I’ve been kind of blue for a month now. I’m embarrassed to even talk about this when people are dying and losing their homes and families in horrific wars.
I’m not sure if the down mood a side effect of my recent hormone replacement therapy, or the weight of a deep disappointment in myself.
After abandoning a memoir I had been writing for 4 years, I had started on a micro-memoir collection. For a month and half, I happily wrote and revised and drafted, until it was time to review the collection and write an introduction.
After I read over the 31 short memoirs I had written, I was crestfallen: this was all I could do? A wise voice said, this is normal — your skills just need to catch up with your vision. But part of me had already delivered judgment: another abandoned project and more months wasted? This is a pattern. There must be something wrong with you.
When I look back on my writing life, I can see how much progress I’ve made. I can now write alone in the house without freaking out, I can sit down first thing in the morning without procrastinating. I can start my own projects without waiting to be handed assignments. I can learn and apply new forms and techniques. I can even support others in their creative pursuits.
Over the past 6 years, I have composed hundreds of thousands of sentences. I’ve crafted stacks of personal essays, drafted dozens of book chapters, and crammed stacks of journals with notes. I’ve written armfuls of craft articles, handfuls of prose poems, folders of micro-memoirs. But only a couple have I finished and sent out into the world. Either the writing is guarded from the beginning, or I revise and revise and revise, but never get it quite right. It’s like I’m living in a house filled with crumpled paper balls.
The one period when I published with bravery and a fiery pace was during the pandemic, when the world turned upside down. As much as I have tried, I have been unable to recapture that abandon and fearless productiveness.
Am I crippled by a debilitating perfectionism? Am I irrationally terrified of being criticized? Does a part of me feel unsafe and therefore secretly set up roadblocks?
At least I know my next challenge. To understand what is keeping me inside, and not out there, participating in the world through my creative writing. To discover a way to feel safe when sharing what I feel and experience. To find a way into humanity and out of this self-made stockade.