Run Away! Run Away!

Never underestimate the inclination to bolt.

—Pema Chodron

There are two things I do every day—workout at the Y and write.  If I skip a day, my world loses order, so I don’t skip many days any more.  As far as my writing life goes, this is a miracle.

Most of my life, I’ve been scared to write and scared not to.  I attacked writing, and then scampered off before it could retaliate.  I journaled diligently for years, then abandoned the practice for no reason.  When I took a college course in Creative Writing a few years ago, I made this vow:  I’ve spent the last fifteen years not-writing.  I will spend the next fifteen writing, and I will get published.

I worked and worked and finally got a short story published in an obscure horror magazine.  Pocket Books almost published my Star Trek novel.  I stuck to my vow.  But, as I worked on my second Star Trek book, I got scared.  I was driving home over icy roads and, as usual, the characters carried on long dialogues while I listened.  I needed them to turn the volume down so I could concentrate on my driving, but they kept on.  I realized I couldn’t control them anymore.  And when a person thinks to herself, I can’t control the voices in my head the implications seem dire.  I thought I had two choices: keep writing and go crazy or stop writing.  I stopped.

I just read an interesting novel by Noam Shpancer called The Good Psychologist. In it, his protagonist talks about fear and avoidance.

Avoiding fear does not solve the problem of fear but adds to it the problem of avoidance.  The effort to avoid is exhausting, and unsuccessful, and injurious.  If you are unwilling to feel something, to think something, then you will by definition feel and think that very thing.  The way to neutralize the pain associated with a certain word, a certain memory, is to move toward it; to accept it; to embrace it; to realize that these are words, noise, and movement of the lips.  No word can ever hurt you more than a habit of avoidance will.

After ECT, after losing my job and apartment, after moving back to my hometown with no money and no brain, I was desperate to find something to do.  I needed something to make me feel alive instead of the living dead.  I borrowed my friend’s copy of The Artists’ Way and started journaling again.  Every day.  Three pages a day.  After doing this for a couple of months, a thought struck me.  I finally had the time I’d always wanted to write.  How many times had I prayed for just this gift?  And I stopped writing because I had been afraid of going crazy.  There I sat, mentally ill with lots of time.  The path seemed clear.

So, I wrote.  And I felt the urge to run.  But, something had changed.  All that mattered was showing up, placing one word in front of the next, paragraph by paragraph, page by page.  The power of my old fears must have boiled off with the ECT, because what made me stagger once in a while was simple procrastination.  Author Julia Cameron says it best:

At its root, procrastination is an investment in fantasy.  We are waiting for that mysterious and wonderful moment when we are not only going to be able to write, we are going to be able to write perfectly.  The minute we become willing to write imperfectly, we become able to write.

Procrastination is still a form of fear, but, somehow, I conditioned myself to stay instead of run.  I wrote crap, and it didn’t kill me.  I just kept writing.  I hesitated a lot, and wrote more crap to push through the stall.  Each time the urge to bolt rose up, it got easier to stay and be imperfect.  And the more I wrote, the more my love affair with writing resurfaced.  I love what Julia Cameron says about this:

I experience writing as a love affair, one I am free to leave, but choose to enjoy.  It is intimate.  It is daily.  It is year in and year out, but, oh, it is romantic.  It is free.  It is passionate—like a long and intricate conversation with a fascinating man.

Try running away from that!

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Scott
    Feb 24, 2011 @ 07:58:08

    Finally dived into your blog for a bit. First blog I’ve ever looked at (being an aging crumudgeon [sp?]. I’ve always regretted that I never had a chance to read your ST novel but understood the frustration with all the work and detours you went through only to arrive at a dead end. I’ve always been impressed by my little sister’s ability to hang on in spite of the gales around you. Just don’t expect too many kind comments from this stodgy old hermit crab. Harumph!


  2. lifereconnected
    May 06, 2011 @ 15:56:37

    I have just come to your blog from Kathy McC’s and wanted to leave a note that I had been here. I can so relate to this post especially the quote about procrastination. I know this is so true for me and not just with writing. When my self esteem is at its lowest it can feel to me that I am waiting for some validation from someone before doing anything. It has kept me stuck for years. And the quote about avoidance – I experienced that today in all its glory in dealing with the aftermath of a relationship ending. You feel you have to live as if the person you are missing is no longer in the world and then when you see them – well I realised that ‘avoiding’ them or thinking about them is exhausting, unsuccessful and injurious. Really great post.


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