True story – when I was about 17, I was up late studying when I decided to take a loo break. When I went to the bathroom, I discovered a HUGE (and I mean HUGE) huntsman spider above the toilet, just waiting to jump on me. I knew what he was thinking by the look in all those eyes. I knew better than to wake my dad, but I also knew he would probably be up soon enough, so I waited until he got up to get rid of it for me – about three hours later mind you, and I was fairly busting by that time. I would rather have peed outside on the lawn than go in the bathroom with that spider in there.
So anyway, I’ve just written 1,315 words (count’em!) this morning on one of my novels – the first 1,315 words I’ve written on any of my novels in about 2 months. Oh I’ve been plotting and characterising and brainstorming and house-working and real-job working…. So it’s not like I’ve been doing nothing. Right? Actually, I have been doing something – just nothing to do with writing. Procrastination – again.
I hear you – we’ve gone from a story about my borderline arachnophobia to not writing. What gives? Well, I realised this morning that I was afraid of something far worse than little fat black bodies with eight hairy legs. I realised I was afraid of (wait for it…) – failure. Oh it’s such a cop out I know. But it’s such a mind-numbing thing, worrying about how crap something’s going to turn out before you actually even do it. So why risk it? Why do it in the first place? Why put yourself through all that pain when it’s just going to turn out crap anyway? Why not just sit on your fat ass surfing the net, looking at stuff you’re not interested in, just so you can not fail at something you actually used to enjoy doing?
Honestly? I have no idea. But this morning when I sat down to write (after I checked emails 20 times in about 30 seconds, refreshed my favourite sites a few times to see if there was anything new I might otherwise have missed, and re-arranged the pantry so my food was in alphabetical order, which, incidentally, will need to be re-arranged back to the way it was before my wife gets home this Friday), I had the following conversation with myself (yes, this was before my first coffee):
Do you really think you write crap? Yes. Do you think I’d be having this conversation with myself if I didn’t? (Sheesh!)
What’s so bad about writing crap? It’s crap! C-R-A-P! Stuff that should never see the light of day. Stuff so bad that it burns holes in my retinas.
So then, why do you have to show it to anyone? Because I have a little something called an ego, and my ego needs stroking, and if I don’t show anything to anybody, I can’t get my ego stroked.
So show it to someone. Surely they’ll tell you if it’s crap or not? Duh! That’s the point! Why show my crap to someone just to confirm it’s crap?
How do you know what you’ve written is crap? What? You don’t think I know my own crap?
Have you read anything lately (by published writers) that you thought was crap? Maybe. I mean, it was published, so it’s probably not crap, right? Besides, I don’t write like that.
What? You don’t write crap? Is this a trick question?
So that stuff you read was either published crap, or published good writing? I don’t get what you’re saying.
One reader’s crap is another’s treasure? Oh ha ha. At least we’re not going around in circles anymore.
Just write the crap. Then the crap is out of the system.
So I did. And you know what? The crap wasn’t that bad. I mean, I cringed a little when I was writing some of it, but I made notes to change those cringe-worthy words to stronger ones, and put “more here” where I just couldn’t see that particular scene, but I just kept writing. I stopped after about 300 words, gasping for breath and thinking “damn this is harder than I remember”. But then, around the 500 word mark, when the scene really started to open up, I started to motor. So why have I stopped to tell you about this relatively small achievement in my word count? Because my ego needs stroking.
And my argumentative alter-ego says:
The Crap has left the building.