Tag Archives: Writing

The Solipsism of Creativity

img_0810For me, creativity is the joy of life. It is also a delicate fire that can be easily put out if not properly nurtured. Being creative requires a willingness to fail. It seems that for every ten failures there is one success. Very often that one success is not possible without those ten preceding failures. Being creative (at least for me) requires a certain level of exposure. There has to exist the opportunity to be judged by others to raise the stakes and risk catastrophe. This raising of the stakes gives it an energy that it would not otherwise have. This means that creativity requires a willingness to be vulnerable. In this way there are two counterbalancing forces at play. On the one hand creativity requires nurturing but on the other it must also risk negative judgment.

I make myself vulnerable in this way on a weekly basis when I write this blog. I write about what I am thinking. I enjoy the process of creating and putting it out there. The fact that what I write can be read by other people matters more than whether it is actually read because all of this is an internal and solipsistic process. In other words it is my own anticipation of my writing being read by others that (to a certain extent) fuels the fire of creativity

On the other hand there are very real, judgmental and sometimes hostile voices out there. These voices can manifest themselves as actual people in my blog’s comment section or as an internal critical voice. To a degree I enjoy their hostility because there is a power in getting their reaction. This is an ego based sort of enjoyment and as such is ultimately self annihilating in nature. As is the judgmental hostility it is interacting with. For this reason this enjoyment is something that I am not all together comfortable with. There is also a certain amount of defiance of this hostility on my part at play in this dynamic. This also fuels the fire. Moreover, if I were to not write and publish for fear of being judged I would only be stifling myself. This is a another form of self annihilation. So I must write.

These hostile forces share similar qualities. They all seem to take offense at true expression on supposed moral grounds. This is always the way with the ego who is threatened by the free expression of others. The ego is always comparing itself to others and placing everything on a hierarchy. It is threatened by the idea of equality and it employs shame to create this false hierarchy very likely because that weapon was used so successfully on it. I suspect there is jealousy at play here. The hostile force’s free expression had been shut down by shame and so it cannot bear to see free expression in others. It touches a point of pain that is too much to endure. Because it cannot be free no one else can be either. It sees freedom as rebellion and radical autonomy. It denies that freedom is actually the expression of one’s true nature which is the expression of God’s will.

 

 

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A Conversation with Writer’s Block

MoonI have been working on a story lately. It is actually a rewrite of a rewrite of a rewrite of a story my cousin and I collaborated on many years ago. I have made a few attempts to write it in a final form but I always seem to get derailed and end up not finishing what I have started. That is why, in the tradition of Gestalt therapy, I have invited my writer’s block here today to discuss what is going on and perhaps get to the bottom of it.

WS : Let’s cut to the chase. Why do you block me?

WB : The simple answer is that I am writer’s block and blocking your writing is what I do. But I know that you are not looking for the simple answer. You want to know why I desire to block you. I could answer that question in one of two ways. The first way I could go is that I block you for your own protection. Whatever you are attempting to write about or the reason for which you are trying to write is causing you to push up against a fear. I am protecting you from having to experience this fear. The second way I could go is that I am blocking you from writing because I am fucking with you. Which way do you think I am going?

WS : Probably the first one.

WB : I suspect you are right although it is difficult to be sure. Why I think you are correct, however, is that writer’s block is a type of lethargy, procrastination or inaction. This is always fear based although it feels like laziness. The fucking with comes in afterwards when you beat yourself up for being lazy.

WS : Alright let’s go with the protection theory. I like that better anyway. So what do you think I am afraid of?

WB : Most writers experience a fear of being judged. When they write they are being vulnerable. What they have written is intended for others to read and there is a bit of vanity involved. So there is the fear that they will be judged for being or appearing to be vain.

WS : Is that my fear?

WB : That’s part of it. But there is another related fear there too.

WS : What is it?

WB : I’m not going to do all the work for you. I block you to protect you from this fear. That means there is a feeling that would be triggered if I allowed you to write this book. This feeling is unendurable or at least you think it is unendurable. So you won’t go there. What do you think this feeling is?

WS : I don’t know.

WB : You do, but it makes you too uncomfortable to articulate it. So you pretend not to know. Actually, “pretend” is too strong a word and it suggests that you are aware of this dynamic which you are not. Let’s say that approaching this fear becomes uncomfortable and so you by default veer off course. It is something along those lines.

