Sometimes, I hate writing. I hate using my limited musical or artistic skills. I hate being caught with a code file or interface design window open. I loathe the idea that I might be overheard speaking into a microphone. Even if I’m in an “up” phase, when it’s 45 degrees out, a thunderstorm is raging, my asthma has safely retreated to the corner, my hands hurt only a little and I have a giant vat of coffee with peppermint creamer at hand, asking me “What’re you doing?” when I’m trying to write will cause a spike of rage and depression to shove itself through my skull.
Where does it come from? What does it boil down to? Why? It’s not the “delicate artist must not be disturbed while pursuing his craft” thing; I can – and do, sometimes – write on a tablet or scrap of paper while in a moving vehicle blaring Bohemian Rhapsody with five stoners headbanging their way to a concert present. I can – and have – explained each step of what I’m attempting to do with a compiler or image design tool to as many as ten other individuals crammed into a room not much bigger than Kim Kardashian’s dog’s closet.
I think it’s embarrassment. A quick flash of self-loathing and doubt when that simple question hits my eardrums. There’s a little snake inside my head who arches a brow, smiles smugly and condescendingly and says “Yes, Kaine. What are you doing, hmm? Think you’re doing something useful, or good, or interesting? Think again, stupid.”
I know I’m crazy. I also know that scars never heal right, especially when they’re from festering wounds that lay untreated for decades with the exception of salt being rubbed into them. Years of dismissal, doubt or outright mockery have taken their toll, and given my penchant for picking at scabs instead of letting them heal properly, I really don’t have anyone to blame but myself.
“Yeah, well,” said one individual, “I’ve known a lot of people with dreams, and they’re always talking about how they’re going to do something big, and you saying things about your books or whatever reminds me of that. Because it doesn’t mean shit, and it never will.” They were referencing a discussion when I had sent a manuscript to a small publishing house. They didn’t care that I had already self published three books. Those were ephemeral and “pointless bullshit.” It doesn’t matter now that the book in question is available, that my name has crawled up another rung of legitimacy; it doesn’t matter that this individual finds their fulfillment in living off the government’s dime with no greater aspiration than logging a thousand hours in GTA5 or that their friends’ “big dreams” usually amount to drug-fueled government takeover conspiracies or useless patent ideas that they’ve never bothered to so much as open a document about. Not to me. What matters is the sting of “What you’re doing is pointless and will never have value.”
“It must be nice to waste time in front of a computer when you could be doing something useful.” This generally followed by a snotty sniff. It doesn’t matter that this comes from someone who engages in serial marriage to support themselves or that their sole purpose in life seems to be finding ways to drag their children down and that they haven’t shown a single lick of interest in who I am and what I do; it only matters that they’ve dismissed the work I’ve done as nothing more than childish lark, hiding from any actual work or responsibility.
There’s been dozens – probably hundreds – of similar echoes over the years. All of them boiling down to making me feel like less of a person simply because I choose to engage in create pursuits and dismissing that there is anything serious, adult or financially viable about them. That’s on the occasions where they even remember or comment on the idea that I’m a writer; right now there’s at least one person in my life who each time discussion of me is brought up feels the need to indulge in snarky sniping regarding me, but who knows pretty much zero about me other than my age and vaguely what I look like. Anything about my creative career is retained only long enough to provide a sideways insult about it, then forgotten until they are reminded again. Not by me; I tend to shut up and say nothing when they’re around – I learned long ago that you can be right, or you can be happy – but because other people won’t let it go. Either way, my skin is still left scorched and my heart bleeding.
“No good can come from Bethlehem,” the serpent whispers, “let alone from something like you.” I believe that a lot of the time. At least if anyone asks what I’m doing or why I’m doing it.
It’s a stupid, petty thing to struggle with. I know that. But second to health factors, it’s probably the biggest reason I get derailed or end up shutting down creatively or leave projects wilting on the vine. And unfortunately I can’t get all empowered and sing a song while I build a castle out of books while drowning everyone in a thirty mile radius in printouts. Though it’d be fun. If I had the graphical know-how, I’d be photoshopping myself on Elsa’s face and switching the ice for walls of text right now.
Anyone else have this problem, or one like it? What’s the single biggest emotional roadblock to your creative process? Let us know in the box below; until next time.