When I think of writers I think of tortured, anti-social souls who are so dissatisfied with life their only outlet is putting pen to paper while downing cheap whiskey and smoking Marlboros. They rarely shower or leave the house. Most people would run screaming away from this life. I, on the other hand, find it oddly appealing. Is that bad?
Now I realize that is a stereotype and it is not a necessary truth. There are many writers who live lovely, normal lives. I just cannot subscribe to that theory. Writing is a solitary exercise and the more in pain you are, the better the words. It’s like comparing yesterday’s rock stars to today’s pop stars. My rock heroes trashed hotel rooms, took copious amounts of illegal substances and lived “the life.” They lived this mythical existence that mere mortals can only dream of. That is how I see Hemingway, Burroughs and Thompson. (Mostly) Men who did not conform to societal norms, men who blazed new trails and changed the world with their words.
I used to think I was not good enough to write anything, that my sheltered experiences did not provide me with the necessary tools needed to put words to paper in a way that would have any meaning. I realize my need to travel, my need to move was my attempt to create experiences worthy of writing about. I thought if I did the whole “On the Road” thing the words would magically come to me. That I would suddenly become profound and relevant.
Lots of free time allows me two things: (1) more time than is really healthy for introspective thought processing and (2) time to talk myself out of writing. I question my degree of how much my soul is actually tortured. I question my ability to even put a string of words together. I have no idea what a dangling participle even is. I can’t picture myself taking drugs or drinking booze in order to become a writer. So is that scenario even possible for me?
All I ever wanted to do was write. I realize now what has held me back all these years. I did feel I didn’t have much to say in the early years. My experiences were not enough to write about. I did find that living life does fill the archives with some notable material. But it is more than that, it is about fear. It is easier to not do it than to try and fail miserably. It’s easier to start “tomorrow” instead of digging in today. I felt like I had to have all the planets aligned and every scenario anticipated before I could ever write. I waited and waited for everything to be perfect before I started. Guess what? Nothing ever aligned, nothing was ever perfect, and the exact time never came.
So what happens when you put a dream on hold? Doubt becomes your best friend. Insecurity is a close runner up. The less you do the thing you love, the less inspiration you have. When I am in a zone, words fly through my fingertips onto the keyboard, not necessarily great words, but words nonetheless. When I am sitting around thinking about writing, the words do not come. I suppose this could be true of any artistic endeavor, like songwriting, painting, and the like. So how does one get and stay in the zone?
I do not know. But I have learned that if you do not make a serious effort, the outcome will never be good. Note to self: the effort may never pay off either, there is no guarantee. If you, at the very least try and fail, you will have been true to yourself. There will be no time for regret or doubt. In real life, failing is not the negative thing we are taught it is. The negative reality is to never have tried at all and it has nothing to do with being tortured.
I know I’ll never write an epic novel like “Atlas Shrugged” or will probably never win the Nobel Peace Prize for literature and now I realize that is ok. But I have to try, if I fail, so be it. I may write and maybe fail, but it is still better than not writing and truly failing. It’s time to stop waiting for something to happen and make something happen.
Good luck to all you dreamers out there. Embrace the uncertainty and feel the inspiration. Fear no more and run straight to your dream. You won’t regret it!