“There is no such thing as writer’s block. There is only procrastination and fear and perfectionism and pure laziness. That’s all.” Travis Thrasher
I’m writing this piece as an exorcism of a demon. It is a dark, foul thing that is pervasive in its insistence to whisper in my ear. I started this blog out of an explicable urge to write my thoughts down. I feel a soul tug in my body that compels me forward to write. It is a compulsion: that underlying compulsion that compels addicts to ingest their favored poison. It is manifested in my psyche, I believe, in a similar way. There is an anxious hum in my brain on the days I don’t write. I need to unleash whatever verbiage is in my head out into my fingertips onto a devise that will register it. If I don’t, I suffer.
But, I am hesitant to do this cathartic exercise as often as I should because I am hounded by this demon quite often regarded as Fear. Yes, I am going to capitalize the bastard from this point out. It is a real thing that many creative types wrestle, barter, beg, shun, fight, etc. with. I know this as a fact otherwise there wouldn’t be numerous, upon hundreds, of quotes about the act of creation and conquering Fear in creating. Then sending those creations out in the world to be lauded or judged. Just look up quotes about writing, art, entrepreneurship, HELL – pursuing any dream and there the beast lies in every page FEAR.
How does one expunge such a vile thing from one’s psyche? I picture it now circling me in a cloud, dense with so much smoke and ash that I can’t really see its form. I think it is many armed and scaled, with glowing eyes of whatever color affects the artist at that given moment. Maybe red for some, green for others, blue for those Nordic types. I don’t know. Perhaps it is eyeless and it’s plucked its own eyes out with razor talons as to not discriminate among artists or forms. But I smell it and I sense it. It is a strong demon. It’s been around since humans began creating. I wonder if the first caveman thought, “This buffalo just isn’t realistic enough. The clan is going to hate it. I should just give up. Gurgle is so much better at drawing buffalos than me. Why don’t I ever have enough light in these damn caves? If I had more light I could draw better.”
How does one conquer the Fear that stalks the outer edges of creative intentions? I can read those thousands of quotes and they give me a modicum of courage, but in the darkness where there is only me I start to smell Fear long before I know it is whispering in my ear. My body tenses, I hesitate, I stumble and then that damnable whisper. Fill in blank here if you are the creative type of what whisperings echo in your skull. We all know Fear.
How do you cope? I am still trying to cope. Perhaps by writing this blog I can exorcise the demon a bit little by little. Have you ever read a real account about demonic possession? I am not talking about the conveniently formatted two hour ones that are churned out by the filmmakers looking to cash a buck on people’s thirst for the macabre. I am referring to those documented cases the Catholic Church and other religious communities try to keep hidden from the general public. Exorcisms often take weeks and months to be successful. And since I do believe this demon Fear is a real entity, truly I do, it will take time to exorcise it sufficiently enough to hopefully wallow in some relief. I feel an urge to include a simile here. Wallow in relief like a pig gleefully caking its pink skin in mud.
I can battle this thing, this creature, by simply pushing forward, writing and ignoring its existence. I can train my brain to deafen its whisperings and plunge forward with eyes closed and gas mask on. But the strange thing about Fear is that some of it is a good, healthy thing to entertain at times. It sharpens the mind and forces the writer to revise and revise and edit and edit. So, how to take the best of Fear and leave the rest of its vileness behind in the dust? How do you destroy part of a thing, yet keep the best part that can actually be of assistance? The truth is you can’t. It’s like destroying the worst parts of a spouse and leaving the best parts behind. It’s wishful thinking.
I think the real truth lies in a voice that came to me after I read something one of my absolute favorite authors wrote, Paulo Coelho. He wrote a book about battling figurative, creative demons in Warrior of the Light: A Manual. On the top cover is written, “Short notes on accepting failure, embracing life and rising to your destiny.” It is a great book about navigating the world in a spiritual way. Its depth is palpable. Here is the passage that resonates with me:
A Warrior knows that an angel and a devil are both competing for his sword hand.
The devil says: “You will weaken. You will not know exactly when. You are afraid.”
The angel says: “You will weaken. You will not know exactly when. You are afraid.”
The Warrior is surprised. Both the angel and the devil have said the same thing.
The devil continues: “Let me help you.” And the angel says: “I will help you.”
At that moment, the Warrior understands the difference. The words may be the
same, but these two allies are completely different.
And he chooses the angel’s hand.
How does this passage illuminate my battle against the foulness of Fear? I was contemplating the power of fear and how to defeat its stronghold of in my mind when the above passage came to mind. Then after I ruminated on what it meant a thought coiled itself around my mediation. Fear will always be present. It cannot be conquered or completely expunged. I have to learn to live with Fear. I don’t have to embrace it or ignore it. I must learn to walk upon a path where fear will forever be circling me in its stench filled cloud and the sounds of its scrapings against the path. It is ever present since the first breath of man. I can only have enough courage to take a step forward. If Fear is ever present so are the twin angels of Hope and Courage. I need to accept Fear as a part of the creative process and not focus so much on its presence, as I need to focus on my own creation in that moment. I need to trust that Hope and Courage, who are walking alongside me on that path, will hold me steady as I send out my baby creations out into the world. They are there, quite often hidden by the hoof stomping cloud and stench of that demon Fear, but they are there.
I cannot ignore its existence, and I have to accept its presence. There is no point battling something I will never win over. I only have to have enough courage and hope to write one word at a time.
“This is how you do it; you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.” Neil Gaiman.