I am too cynical to write.
I am so cynical, that the only topic I can think of to write about is how I can’t write.
Not exactly a subject I would have chosen to throw away my blogging purity ring for, but hey. Not everyone’s first time is the kind of special that involves champagne and Barry White.
You might have found yourself in the same position. You’re definitely not someone who doesn’t give a shit. You give many shits. So many shits, in fact, that your brain is churning and heaving with unwritten thoughts and ideas that cannot and should not be caged. They simply must be transferred from brain to paper. You go to do just that, when out of nowhere, you just…can’t. You’ve lost your mojo. You’ve hit a brick wall. You have very suddenly and very coincidentally run out of opinions. I could probably give a WebMD list of reasons as to why this happens. But no matter the cause, it’s indescribably frustrating and as disappointing as the third season of Heroes.
I remember being nineteen, fifteen, even thirteen, and writing a story solely for my own enjoyment. I would be in such a hurry to be awed by my own handiwork, that I would blaze through piles of loose leaf like a maniac, so that I could salivate onto my Spongebob pillowcase as I read pandering, self-insert fanfic of me as a vampire slayer in an alternate dimension where Sarah Michelle Gellar didn’t exist. I would be in such a rush to delve into the fantasies I’d crafted, that I didn’t care how imperfect, unrefined or straight up awful my actual writing was. It didn’t matter. I was too excited for it to matter.
So what, besides tits and a (hopefully) thoroughly developed frontal lobe, was the difference between thirteen year old me, and twenty-six year old me?
I could sit here, surly and badass like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino and mumble between swigs of whisky (straight whiskey) about how jaded and world-weary I am. Which is partially true. Human beings only have so much of a capacity for bullshit, and there’s no shortage of it on our planet. However true this may be, it’s still only an excuse.
The one thing that stands out, that has made the most notable difference between thirteen and twenty six is the need for an audience. When I was young, I wrote things for myself. It didn’t matter if my scribbled misadventures ever saw the light of day. In fact, apart from mandatory in-class readings, none of them ever did. The opinions of others mattered less. Impressing them didn’t matter at all.
It’s the hardest lesson I’ve ever had to learn as a writer. One that I still haven’t finished learning. The second that you start writing for anyone else other than yourself, is the second that the floodlights switch on and all the magic evaporates. You stop feeling like an author, and start feeling like one of those monkeys chained to a typewriter, smoking a cigarette.
I’m not saying it’s impossible to write for someone or something. By posting this internal rant online, I’m technically ‘writing for something.’ I’m not here to deliver a warning for all the writers out there to horde their haikus or bubble wrap their six-part sci-fi sagas.
Put your work out there, sure. Put it on display and let people love, hate or be on the fence about it. But never allow your identity as a Bic-brand pen wielding visionary to become entangled by the perceptions and opinions of anyone outside of your own mind.
You will start to become dependent on others to be the vehicle for your creativity, and that will usher in a godless, joyless, decade-long writing cock block. When you start writing for one person, you start writing for everyone. Since it’s impossible to appeal to the entire populace, the mission feels like a failure before it’s even an embryo. An insidious type of perfection sets in like a disease and begins to spread its poison until it’s infected your mind with discouragement.
Even the world’s most gifted artists produce work that isn’t for everyone. If you’re three words in and already consumed with your audience’s reaction, then you will not produce at all. I’ve been actively writing for over half of my life and this cautionary blurb is the first thing in, I’m not sure how long, that I’ve prompted myself to write for me. I’m going to give props to my sleeping pills and the fact that it’s 5 am, but I have finally done it.
And glory be, it is a magnificent, structureless, rambling pile of garbage.
But if you sift through the mess, I promise you’ll find a point, and an avid one at that.
Don’t let this happen to you.