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pulling down the wall

As marathon runners can hit the wall – reach a point where they’re so discouraged they want to give up – so can writers, and yesterday I did. The power of my mentor’s words had not truly sunk in until I took the time, yesterday, to reread, not only what I have been writing over the past year, but over the past many years.

I opened some of the files I’ve created over time, the attempts to deal with the Sixties material. What I saw is that I have been telling the same story over and over and over, in slightly different ways, over hundreds of pages. It made me feel sick. I had no idea I’d devoted so much time to the same material while making only minor changes in voice, content, style. Isn’t the definition of “stupid” doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting different results? By that definition, I have been excessively, pathetically stupid in the use of my time and talents.

Depression set in, briefly – a dark night of etc.etc. What the hell are you doing, wasting your time with this writing stuff that pays nothing and eats up your life? Go out and get a real job. Imagine if you’d actually been WORKING instead of sitting around inspecting your navel, tapping away telling yourself the same stories again and again. You wouldn’t be fussed about selling your Balenciaga ballgown, you’d be happy and busy. So just forget it. Will the world care that it doesn’t have your stories to kick around? Nah. The world will not notice one tiny bit.
That is what the negative voice sounds like, the voice of criticism, cowardice and self-pity (mixed with just a dash of truth and good sense) that kills creativity.
Luckily, I’ve been dealing with that voice for so long that I know how to tell it to shut up and go away. Which I did, pretty fast – I dismantled my wall. As my mentor also says, none of that past work is wasted. It’s compost. You can only do what you can do when you can do it. I was not ready to tackle the stories in a different way, so I tackled them in the same way. Now it’s time, somehow, to look at them differently. I have no doubts that I can do it, once I wrestle down the negative forces that have blocked me over and over again. There’s a reason I’m nearly sixty and have published only one book, a book that took me 25 years to research, write and get published. I have had to battle such forces in myself to get the work out that there has not been much work to show.
That changes now, she said with energy and confidence and optimism, kicking the strewn remnants of the wall to the curb. But first, right now, I’m going to see the movie Bright Star with W’son. It’s about Keats. Maybe he hit a wall too.
I write all this, yes, in a spirit of confession, but also to show those students of mine who follow this blog that though I can cheerfully steer them, encourage and prod and support them, it’s a different matter for myself. Just as Mr. Ch*y can critique me brilliantly, but for his own work, he needs his own editors who do the same for him.



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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