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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.

18 Comments


Guest
Nov 16, 2023

I wonder if it is something to do with a conflict where you struggle to find your assertiveness because it is linked to aggression? I won't recommend therapy, perhaps even a psychoanalytic psychotherapy, because I suspect you may be doing it or at least are well aware you could. But my money would be on the most obvious, which would be a struggle with aggression and/or competition.


For me therapy and analysis was lifechanging for these kinds of issues. But it took a long time and a lot of work. (Much more than weekly therapy). If you are working on these things in treatment, I would say hang in there! It takes a long time. And could it possibly b…

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Guest
Nov 13, 2023

Amy - I can so appreciate what you share. I’m sorry it is so. Your gifts of writing about your experience in vulnerable and honest ways are there whether we experience them with you or not. I vote keep sharing!

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Amy Suardi
Amy Suardi
Nov 14, 2023
Replying to

Thank you for your kindness and encouragement!

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Guest
Nov 11, 2023

Amy- I have loved always what you have written! Your articulate, compassionate, smart and you are thoughtful. We are always I think our worst and most harsh critics! What ever crisis of faith you are going though you will come out the other side. Writing, painting , making up songs- it’s an act of faith. Some days everything seems lousy. You learn as you go. I have loved the descriptions of your life, your kids, the food you make together. It is rich and I can see it by the way you describe it! Martha Tuttle always said some times she just took a break and didn’t make anything for a month or two weeks and it refreshed h…

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Amy Suardi
Amy Suardi
Nov 14, 2023
Replying to

Thank you for all this! I agree that we are often our own worst critics. And that my crisis of faith will not last forever. Taking breaks, as you say, is natural and rejuvenating. I'm getting a good long now! ❤️

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Guest
Nov 09, 2023

I do relate -- I wrote and wrote a memoir -about a difficult time I went through. And one day I realized "nobody wants to read this shit." That realization got me to thinking - what does the reader want from me -- to laugh, to relate, to find common ground, to learn, to _____What can I tell that gives--------an insight, a giggle, a tear, a mess, a picture --- I read fiction and write nonfiction -- go figure????

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Amy Suardi
Amy Suardi
Nov 14, 2023
Replying to

I laughed in solidarity with you when you said, "Nobody wants to read this shit." I feel that so much! I also agree that all those things you list are what readers are probably looking for. The trick is to write what we want to write and also please the reader. I also don't read what I write -- I usually read nonfiction and write autobiographical stuff. I don't understand it either!

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Amy,

You have always been an inspiration to me. Your writing hits a deep emotional chord in me. Writing is difficult because we want to feel accomplished (published), but if you can focus on the joy that writing brings and not worry so much about the publication or finishing of a project, I think you may be able to let go of that pressure you put upon yourself. I, too, was in your mental place for years, but letting go of the demand on myself to be published was a huge release for me. Maybe not caring so much comes with age. I've found an expressive and satisfying outlet, recently, by starting a group for memoir writers in an assiste…

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Amy Suardi
Amy Suardi
Nov 08, 2023
Replying to

The way you give and receive through your memoir group, Christine, is so incredibly heartening and inspiring. Thank you for sharing your joy and sense of purpose, and for all your ideas on getting unstuck. Wish I could be there to receive that big hug!

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