Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Anxiety and High Drama

Creative people live for drama. To the friends and family members who are horrified by my sometimes too loud outbursts, and over emotional thinking, I say, "I'm a passionate person." I try to hide it. Really, I put a lot of energy into appearing as normal as possible but the drama pops out of me. I get so excited my hands shake. I get so mad I have an all out crying, stomping, shouting tantrum. I get so sad there is no consoling me...over something as little as a rejection letter. "Get over it," people mutter. Said people are not creative. Said people do not bleed into a computer and then send out queries because said people are afraid of rejection. But, I digress. The point being that creative people often use anxiety and high drama to prevent themselves from being creative.
I have a friend who has a terrific idea for a middle grade book whose hero is a boy in a wheelchair. She won't write it, though. Why? Because when it makes the NY Times list her entire life will change and she doesn't want the responsibility. I know at least three people who can't get farther than the first three chapters of a book because if it's not perfect something awful will happen. Something so humiliating and terrible that their stomachs pinch and their hands shake and they go back to the first page because this time they might get it right. For my Master's degree program you must write and polish and defend a genre novel. Having done all this over two years, when it comes time to put that novel on a CD and leave it in the school library for others to read, the students balk. "No, it's not ready." Trust me, folks, it's never ready.
"Creative people are dramatic, and we use negative drama to scare ourselves out of creativity with this notion of wholesale and often destructive change. Fantasizing about pursuing our art full-time (and the terrible things that might happen if we did), we fail to pursue it part-time--or at all."~Julia Cameron
Ex: I can't be a writer and raise children. I can't take a class and keep my job. If I hit the NY Times list--and I will--I'll be busy touring and my spouse will leave me.
"Most...creatives have an active addiction to anxiety. We prefer the low-grade pain and occasional heart-stopping panic attack to the drudgery of small and simple daily steps in the right direction." ~JC
Oh, how I wish these quotes from Julia Cameron's, The Artist's Way, were not true. But they are. Our own fears and passions keep us from doing something daily to live the creative life we were born to live. The scary thought of "What will people say?" or "Will I have to start wearing flowy skirts and bangle bracelets?" "Will I have to quit my job, leave my family, move into the deep city, stay up late, smoke dope and hang out with intellectuals?" Or worse~ "That agent rejected my book, now she hates me." "That editor is laughing at me and telling her entire staff how awful my work was."
No wonder we freeze up, run away, keep putting obstacles in front of our creative soul. Stop the madness. Take a deep breath. Blow it out slow. Put that all aside and ask yourself, "what small thing can I do today-right now- to feed my creative soul?" I can open a word doc and write a title. Can't figure out a title? Use someone else's title. Don't stop. Write a sentence. Write a paragraph. Read a craft book, one page a day. Attend a workshop. Make a space-however small- to create. Push through the doubt and keep going-step by step, page by page.
I have discovered that in every book I write 1/3 of the way in I freeze and think, "this is horrible. No one will read it. It's a bad idea. I can't write." I push through anyway by giving myself permission to write terrible, horrible, no good stuff. I tell myself no one is reading this but me. I write the next page. Then things pick up and I go along happy and merry until-yep 3/4 of the way through the book. The end is coming up. I'm afraid there isn't enough story. It doesn't work. It's no good. Again I have to take a deep breath and write the next page and the next page. I give myself permission to write a book that is too short or too long. I write. I revise. I polish. I query. I send it in. I revise more. I send it in again. I cry. I scream. I am petrified. I imagine all the terrible things. I write anyway. Bit by bit I create. It's in the doing that we actually live.
So...I've spilled my fears and dramas. What are yours? Care to share?


Carrie Lofty said...

Fabulous post, Nancy! I love that opening paragraph in particular, because that rang especially true.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Carrie,

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.Here's to finishing our books this week Cheers~

Jessica Nelson said...

Interesting post, Nancy. When I think about being published, I definitely feel scared. :-(

Linda Kage said...

I swear, sometimes I think you must be inside my mind, reading some of my deepest darkest thoughts. It's amazing that all writers have a lot of the same fears and apprehensions, but it makes me feel better that I'm not the only one.

Thank you so much for the inspiration to keep me slugging through my manuscript today! Perfect post.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Jessica, thanks for commenting. I was most surprised at how terrified I was to have a book release date for my first book. After years of trying to get published when the day came I wanted to run and hide. It's sort of like walking through McDonald's naked. :D Cheers~

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Linda,

Thanks! I think good writing is so personal and so honest that any sane person would have moments of terror. :D
But those who keep on plugging anyway are the real success story.


Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I’ve always been insecure about my writing which is why it took me years to admit I was a writer. I still have all the same fears, but now I’ve learned how to live with them and not let them control my life. Like you suggested, I do this by continuing to write.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Jane,

Isn't it funny how we all got this love of writing and fear of it at the same time?

Thanks for commenting. Cheers~