WS : So the fear does your work for you?

WB : I am merely a personification of this dynamic playing out within you. You have personified me to have this dialog in order to better understand the dynamic. You know all that so don’t waste our time asking me those types of questions.

WS : I apologize.

WB : No problem. Let’s just move forward. The solution to this problem is that you must face the fear and endure this feeling. The good news is that you don’t really have to identify or label the feeling you fear in order to have gnosis of it. All you have to do is write the story and notice when you feel blocked. Then you will know that you are pushing up against it.

WS : What do I do then? How do I get through it?

WB : I have a simple answer but not an easy one. There is no other way to get through it than to get through it. In other words, you cannot face your fear without experiencing what makes you afraid.

WS : I understand that. But when I sit down to write and nothing comes out it just feels like I am experiencing writer’s block. I don’t have any sense at all that I am afraid of something. It just feels like I can’t do it.

WB : Yes. I am very good at what I do. I am so good that I can explain the dynamic to you and you still will not be able to get past it. Just remember that I do it for your own protection.

WS : Now it feels like you are fucking with me.

WB : Does it?

WS : What if I told you that I do not want your protection? I willingly want to endure the feeling by facing my fear.

WB : Are you sure about that?

WS : Yes.

WB : If you were sure then you would face your fear. You would not need me to be here. Remember, I am merely a personification of the dynamic at play inside of you. It may serve your purposes to think of me as a separate entity with a fully independent will of my own but that is not really an accurate description of reality.

WS : What are you saying?

WB : What I am saying is that if your writing is blocked it’s because you want your writing to be blocked. And like I said at the beginning of this conversation we can go one of two ways. Either you block your writing because you are protecting yourself from something or you block your writing because you are fucking with yourself.

WS : Why would I want to fuck with myself?

WB : We’ll have to leave it there for now. We’ve exceeded 1,000 words.

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Four Lessons on How to Write a Thirty Day Novel

IMG_0523I once tried to complete the thirty day novel challenge and failed. Nevertheless, through the experience of this failure I learned quite a bit. The thirty day novel challenge is a writing exercise where an author attempts to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. This requires the author to write an average of 1,667 words per day throughout this time period. In the abstract this sounds like a task that can be readily accomplished but like most long term projects requiring discipline and dedication there are forces that will work to undermine this process as it continues.

When I set out to write my 30 day novel I started out strong. For the first ten days my average word count per day remained above 1,667. After ten days the average word count dropped below that number but I figured I could make it up by writing more before the thirty days fully expired. However, as the days after Day 10 progressed I found it increasingly difficult to continue. There was a point where the story that it eventually became began to emerge from the crap that I had written. At that point I began to think about going back and editing what I had written to conform to the story as I saw it emerging. The conflict between this motivation and my motivation to continue with the word count per day all the way to day 30 became overwhelming. It was at this point that procrastination in comparison with this overwhelming feeling began to feel like a better option. Accordingly, the project petered out by day 20 or so. Eventually I did go back and rewrite the whole thing which is the finished product now available on Amazon.com. But this was well after the initial 30 days had expired without a 50,000 word finished product.

Even though I did not completely stick with the 30 day novel for the entire 30 days I did learn four important lessons that I think would be helpful for anyone attempting this challenge. These are lessons I would certainly employ if and when I take on this challenge a second time. I have not fully committed to trying the 30 day novel challenge a second time yet but it seems like something which has become more likely after writing this blog post.

