platitude or a way to sound superior but a painful fucking reality. This is something I know intellectually but don’t seem able to grasp viscerally. I can’t just be a good writer, I have to be the best writer possible and I can’t relax that standard for a second.
I realize that many people would kill to have this problem, so this probably sounds a little like self-indulgent whining. But please believe me when I say this: It. HURTS.
In some ways I think this constant, relentless drive to be better is part of what’s gotten me to where I am now. Some of it is talent, but a lot of it is simply the determination to trample over the bodies of my past selves to reach some ever-receding goal. It gets you further, yes, but then what do you have, if you can’t enjoy the successes you’ve earned? And how do you cope with failure? Because you will fail. Self, you will.
In 2014, my goal is to find a way to maintain my motivation while abandoning the unhealthy sides of it. Also, finding a way to transfer some of that motivation into things that I’m technically supposed to be focusing on, like my doctoral dissertation.
But now I’m going to write. Because apparently, right now, I can’t not.
So for me, and for those of you who experience anything like this, or simply terror and anxiety regarding writing at all, let’s repeat this all together: You don’t have to be the best. You don’t have to win all the awards. Your emotional and mental health is more important than your number of acceptances and publications. If you don’t take care of you, it won’t matter how good you are. You’re a human being, not a word-machine.
And as a bonus, here’s a writerly “Neopro Writer’s Bill of Rights” that Robert Dawson, a fellow Codexian, put together. It’s therapy. For anyone who isn’t specifically SFnal, here’s a more generic version.