Monday, 22 March 2010

Safety First

The Roman philosopher, Tacitus, said,

'the desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.'

It was an astute observation, as the natural instinct of every person is to protect themselves, whether it is throwing up your arm against an incoming punch, or putting on a persona so you can face the world. The problem with writing is that it involves an exposure of self, an opening and revealing, to a greater or lesser extent, of the person. It is a common difficulty suffered by writers that they throw up blocks to writing, either conscious or subconscious ones, to protect themselves against the vulnerability that writing creates. So although writing is something they deeply want to do, it can be very difficult to actually allow themselves to undertake it.

I mean, really, why would anyone spill out their deepest feelings onto paper, expose their view of the world, then let other people read and criticise it?! The ego is made vulnerable by this and so tries to protect itself by using tactics to prevent you from doing it! All that stuff about not feeling good enough, not having enough time, it not being the right time, the work being rubbish, other people distracting you, being too tired/ill/lonely/happy to write. All these are diversionary tactics by your ego.

Because putting yourself out there on paper is risky, no doubt about it. So really, when people ask what you need to be a good writer, the answer has got to be - courage! And also, the presence of mind to start small and slow and work up. You have to almost creep up on your ego, nip by on the inside when it's obsessing about the size of your thighs, or something. A lot of people worry that they will never achieve their true potential (yet another ego avoidance tactic!), and of course they never will, unless they start at the bottom and work up. They, and we, only have this present moment, so there is no point worrying about achieving a goal sometime in the future or castigating ourselves for the mistakes of our past. All we can do is act now. And with any luck those small acts made in the moment will build into a bigger picture that we can understand.

But none of this is easy, and that is is why books such as The Artists Way by Julia Cameron, have been so very popular and helped so many people. Because they help you to bypass that inner critic, get a handle on your ego, and deal with the blocks that prevent so many of us from writing.

I did laugh (or was it cry?!) the other day. A friend asked how the writing was going. 'I'm a bit concerned' he said, 'because all you seem to blog about is how hard it is, and why you're not doing it!' And he was right. But it is hard, and some of the time I'm not doing it. I find it hard to maintain my confidence. I have fallen off the writing wagon, and seen it trundle off into the distance, more times than I care to remember. But I guess what is important is that every time, I pick myself up, dust myself off, and keep going. One way or another I keep going. And I do this because ultimately I know that writing is good for me. I am a better person if I am doing it and thinking about it. Regardless of whether I ever write anything that anyone else will read, it is very good for me. And a lot cheaper than therapy!!

So writers have to release that safety belt and take a few risks. It's frightening, but the rewards are worth it. Here's another Roman quotation to end with -

'Fortes fortuna adiuvat'
'Fortune favours the brave'


Lola said...

Bravo! Writing about not writing is still writing...

Jayhaitch said...

I found your blog with the help of the wonderful next blog button at the top. It's fantastic.One of the first blogs that I've found this way that I enjoyed.

I particularly like this piece. It is exactly how I feel sometimes when I'm writing. I have one article done that I'm sitting on just in case people think I'm actually crazy...and you should see some of the stuff I've actually posted.

Anyway, thanks a million for writing. Keep it up.

claires inner world said...

Hi Jayhaitch. Thanks so much for your kind comment! I have found some good blogs with the 'next' button, too! Will have a look at your blog - check out whether you really are crazy or not! ;)