4 Lessons

  1. The over arching lesson is to keep writing every day. All the other lessons flow from this one. I know an easy criticism to make of me is that I did not follow this lesson when I wrote my 30 day novel. This is true and I cannot argue the point. However, I learned this lesson after I failed. As such, I am not technically being hypocritical from a chronological standpoint. You must stick with the writing despite the forces working against you attempting to complete this challenge. These forces will undoubtedly differ both in nature and power for different people depending on their personalities. But it is crucial to recognize these forces and their motivations. Treat them as the foreign entities and adversaries that they are and then ignore them. The ability to continue on in this manner is a muscle to develop by exercising it. The more you do it the easier it will become.
  2. The second lesson is to allow yourself to write crap. If you keep up with your writing the quality ideas will eventually materialize. But before the quality ideas begin to emerge you will probably write a mountain of crap. Recognize this fact and be forgiving of yourself. Allow to crap to flow so that the quality can also flow. Accept that this is the process. Therefore, keep writing and do not worry if what you write is good or bad. If you do give into the worry you will stop writing and not complete the challenge. You are training another muscle here which is the ability to come up with something out of nothing. This is a skill just like anything else it is just that the something will be buried in a pile of crap initially. The more you do it, however, the better able you will become to generate the quality ideas.
  3. The third lesson is to trust the process. As you progress, you may begin to doubt your ability to complete the challenge with a finished project that is worth reading. Your original inclination might be to think that if nothing of quality comes out initially then it must be impossible. This is an illusion. This doubt is another adversary that will attempt to derail you. Like the other adversaries, ignore it and keep writing.
  4. The fourth and final lesson is to save all the editing, rewriting and thoughts about crafting an intelligible story arc for Day 31. A successful attempt means that you have finished the 30 day challenge. If you are lucky then you might also have the germ of a story that has poked its head out of the pile of crap. If not then at the very least you have exercised the muscles necessary to become a serious writer.

Always remember there are two complementary dynamics at play when attempting the 30 day novel challenge. The first dynamic is to recognize and ignore the adversaries that will attempt to derail you from completing the project. The second dynamic is to recognize that you are working to develop the psychological muscles that will eventually make you a serious writer. In this respect the 30 day novel challenge is a symbolic microcosm of the challenge of writing itself. Taken one step further, the 30 day novel challenge is a symbolic microcosm of the accomplishment anything worth accomplishing. Perhaps seeing the 30 day novel challenge in this light will serve as further motivation to complete the challenge. Moreover, perhaps completing the challenge will serve as a means of better appreciating this important fact.

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How To Write About Painful Topics (Interview)

Here is a link to an interview I had with Gary Smailes of Bubblecow, a company based in the UK that provides editing and publishing assistance for self-published authors.

In this interview Gary asks me about writing honestly about painful topics as it relates to my first self published eBook “Shame and Internet Trolling.”

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Procrastination When Writing is Essentially Laziness Only More Complicated

I procrastinate when I write. I have several projects I am currently working on (or should be working on) but at times I find it really difficult to sit down to actually write. Often it is far easier to find something else to do or simply just put it off.

Part of me thinks my propensity to procrastinate is laziness. That is, my procrastination is a moral failing. This is shame talking of course and feels like a very shallow interpretation of what is really going on.

Part of me thinks my propensity to procrastinate is fear based. That is, I have a subconscious fear of accomplishment or success and this fear undermines my will to actually sit down and do the work.

Then again, perhaps the fear and the shame work hand in hand. My shame makes me think I do not deserve success. As such, I fear the punishment I will receive upon achieving success. Therefore I sabotage my efforts to work so that I do not have to face this eventuality. The problem with this line of thinking is that I will feel ashamed for not writing as well. So by not achieving for fear of experiencing shame upon achieving I end up feeling shame for not working. Why is one shame based fear more scary than the other?

Perhaps then it comes back to laziness. It is easier to experience the shame of non achievement than it is to experience the shame of achieving simply because achieving requires work and not achieving does not.

Part of me does not believe these reasons (laziness, fear or the combination of the two) is the correct answer. Perhaps the answer is that I simply do not want to sit down and write. I do not enjoy the experience and so therefore I avoid doing it. But at the same time there is definitely a part of me that wants to write or at least feels like I should be writing. This might be shame talking. That is, shame convinces me that I should be performing tasks I do not want to perform and then makes me feel ashamed for not performing these tasks. The counter argument is that I have had wonderful experiences writing in the past. When I am in the “flow state” and the ideas come easily it feels physically good. I also enjoy the satisfaction of creating a finished product and receiving positive feedback. Actually any feedback is enjoyable but positive feedback is especially enjoyable.

Of course the enjoyment of feedback is ego driven. This is another shame based drive but not necessarily related to procrastination. It is really the flip side of the shame driven side of procrastination.

