Just beneath the surface of normal

Writing and Existential Terror (not a particularly funny post, sorry)

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Okay, I think I just figured out what all that writer’s block was about.

It seems like that post last night worked, because I picked a chapter for my book this morning. Feeling like a badass engineer, I happily dove into some research, which made me realize that there’s someone I need to interview and make a chapter for in my book in order to pull a lot of the elements together, and because talking to people who are interesting is a lot of what makes Gladwell so readable, and that’s sort of my model for this book. So I wrote this man, who serves on a lot of really prominent boards of directors, and does a lot of other Big Deal movey-shakey things and said (more or less), “hi. you don’t know me and I have essentially no credentials whatsoever beyond writing for free on the internet and getting an A on my senior history research paper, but I want to write about you in my book. Can I schedule to come shadow you for a day and learn about who you are and what you do?”

And now I am having a panic attack. Not a little case-of-the-vapors panic attack, but a great, oceanic-waves-of-energy-and-self-doubt level panic attack, with palpitations and profuse sweating. And for some reason it seems like a good idea to share this in public because I’m so freaking coherent right now.

I guess every writer struggles with self-worth. Every writer looks at the finished product of a work they admire and asks “who am I to think I am capable of this?” And I like to believe that every book I admire was written by someone who once looked at the writers who came before them and asked, “who am I to think I am capable of this?” and then fucking did it anyway. If they can get through that, then so can I.

Because really? I am capable of this. Those guys probably knew they were, too. What I’m less sure about is my value. How will I, as a drop in an ocean of unpublished works, ever get the attention of a publisher (and then readers), and make all this work worthwhile? Is getting published the only arbiter of a work’s value? Of mine?

Ah, there it is.

This is the work I’m in right now: owning my power. Feeling my value as intrinsic. My therapist makes me do awful stuff like accept progress I’ve made and feel good about it so that I can get the hang of what that feels like to own being awesome. I hate him. Sort of. Not really. I just hate this. It’s terrifying.

Because what if I’m not that great? What if I make a total ass of myself, or worse, what if nobody cares? I struggle so much with feeling invisible; it’s one of the few things that really pisses me off. And yet, I spend so much energy trying to make myself invisible, to fly under the radar, unless I’m absolutely positive that I am The Best. I have made my entire value as a human being dependent on the validation of others, and it’s the hardest habit I’ve ever had to break.

And, oh brilliant me, I have managed to set it up so that breaking that precise habit is the only possible way I can succeed/avoid having a day job. I’ve bumped up against the possibility of this several times in other venues, and backed away panicking from the edge. But this book, this really means something to me. Enough that I have no choice but to jump. Enough that if he doesn’t reply to my request, I will try again. And probably again after that.

Because I’m an author – that’s what I do.


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