A Self-Loathing Fire

That is a terrible title.

I was just commenting in a discussion on Goodreads, about whether or not you ever feel guilty about not writing, and somehow those words traveled down my arms, wiggled down into my fingertips, and hammered themselves into the internet. As soon as I wrote them I couldn't help but picture a little campfire with its arms crossed, turning away from a camper that was trying to feed it, huffing when the camper tried to assure it that it was warm and cozy and welcome. Or something like that.

Really, I was talking about lighting a fire under myself, needing that self-loathing that comes when I haven't given rise to any words in a while, to motivate myself. I think that might even be true; I've found myself taking long breaks from doing any of what I consider my real work, and the longer those gaps become the larger the pile of guilt until one day I sit down and I write a chapter in a book I might have no intention of even finishing and the relief is so intense when I sit back and look at the word count that I can't believe I ever let a day go by without throwing myself at this writing thing.

Maybe that's just my pattern. It's not ideal. I read about people that pen 10,000 words a day and I cry a little. I'm sort of a math guy, so my mind grabs that number and starts throwing it around, plying it and molding it into whatever fantastic shapes it can imagine. 10,000 words, that's 10% of a novel. Write that many words every day and in a week and a half you've got a first draft. You could write 34 books a year.



At the very least, you could write and rewrite and have a half a dozen books published every year. That would be cake if you could churn out that many nouns and verbs. I want to believe that anyone who brags so much about their word count must not give half a rat's ass about content, but that's just me trying to punch a hole in what might be a much better system than I have. That's Retaliatory Me, and I can't trust that guy's opinion. He's unstable.

But people do that, and if the internet is to be believed (I know, I laughed when I wrote that, but I needed a chuckle) then it happens decently often. I read Stephen King's On Writing. I know you're supposed to write 2,000 words a day. That seems to be everyone's goal. I just don't know if I have it in me. Every time I miss a day I feel terrible, and it takes the wind out of my celebration even when I do sit down and write my way through a rebellious scene, only to come out with 1,800 notches in my literary belt. What is that? Why am I doing that to myself?

This is one one of the reasons I love writing so much: I can take ideas that I'm grappling with, that I could just mull over forever, and give them form so that they have to be reckoned with. That's one of the reasons I'm so happy that I've got this blog, this place to think and write and about nothing in particular. I do this same thing with a notebook, but at least this way I don't have to worry about the wind blowing my page aside or my pen running out of ink (I love my fountain pen, but damn if the thing isn't eternally bled dry). Sometimes I worry that someone will find my notebook and read the things I write and criticize them. This medium is much better; if someone reads this then I've succeeded! I guess. That is the point of this, right? To become well-known, maybe even famous, at least enough to convince a few people to come away to my commune and marry me and call me God? Pretty sure that's the point of all this.

The point I was trying to make, though, was that it's nice to be able to get my self doubts and failings out in the open. I could sit and think about them and they would never be any more than abstract ideas, and so they would exist forever. You can't fight an enemy that has no form, can you? And they are my enemy; just as much as the man (or woman) that would never begin a sentence with a preposition, or the stickler that would tell me there is such a thing as too many semicolons (not if used wisely). I don't want to battle these shapeless demons any longer, I want them to stand up in front of me so that I can look them in the eye and tell them that they're not so terrifying as they seem. I can spend a day without writing, and that's okay - I take vacation days from work, don't I? And this is the time to be content with little enough produced. If I ever garner any measure of renown then I'll be compelled to write more all the time, and I'm not one for half-assing a job. If someone tells me they want me to write a book, then I'll write a damn book. This is the time that artists look back on and saw they wish they could return to, the time before there was so much pressure to perform.

I could suck and hardly anyone would notice.

I guess that my demons aren't so bad. I need them. They keep things interesting, and we all know that ART IS PAIN, or something like that. It wouldn't hurt to keep them in check, though.

Take their pitchforks, give them pool noodles.

Now there's a title.