Monday 28 May 2012

Traveling the inward spiral

I'm most definitely back on the inward spiral part of my usual cycle. Right now, my life's mostly about processing, thinking and exploring issues. Part of the process is verbalised, most is under the surface. Usually, I'm coming back from that land with stories and ideas.

I have been productive on the historical novel - a few hundred words at a time, nothing on some days, but I've overcome the anxiety of "OMG, I'm not writing 5k a day!" Essentially, it is what it is. Writing at all is a miracle, and I'm grateful for every word. Every sentence gets me closer to the end. This is a slow book - foot rather than fighter jet.

Lately, my thoughts and stuff I was working on deal with my roots - and I'm getting somewhere with matters such as ancestry and the cut-off history beyond my own generation, with everything else beyond my own generation in my family sinking into myth. It's my own attitude to those myths, and how much of that I want in my own life, space and thoughts, that I've been tackling.

The other big theme is fear. I'm going to confess one of my biggest fears: that I might actually make it. That what I sometimes laughingly call my megalomania isn't. (Just typing this makes my inner introvert coil uneasily, I mean, who cares, right?)

At the bottom of it all is the fear that, should I hit success, somebody will take my writing away. I won't be master of my creativity anymore. I'll have signed a contract that forces me to deliver, even if I don't want to, on pain of having to pay back everything, disappointing people, and publishers getting nasty. My natural response when signing any contract is that I want to run away. I don't want the obligation. In fact, I resent it from the foundations of my soul.

Another worry is that I will have to deliver - write books I don't feel, because I'm obliged to. Again, a matter of freedom and free choice. It all boils down to something I have so deep in my DNA it's one of the guiding principles of my life. Never to depend on anybody. To be strong, independent, my own master. It's a lesson I've learnt from my mother, who spent half her breaths on it: "Never rely on anybody. Never make yourself dependent on anybody. You will regret it." (She'd won that wisdom the hardest way imaginable - with four husbands who ranged from kind and supportive to complete assholes, the worst of them my father.)

The history of my relationship with my dude is about that. Whenever it looks like I might become the weaker partner, something inside me simply screeches in terror. Fear. Horror. Resentment. Poor bastard certainly doesn't deserve it. Never does. I just don't deal well with it. And I think that ties into power. I have issues with power and authority. To me, it seems to imply dependence. Weakness.

So, ironically, being successful as a writer wouldn't feel like a powerful position to me, but one of weakness, obligation, and loss of control. Defensive. I'm rather a niche author in control than a big author who's not, because at the bottom if it all, something inside me is terrified of losing my freedom. To me, being the thrall of a king or pope and making art for them sounds like a complete nightmare. Depending on somebody's whim for my creative livelihood. It's certainly the seed of a story, that conflict. I bet it's going to show up at some point.

The good thing of this kind of explorative work is, I can examine these issues without risk. I don't have to become anybody's thrall to explore that situation. (And here I was, wondering why all my characters are tied so deeply by obligation and their own sense of honor - it's my shadow expressing itself. A possibility, in part unlived, in part kept at arm's length, and permitted only after careful consideration when I feel "safe".)

Another good thing is, I can overcome that fear, tiny step by tiny step. Tackling that fear is the big work I'm doing at the moment. I've examined other fears - all the childish, profound ones that hold authors back: fear of not being loved, fear of rejection, material/financial angst, being a failure, standing out/making yourself a target - and I don't mind any of those.

When examining "fear of not being loved", something twitched in my soul, so there's some substance to it, but that's something I've made good progress on, not in the least by repeating "somebody is being an asshole on the internet" in a mocking sing-song to myself, reminding myself of that cartoon ("Come to bed!" - "I can't! Somebody is WRONG ON THE INTERNET!" - that one) and how silly that is. Somebody somewhere will always hate me and my writing/books. They are not my readers. I can just let them go on their way to something that will please them more. No hard feelings. Not everybody likes strawberries. Blaming or hating the strawberries is not exactly a productive use of time, space or emotional energy. (And, yep, getting there took me a while, but I made a big step over the last few weeks, helped along, in part, by former friends of mine and what their words/actions taught me.)

So, I'm looking at my fears and try to walk towards them. Path of greatest resistance. I see the guardians of the threshold, and I'm taking small steps towards myself. 


  1. Fear - that emotion we all seem to learn first as children (thanks, Dad!) I've always tried to convince myself that what others think of me/my work doesn't really matter, but we're conditioned to care, aren't we?

    Like you, I'm trying, and usually feel like I'm winning, until one of those stumbling blocks raises its ugly head. We'll always hear one negative, even amongst a thousand positives.

    I try never to allow those forces to affect my self-worth. I've worked too hard to achieve what I have. But that's another one of those struggles I deal with everyday (thanks, Dad!)

    I love what you said about critics of your writing not being your readers. Something great to remember.


  2. One of the hardest things to do in life (at least as I see it) is to face ones self. I've had some eye opening moments in the last 15 years. Life course altering to be completely honest. I hope that your realization of your fears helps you over come them or at the very least see that they don't mean as much as they once did.

    I am sure that this exists several places but it was the first that popped up on my search. It is what I try to remember when life gets complicated.

    *holds up a half full glass of cider draft*

    A toast to us finding our golf balls ;)

  3. I am a lot older than you Aleks and as you know illness has constrained my life a lot. I think I have two reflections to share arising from my own thoughts and struggles:
    1) I wish I had taken more risks - looking back I did not understand how bound by my own thoughts I was. I might not have succeeded greatly or been more in control of my life but I would have had experiences.
    2) To an extent life is always like this, we are always pushing against our pavlovian behaviours and anxiety about the future and our own and others expectations. Knowing that is half the battle. So your battle is half won. I think of it as an open spiral not a constraining circle. We go over old ground but from a different, higher perspective. You are a reflective and conscious person, choosing to learn. This means new possibilities are a part of your future. Being open to them is the tricky thing.