“Writing is like hunting. There are brutally cold afternoons with nothing in sight, only the wind and your breaking heart. Then the moment when you bag something big. The entire process is beyond intoxicating.”
― Kate Braverman
This isn't going to be the first time you've heard me say this. I've talked about it many times which pretty much says it's a huge issue for me. As far as writing goes, that is.
So here goes.
I'm...can't think of a better word...depressed. Frustrated. Heart-breakingly so.
I decided to speak of it out loud because the subject on my mind comes up in various forums and I realize I'm not the only writer who suffers this 'malady' on occasion.
And here's my ugly truth.
I have a dear friend, a fellow author, who happens to be one of the most eloquent yet simple, in-touch-with-the-human-heart writers I've ever met. And I've met a lot of them so that is saying a lot.
I won't mention his name, and I'm not talking behind his back, as he and I have talked about this. The only reason I'm mentioning it publicly is because I saw comments from more than one author on more than one forum who cited that they shy away from reading other authors because it discourages them, and ignites doubt in their own writing abilities. While sad to hear that, I was kind of relieved. That meant I was not the only one, that others suffer this insecurity at times as well.
And, yes, yes, I know. I talk about insecurity an awful lot. Yep. I do. It happens to be, probably, my number one weakness in my writing process.
I remember one author---who I love dearly---claimed that she had resisted reading certain authors because she was...yes...jealous. I admired her honesty, her bravery in facing her fear. Because, let me tell you, she is not alone. I knew exactly what she meant. The funny thing about it? She, as it happens, is one of the authors I resist reading for that very reason. So there. Go figure. Us writers. What characters we are.
Anyway, back to my gifted author friend. I told him, as humiliating as it was, that I was hesitant to read his book because I'd read such powerful reviews about it. I was scared. Books which promise to blast me with emotion----no, not just angst, killing off characters and torturing them, but deep heart stuff, human stuff.
We're all insecure to a certain extent with our talent. Even when other praise us, when we see good reviews, there's still that speck of doubt deep down. I suspect even the most successful harbor those misgivings at times.
I will at least admit I write fair-to-middlin'. My prose, anyway. Oh, I've got miles to go in the plotting department, boatloads to learn about characterization, dynamics, everything.
But here's the kicker. While trying to pinpoint what I DO feel is lacking, what I DO see in my author friend's work that I feel missing in mine, I came across a quote by Eudora Welty from her book, On Writing, "To write honestly and with all our powers is the least we can do, and the most."
And I realized. That key. Honestly and with all our powers. And I knew, then, that the element missing from my attempts is that seemingly small but oh-so-gigantic all our powers.
You know that that means? ALL our powers? It means writing on all eight cylinders. Letting go. Giving it the gas. Letting it rip, gunning the engine, speeding right through those barriers of fear that keep you from going too far. It means writing fearless. Opening all the windows on that heart of yours.
Some seem to feel letting it go means to superficially shock. And I suppose it could. But, for me, it means losing all my inhibitions about exposing my gut to a reader. Emotion.
And that's where my depression sets in. I see these other authors who have that GIFT---and I consider it is a precious gift---of doing just that. They have this beautiful ability to express what is actually deep inside them. They are fearless in doing so. I admire that, I crave that.
It's not about words, either. I can come up with the words. I've got a warehouse of words, ready to be used to express my deepest soul. But, for some reason, fear of SEEING in that deep dungeon of emotion keeps that warehouse door barred to me.
I don't know what it will take to open that door, to bust off that rusty lock. But I DO know it's going to happen because the prisoners---my innermost thoughts---in that secret place cry out all the time, begging to be set free. All it will take is me.
So the depression, in a way, seems to be able to give way to satisfaction and then exhilleration. Because I DO have the key in my hand.
Who knows? Maybe, if I DO read those authors whose gift I fear, I'll feel something in their fearlnessness that will push me over the edge.
Ray Bradbury said, I did what most writers do at their beginnings: emulated my elders, imitated my peers, thus turning away from any possibility of discovering truths beneath my skin and behind my eye.
That sort of thinking, those beginnings such as he mentions, might have been one of my biggest obstacles. One WILL be miserable to read other authors in order to emulate their gift. Their gift---the one I seek anyway---is not something that can be copied. Their gift is unique to them but, oddly, available to me as well. Because the truth----MY truth----is beneath MY skin and behind MY eye.
Hot damn. Is that exciting or what? So rev her up, baby. I might not be able to go zero-to-seventy in one gunning of the pedal and be comfortable in sharing my innermost soul through my writing overnight. But I CAN get there. The destination IS within reach.
For me. And for you.