Content warning: rape, violence, child abuse.
Sometimes it is very difficult for me to write. The difficulty usually arrives not to long after I start putting words to paper. The more words I try to put to paper, the more difficult it can become. It has happened so many times that the pattern is obvious.
What is the cause?
I suspect that there are many causes. I have listened to advice from virtually everyone that is willing to offer any. Each reason has, at least partially, been helpful. But if I really want to solve this problem – and I do – then I am going to have to take a deeper look.
Many of the problems seem to be based on fear. Fear is the parasite that worms its way into my brain and takes up residence in my subconscious. Once it takes root, it feeds a stead supply of poison into my system until I am so afraid to progress in any direction that the only solution is to not do anything. Only after I have stopped writing does the fear begin to subside and be replaced with a feeling of sadness and loss. I purge writing from my system for as long as I can until, one day, a story begins brewing in my mind again. The excitement of the story beings to build until I finally decide to put words to paper; then the entire process repeats.
What is the fear?
The fear is like the later versions of the Lernaean Hydra. (Wikipedia Link) The more that I struggle against it – the more heads I think I have defeated – the more heads regrow to bite me on the ass in the future. But unlike the Hydra, I hope that these fears are based on previous fears instead of a never-ending parade of new fears. I am not, after all, Hercules and I stand no chance if can’t gradually eliminate the number of fears that prevent me from pursuing my interests.
On a side note, it really bothers me that I used to be less fearful. Or, truthfully, I was probably just as fearful, but I didn’t let it stop me. When I set my mind to do something, I would try to put the fear aside in an effort to achieve whatever it was that I was trying to do.
Maybe creative endeavors are different from non-creative endeavors. While it is true that I can still go through the physical process of putting words on paper, the words just become something not worth having.
I can think of at least three fears that off the top of my head have combined to cause me tremendous difficulty in creative writing. Let’s start with the first one.
Writing fear # 1: Is it too strange?
This fear usually starts to appear shortly after I have started writing: usually before the second or third day. It starts when the thought crosses my mind that someone else will probably read what I have written. What will they think of it? Will it be too strange? Is it the type of story that will appeal to them? To someone? To anyone?
The fear doesn’t start out as a big deal. It is only a twinge that crosses my mind from time to time. But the more ‘out there’ the story is, the more the twinge turns into a full-blown fear. I begin to realize that I am creating non-typical characters and non-typical situations. I face the fact that I like my “bad guys” to be just as reasonable as my “good guys”. I create situations that aren’t often – if ever – represented in fiction. I walk up to the line of social mores and taboos and kick my stories across it.
I was writing a space opera one time that included telepathic people. The captain I was writing about was going up against some elements of government. The government caught him and put him in prison. His friends had to work to get him out.
Nothing out of the ordinary so far.
But then it occurred to me that there should also be telepathic people in prison. That thought spun around in my mind for a while. What would a telepathic prisoner be like? How could they hurt you? Well, even though it might have been a simple idea, I thought that some of them would probably be rapists. But even that wasn’t good enough. I thought that it shouldn’t be just that they could do something with mental powers that wasn’t any different to what a person would be able to do with physical powers.
Then I thought about how they could see into someone’s mind. I thought about how their entire past would be laid out before the telepath. Then I thought about the telepath actually being able to insert himself into the memories of his victim.
Now we were getting somewhere. I had the criminal press into the memories of the captain. The criminal was able to watch precious memories from the captain’s childhood and insert himself into them. No longer was it his mother giving him a bath while he played in the water, now the eyes of the criminal were in his mother’s face: watching him. The innocent touches from parents became perverted as the criminal inserted his psychic ghost into the remembered body, and therefore the role, of the captains family, and siblings, and girlfriends.
Now we were talking! It was one of the best, most original works I had ever written. The criminal had managed to mentally rape the captain’s childhood memories, turning treasured moments into painful pedophilia.
When I read what I had written, I was nauseous.
Regardless of how diligently I tried, I was never able to progress the story further. I even went so far as to read it to someone just to make sure that I hadn’t crossed the line into something so sick and deranged that it horrified them. And even thought they thought it was some of my best writing, I still couldn’t continue the story. It died on the vine, unfinished and forgotten by all but me.
The only thing that I could do was make something closer to the type of writing that was out there. Stick closer to a re-imagining of stories that were already seen as publicly acceptable. In other words, turn out the same kind of stuff that I had read in the past. But even as I tried to do that, the idea of simply writing something that I didn’t find all that great – even if it was socially acceptable and popular – just wasn’t worth the effort. Other people might like it, and it might be acceptable to them, but I wouldn’t like it. The characters became cardboard. No one was really pushing their limits and trying their absolutely best to achieve their goals. Everybody had to follow the “rules” and even the characters became so bored that they just wanted to sit on the couch and drink beer.
That, for me, is a true story killer.