I have this analytical side that I can’t turn off. I often use it to overthink. You should see me trying to decide what to eat at a restaurant as I measure choice, mood, health, calories, fat in the food and fat in myself, and my weight and physical condition, against the satisfaction and pleasure found in eating while weighing what sort of event it is and how much I should be willing to indulge myself.
My analytical side is coolly, cruelly sharp. It sees and speaks whether I want it to or not. I try to pretend it’s wrong, but it’s generally right. It’s wearying.
Thinking about this today, on this cold fall morning, I think about Occam’s Razor, the sense that, maybe the simplest answer is correct. Maybe I’m a good writer but one that isn’t really good enough to be a professional writer.
I’m lured, though, by authors’ words, quotes like, “A professional is just an amateur who never gave up.” I’m lured by anecdotes where a writer was rejected for five years and then was finally published and scored the success that I seek as a writer, hell, as a person, as validation and reward. I remember how many times Theodor Geisel, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Stephen King were rejected, but that they didn’t give up, because they believed, man.
I know, too, that writers will tell you that they’re rarely satisfied with their own work. We are perverse.
I’m reminded, we’re always trying to be a better writer and story-teller, so who can say what I’ll be like in five years? There’s always improvement to be had, right? Write and read, right?
I write for myself, and I enjoy my own story-telling, but my analyst whispers, “So?”
I write for myself, but I suspect that the writing process, my writing habits and routines, are enablers, and that I’m addicted to that process and to the hope that this will all come to something.
My analyst shrugs. “So? You think this is news? Don’t you think that others go through this? Really?”
I write for myself, but I immerse myself so completely, I focus so intensely, that my life outside of my writing efforts is a shell. By writing efforts, I mean the creative process of conceiving, imagining, writing, polishing, editing and revising. I despise the business end, yet, perversely, without the business end, how much of this would I be putting myself and my family through this?
Yes, that’s how writers often are, I remember reading. Look what Stephen King put himself through.
That doesn’t help.
My analyst smirks.
Thoughts of giving up hit a hard internal wall. “Give up writing and trying? No. Sorry. Won’t happen.”
That reaction makes me wonder if my stubborn determination isn’t a facade for mental illness and emotional issues, perhaps giving me a rational for being aloof and leaving emotions and issues untouched, that I’m hustling myself to give me purpose so that my life might end up having meaning, so that I can eventually shout at others, “See? I was right.”
One of the problems with Occam’s Razor in my mind is that it’s difficult to test and verify that the simplest answer is true. I think, though, wouldn’t it be easiest to take a break, to stop writing for a period, take a time-out to see what develops?
It’s so tempting. I’d probably go through withdrawal. Withdrawal from anything has nasty side-effects. I’d probably be cranky and bitter, and spend some time and energy being bitter and resentful despite all the psychological tricks I’d employ to be happy and balanced.
Eventually, I’d emerge as a slightly different version of myself, model one million and one. Free of entertaining my writing mechanisms and the immersion I end up demanding of myself when I write, I’d probably become friendlier, more relaxed, and sociable. As I need the purpose, structure, and direction that my writing provides me, I’d hunt for a replacement and probably become more engaged in community volunteer activities.
I can spin this into so many different directions at this point. I can take on any of the directions, step away and put on my writer’s cap and my analyst’s cap to encourage me in any direction that I choose. I can find justification in any one of them, along with hope, and reasons for taking and sustaining that direction.
Thoughts of surrendering my writing ambitions terrify me, because I might be wrong, but also because I might be wrong. I think, all that wasted time and energy, but I think, yes, but you wouldn’t have known, if you hadn’t tried.
I think, there’s probably another path, like, okay, treat writing like a nine-to-five Monday-through-Friday existence. Take the weekends off. It’s easy to say, everyone needs time to recharge. And time away might give me fresh perspectives. (And I think, look at you, intellectualizing these processes and putting them into convenient silos.)
That could well be true. In the end, I’m amused to discover, I’m afraid of who I am, who I might be, and who I might not be. Who isn’t, right? I can imagine words that I can read, suggestions given about what to do, encouragement not to give up.
It’s all games. Some embrace those games and work it out better than others. Isn’t that what life, the time between when we’re born into a physical existence and then die and leave that state, what it’s all about, to find which version of the game you’ll play and how fervently, how ardently, you’ll play it?
The analyst’s side whispers to me. “Ah, you’ve fallen into your monthly dark cycle. You know you get like this. Endure, endure. Don’t make any decisions about anything now. Circumstances are accumulating to make this period a heavy one this time.”
Reflecting on all of this, I sip my first taste of the day’s coffee and think, why post this? Why share it with the public? To garner pity? To announce to others, you are not alone? To draw attention to myself?
Posting it — hah, sharing it – feels like a compulsion. I’ve written to understand what I think. That’s completed. Sharing it feels like an act of desperation.
Sharing it also feels like an act of therapy. Sharing it feels like a cry for help.
Sharing it feels like another person trying to understand their life, sort feelings, and work through existence. Perhaps I’m just showing off, telling others, see? See how I can think and write? See how complex I am? My analyst whispers, “Yes, and you’re also exposing your shortcomings, vulnerabilities, and ego.”
It’s all madness, overthinking madness. From it, I emerge again, resolved and unresolved, conflicted but certain and doubtful, Michael, version one million and two.
Meet the new me.