This is what happens when I’m trying to write but nothing seems to make any sense, when my sight is cloudy and my words are flat, stick-figureish, when I can’t for the life of me locate the feeling, that burst of clarity and energy from which thoughts flow freely and clearly, meaningfully and purposefully. It seems like nothing but wrong turns and wasted time, like I should be doing or thinking about something else, a million other things, so I eventually give up in disgust, toss the table, kick the dog (gently), smash some dishes (ones I don’t need anyway), punch a hole in the wall (for future remodeling), storm out to scowl and curse at strangers on the street (they probably deserve it), and maybe knock over an old lady carrying groceries (she probably didn’t). I suspect all this has something to do with my “passion” for writing—and with the fact that I’m stuck in two dimensions, dull, deflated, and completely frustrated.
An overreaction? Depends on how you look at it but maybe, probably so. Probably seems silly that I should feel such enmity for the innocent as a result of internal struggles, like I should really only be upset with myself and leave all those inanimate objects, animals, and random people alone.
And to a very large extent that’s the case. I go after myself first and foremost—I beat myself up for getting mired in uncertainties and pulled by the distractions and detractions of daily life well before I embark on a rampage, for feeling so many steps removed from inspiration and quite unable to retrace them, for being what seems in my frustration weak before the demands of the moment, plainly incapable. And so I get stuck, and getting stuck leads to annoyance, which leads to anxiety, which leads to acrimony (and rampages), and then everything gets all nicely and neatly bundled up in that great, fantastically tricky impediment, doubt.
Doubt is truly what sparks the urge to overturn and agress, to charge around like a brute, dragging the world around me into my unnecessarily abysmal state. Doubt wants me to remain two-dimensional, one-dimensional even, linear, heading straight down a well-worn path to self-destruction. It goes for what it knows and I, in my attenuation, blind to better judgment, follow right along.
Writing is difficult enough without doubt getting in the way. Where these other feelings stagnate and restrict, doubt just shuts things down, brings it all to a halt. I build up to it, getting more and more agitated, and then it sweeps in almost imperceptibly and speaks matter-of-factly of nothing but mistakes and misjudgments, twisting my reality and better judgment to fit and even reinforce the struggle, whispers over my shoulder surprisingly convincing and consistent words of discouragement that, in my weaker times, I can easily mistake for the soothing voice of truth issuing from within.
It’s all very confusing, and it shows in what I write and when I speak under its influence. In doubt I forget almost everything, even why I thought I should bother to write in the first place, because I lose track of the boldness and fullness from which anything worth writing ever emanates. At moments like this I begin to imagine that inspiration is just some lovely-sounding but misleading falsehood propagated by supercilious and unrealistic virtuosos and I here I am, I just can’t seem to get it right the first time, nowhere close.
So I’m trying something else, as of right now. If doubt insists on hanging around, waiting to strike in the usurped tones of truth like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, how about this: fine, I’ll get it all wrong the first time, and maybe even the second and third times, too. I’ll make mistake after mistake after mistake and stop caring about whether I’m any good or not, whether I have what it takes, and then we’ll see how doubt feels. I’ll just run rampant, light and honest, spewing forth all kinds of half-baked nonsense in sentences so long and frazzled and impassioned I forget where they started and where I initially supposed they’d lead, write in circles, think in ellipses, wander boldly through myself searching for the right expression of an idea or feeling the presence of which I can sense in the shadows but don’t quite yet comprehend and just can’t seem to wrap my head and words around. I’ll just write, let it go when I need to, release it, and see what doubt has to say then—and see what I have to say too.
I’ve frankly had enough of doubt’s nonsense and its invidious slipperiness. It masquerades as deep truth, as a shocking reminder, believable in its sharpness and measured, dulcet tones, of where your fearful side thinks the whole of you belongs, as if it’s reality reminding you of your proper place, a place from which you have no business thinking you could or should ever leave. Chimerical, it might even back down a bit if challenged, might tell you it’s ok, it’s just skepticism, just helping you be careful and aware. And in this way it creates a vacuum, leaving you with nothing but your greatest, most surreptitious falsehoods.
Doubt is not part of my process, not some useful check or vital balance to my imagination or a guide to my predilections—it is not necessary, not at all. But, to a degree, all those awkward, uncertain attempts, good intentions, dead ends, false starts, misapprehensions, confused moments of misguided inspiration are, they certainly are, and I have no reason to believe they won’t lead to something better. It’s not as if I don’t have an inkling (or more than an inkling) that they’re missing the mark. That much is apparent, always.
But I’m curious and experimentational; I simply need to consider them, try them on, see how they feel and how they look, then take them off and try something else once it’s clear that they just don’t work, that they’re not me and couldn’t be. It’s just plain silly to see these trials as failures and let those perceived failures morph into doubt because doubt undermines my chances of being either certain or surprised. It leaves me in limbo, a purgatory of uncreativeness just on the outskirts of the hell of complete self-limitation. It destroys the vision and inspiration needed to find the right fit without thinking I can and should fit it all in and then somehow finding myself unfit for being unable to (how’s that for confusing?).
Art, like life, is a series of beginnings, each of which poses its own challenges, tests of determination and resolve, of boldness and love of truth and the true feelings that drive us to be and live as fully as possible. I don’t know of another way to look at it. I also don’t know another way to be—I don’t write because I like it or because it’s a nice thing to say to people whose opinions don’t really concern me. I write because it’s me, because I have to, out of utter compulsion and purposefulness. I write because I need truth, desperately, and this brings me closer to it, gives me a place to examine it and entertain it, to just be with it. There’s already enough babble and senselessness out there to hinder a life lived in pursuit of this savage synesthetic state where the internal world mingles with and mirrors the external, enough silly pulls and distractions toward flatness, meaninglessness, dullness. Doubt cannot be part of it, even if that means I have to toss a table here and there in defiance of its strange charms, let it know where I stand and where I’m going.