Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Compulsive Scratching

The odds are against us. Overwhelmingly. Why, oh why, do we continue to do it? Why do we sit down every day in front of our glowing little computer screens and fill up all that white space with words? Most of the time, we don't even enjoy it. And, really, who's interested, anyway?
Being a writer is having a split personality. On the one hand, it takes an amazing amount of ego to actually cement your thoughts and feelings into a tangible story and just assume that someone, somewhere, is going to want to read it... and that's the height of self-involved folly. On the other hand, many writers are afflicted with a crippling self-doubt, a feeling of complete worthlessness. The funny thing is, both of those conditions-- entirely unwarranted egomania and soul-crushing insecurity-- exist side by side in many writers.
We write a story, or even a novel, putting everything we have into it, opening up veins all over the place and bleeding out our darkest and deepest secrets. We polish it up and make it presentable. We research the market and find the ideal venue. We send it off with our fingers crossed. And then... three months later... we get that lovely little form rejection letter. Or worse, we get no response at all. That's how much our work means to the world at large. No one is interested. Sorry, mac.
There are times I really hate this compulsion I have to write stories. Honestly, man, I'm not sure why I was born with that gene that makes me do it, even when the emotional rewards are non-existent. I read this thing once about a woman who had an unusual mental disorder; she couldn't stop scratching herself. Non-stop, she'd scratch and scratch and scratch at her face, her neck, her arms, trying desperately to ease the maddening itch beneath her skin. She scratched until she bled, profusely. That's what the compulsion to write is like.
Maybe you can tell, I'm having one of those "soul-crushing insecurity" days. The novel is still going well, but this morning I keep looking at it and thinking, oh come on man. Who really cares? Give up this silliness and grow up. There are millions of writers out there, talented and committed people with strong voices and real stories to tell. And no one will ever hear them. What makes me think I'm any different?
Okay. Sorry to be such a bummer this time, just had to get all that out of my system. I don't really feel better for having done it, but maybe, somewhere, another writer will stumble across this entry and realize that they aren't alone.
Fuck it, right? Keep scratching that itch until you bleed to death.


  1. Dude.... the ebb and flow of self-esteem clouds every effort that's worth a damn. Does a stockbroker torment himself with these kind of worries? No, but at the same time, is he actually doing anything? We create, bringing ideas into existence. Ideas beget action beget evolution.
    Viva la evolution and chin up my brother!

  2. Don't quit trying. There is always the possibilites of our dreams and goals to become reality. The least is that all that writing is really good therapy, right? There is always someone out in the cyber world and real world that just love to read.



  3. You're not alone, creativity in every form is thankless work, only once you're famous will people really take notice, and even then only for a short while. But it's like Ron said, without it what are you really doing?. I believe it takes a special breed of people to be able to present new ideas, get people thinking, all the while knowing full well you'll likely never see any recognition for it.But we do it because we have to, because we can, and maybe because we know that even the smallest idea, implanted in the smallest person, could contribute to the world in more ways than we'll ever know.