On wanting to do better

A little while back I wrote an entry in this journal about not feeling very good about how things were proceeding in my third book, and about a kind of depression it’s induced for me over the past couple of months. I feel like I’ve spent much of this summer banging my head against my own writing, and walking away for breaks, hoping to come back to things I’ve written and not feel an innate compulsion to bang my head against them as I’d been doing. Mostly this period of frustration has served to make me feel confused and not as confident about myself as a writer as I’d like to be. I think most writers probably go through this at various stages of development. I know it’s something that I’ve gone through at different periods of my life since I was in my late teens, always in regards to my writing. Always I’d suddenly find myself unsatisfied with what I’d been doing up to whenever one of these sorts of periods would begin, and I’d have to just sit and stew, wait things out while I let whatever issue was bothering me sort itself out in my back brain. I think it had simply been a while since I’d gone through one of these periods that I’d forgotten how full of anguish and confusion and anxiety they can be. I think I’d forgotten what these sorting-out periods even looked like. Lately, though, I’ve been a bit more at ease (not as much as I’d like to be) because what I know about these periods is that they are often the mark of a developmental phase for me, where I’m trying to figure out how to do something new or different, or how to do something I already do, but do it better. I think that’s where much of the dissatisfaction comes from, a sort of leap that’s already been made though I haven’t realized it, but I can see the gap in writing I’ve already done with whatever it is I’m figuring out how to do or do better. Usually, at a certain point, what’s bubbling in my unconscious makes its way to the surface and becomes realized in what I’m working on or begin working on at that point. And this is what has been the cause of my turmoil lately. And what I’m relearning about all this is that it hurts to learn, because when you learn something, really learn something, it sends ripples through every other thing that’s connected to it, and changes those things too. And changing, I think most of us can agree, is a difficult thing to do. In the end, though, in regards to this sort of frustrating period, I’m fine with this, because it means I’m still striving, still wanting to do better than I have been, still trying to learn how to become a better writer. I’m okay with that. As the youngest of three, and as someone who was sort of an adolescent for a lot longer than I think we’re supposed to be, I have gotten used to growing up in front of others, gotten used to other people watching me make mistakes or fall down and cry or embarrass myself somehow, usually due to lack of knowledge or experience or both, on any variety of occasions. But I haven’t let any of those humbling occurrences stop me from trying to get better, and I think they’ve made me into a person who wants to do better and learn how to do something different whenever I’ve gotten to a point where I’ve grown too comfortable. So I’m less depressed now that I’ve remembered what all this is that I’ve been going through. Now the fun part begins: the start of a new direction.

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11 responses

  1. “And what I’m relearning about all this is that it hurts to learn, because when you learn something, really learn something, it sends ripples through every other thing that’s connected to it, and changes those things too.”

    Perfectly eloquent.

  2. ははは! だからうちの長男(ちょうなん)になったんじゃなかったの? 
    でも末(すえ)っ子(こ)は味噌(みそ)っかすじゃないよ。末っ子は三人(さんにん)兄弟(きょうだい)のうちで、一番(いちばん)みんなに愛(あい)される子。だからあなたは今(いま)まで愛され過(す)ぎたのかもしれないね。
    ほんとうの味噌っかすは、二番目(にばんめ)のお兄(にい)ちゃん。子どものころを思(おも)い出(だ)してみて。いろんなことがあったでしょう? 
    この子は勝手(かって)に何でもするから、放(ほう)っておいても大丈夫(だいじょうぶ)……そうみんなは思(おも)うけど、ほんとはすごく淋(さび)しいの、わたしも同じ二番目だからわかる。
    でもわたしは今でも妹(いもうと)がかわいいの。離(はな)れて暮(くら)しているから、幸(しあわ)せにしているか、今でも気(き)になるの。ちょうどあなたが離れて暮していて、幸せでいるかいつも気になるように。
    そのうち、こっそり様子(ようす)を見(み)に行(い)くかもよ。帽子(ぼうし)をかぶり、サングラスをしている小柄(こがら)な中年女(ちゅうねんおんな)があなたをじっと見ていたら、それはわたしかもよ。
    気をつけて!

    みんな同じよ。
    大(おお)きな石(いし)を背負(せお)って坂道(さかみち)を登(のぼ)ってる。
    誰(だれ)にもそうしろといわれていないのにね。

  3. It’s 230am and Ive spent the last ten minutes staring at the screen with tears running down my face. I am going to email you about what your post meant for me but I wanted to publicly thank you for a message that speaks to everyone who tries to be better. Im really glad I know you.

  4. CB:

    Your posts on this subject echo what I’ve heard from other creative writers. As an observer, I’d say you’re describing an inevitable, or at least familiar, part of the creative process. Earlier this year, Blake Snyder agreed to be interviewed for a couple of articles about screenwriting, and he mentioned going through the same “dark night” on several levels. I shared some of Snyder’s comments on Marsha Durham’s blog, Writing Companion.

    This comment is a shameless plug for two bloggers I happen to like a lot. At the same time, it’s my way of saying that your experience is completely normal and ultimately productive, although I can’t claim to know how it feels to push myself enough to be creative. (smiling) I’ll settle for being well informed. (laughing)

    Like all of your readers, I have complete confidence in your ability.

    Robin

  5. Often times parents question their childrens directions in life. After reading this post all I can say is I am so proud and happy to be your mom, and I know you have gone in the right direction. Love you, Mom

  6. Thanks for all the comments, everyone, and the birthday wishes, Steve! I’m totally hanging in there. And the kitty YouTube video was hilarious, Okaasan. Thanks for that link to that interview, Robin. It was really interesting and enlightening.

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