I had some amazing insights last week and I realized I’ve been avoiding writing about them. Why? Here are the reasons given by the voices in my head:
“You’ll jinx it.”
“This is too huge. You aren’t capable of articulating this correctly.”
“You may see things this way now, but eventually you won’t.”
“If you don’t follow through” (put the insights into action) “you’ll be embarrassed.”
“No one will understand.”
“They’re all gonna laugh at you.”
Okay, this last one is a quote from the movie Carrie. But it’s definitely something that’s crossed my mind.
It occurred to me that all of these encouragements to keep my insights to myself were just another example of conditioning and self-hatred trying to brainwash me. The day after, I was already saying, “Yesterday was a total delusion. What the hell was I thinking?”
But I’ve had some time to sit with all this, and I’ve decided to write it down. Who cares if anyone thinks I’ve gone off the deep end?
The big insight that came up was this: The sub-personality inside me who hates my job and can’t get excited about writing anymore is a third-grader. Let me clarify that the writing she can’t get excited about is specifically job-related. She gets very excited about writing this blog and short stories and other things that she can’t make any money from doing. But when it comes to screenwriting, she has zero interest left.
The reason this was such a revelation is that I always thought that person was me — the adult version of me. So, when I tried to force myself to work on a script and I’d find myself getting sidetracked by every possible procrastination, I got really frustrated. Why was I drowning in resistance? Why should this be so hard when I’ve been successful at it for years?
I kept thinking it was just creative burnout. I just needed to recharge my batteries, refill the well. But the truth is, I never really felt that excitement and passion return. Sure, from time to time I felt like it was working. But then I’d hit that wall again, and the resistance would be even stronger.
What I’ve been longing for is the excitement I used to have in third grade. Every day we wrote for an hour about anything we wanted. Up till then, school had been boring: math, science, spelling. But creative writing was so much fun! I was bursting with ideas. I couldn’t wait to open my notebook and go wild.
And now, as an adult who’s made a career out of creative writing, I constantly think, “How did I lose that enthusiasm?”
Well, I could go over the events of my career and make a strong case that the enthusiasm was beaten out of me by a harsh, cut-throat business. But it would be more accurate to say that the enthusiasm was beaten out of that innocent little third-grader. It occurred to me that she was the person I was sending to the job. She was the one who was responsible for drumming up that passion. She was the one who got her feelings hurt when her ideas were criticized and rejected. After all that, she was the one who was resisting writing. And who could blame her?
I was no Mozart.
When I was that age, my parents made me take piano lessons. I never enjoyed it because I was expected to perform. It wasn’t about making music; it was about being good. I would practice diligently, memorizing the music, learning the proper technique. When I competed (yes, they enrolled me in competitions — no wonder I’m so screwed up!) I would get good technical marks, but less than spectacular marks in the artistic category. What was missing? Passion.
This is exactly what’s going on with my career.
I finally made this important connection. As soon as I recognized this young sub-personality and realized everything she’s been through, I burst into tears. This third-grader was being forced to perform all over again, her creative merits being judged by so-called authorities. And on top of that, she wasn’t just expected to do it well, but do it with feeling!
Instead of beating myself up for the resistance to writing, I was finally able to feel compassion for the person who was scared and hurt. I saw that the mean things the voices said about my writing were things you’d never say to a child. Things like, “What makes you think you have anything to say?” It’s no mystery that hearing these awful things would make a person not want to write.
I promised the third-grader that I would never force her to perform again. She’s a creative person and has needs, and those needs aren’t met by my job. So, when she wants to sew or cook or plan theme parties or do whatever is going to nurture her, I will support that instead of letting the voices say, “You’ve had enough fun. Time to get back to work.”
(By the way, my husband pointed out that any voice that says, “You’ve had enough fun,” is not the voice of a friend.)
And the job — well, I still need to work. But maybe not in a creative job. Maybe it’s okay to try something else, without having to define myself as a creative person through my work. And while the adult me is earning a paycheck, the third-grader can just be a kid and have fun and not worry about anything at all.