Perhaps I like the flow states but realize they do not happen that often. As such I figure the effort of writing is more likely to not be enjoyable so I tend to avoid it. Maybe this is the same thing a laziness only a little more complicated than it seems at first glance.

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Background Tree

The desire for fame for the sake of fame seems to me to be motivated by shame. We all want to be loved. The shame ego wants to be loved as well but it also believes that if other people knew the real “it”, they would reject it. So it forgets about the things that make it lovable and the things it loves and only focuses on trying to get other people to love it through deception (because truth will not work). When they do not love it (perhaps because they sense it is being fake) it hates them for it.

In third grade auditioned for a part in the play Hansel and Gretel. I pictured myself on stage entertaining people and receiving applause. After the audition I found out I had been assigned the role of background tree. I had no lines and stood in the background during one scene of the play. I was devastated. I could not understand why the teachers assigning the roles did not recognize my talents. I was used to being picked last for the kickball teams at recess and being assigned to the outfield in Little League baseball. But that was sports. This was something creative, the area in which I thought I excelled. The night I received my role I cried myself to sleep.

I have consistently acted in life that if I played by the rules, worked hard and denied myself eventually I would be rewarded. The world would love me some day. So far I have pretty much been a background tree. That is all I will ever be if I wait for the world to reward me for “paying my dues.”

At the same time there is the sense that if I do not achieve success in life that my life will be a failure and I will be humiliated. But if I unpack the idea of success it has less to do with achieving something specific and more to do with achieving the notoriety that comes with achieving something specific. It has to do with achieving fame and the approval of others. This is my shame ego’s prime motivation.

With acting, it should be for the love of acting and not the desire for fame. Even when I write this blog I find myself really motivated by the number of hits I get. But is that so wrong? It seems misplaced. To write the best blog it seems to me the focus should be on the writing and not on the reaction to the writing. Or maybe it is okay for there to be a little of both motivations.

I am in the process of finishing a book I hope to e-publish in the near future. I find myself struggling with the idea that I need to accomplish something (like publishing a book) because it will then validate my life in some way. I picture myself being interviewed, having a new source of income and reading the reviews. But then I think about society collapsing soon after, making wealth and fame irrelevant. Is it selfish to want these things? My shame ego definitely wants to convince me of this. It also wants me to feel foolish for even thinking it is possible. I was born to be a background tree after all.

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Writer’s Block

There is a large gap of time between last May and this October where I did not make any blog posts. I spent a lot of that time working on a book that I intend to e-publish. The book is autobiographical and discusses the connections between shame and internet trolling. Much of the book is a synthesis of my previous blog posts. I have been in contact with a well-known blogger who has published several ebooks who has encouraged me to do this. So I finished the book a few months ago. The well-known blogger put me in touch with a guy who edits and markets ebooks. I got the book edited and since that time I have been trying to incorporate the edits he suggested. Once I finish that I can start the publishing and marketing stage. The only problem is that I cannot seem to finish the editing process.

I used to wake up every morning at 5:00am and work on the initial manuscript. Once I finished it and sent it to the editor I continued to wake up at that time and write other things. Now that I am close to actually publishing I cannot seem to finish it. I stopped waking up at 5:00am. It is now hard for me to find the time. When I do make the time I sit and stare at what I have written and hate it.

I am sure this is self sabotage. I know I have to work through it. The block is my demon trying to undermine my success but it does it indirectly and passive aggressively. It does not straight out tell me not to do it. It distracts me. It saps my energy. It makes everything else seem more interesting. I am too tired. I have too many other things to do.

Is the answer to plow through it? Is the answer to defeat the demon some other way and then be able to finish my project? I am in the middle of it so I cannot see it too clearly.

There is fear here too. I am afraid that once I publish the book people who are described in it unflatteringly will hate me for it. At the same time I fear no one will read it when I publish it. I hold these two antithetical possibilities in my mind at the same time. The demon, my shame ego, does not care about logic. It merely cares that I feel shame and remain stuck in my present situation.

The well-known blogger I spoke of told me to edit one more time, cut 30% and publish it. I think I have to start waking up at 5:00am again. It is the time of day when I am the most creative anyway. I have a marathon to run this Sunday. Part of me is saying to put this off until that is over. The same part of me (I am sure) is telling me that I am not ready for the marathon. Ha!

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