I'm afraid to be good. Afraid to write well. It's a ridiculous, ludicrous statement. I hear you saying, What? You're afraid of what? It doesn't make any sense. Yes, it doesn't. It's that luminous cusp between an amateurish philandering with words and the mastery of language, that point when you can sense you're getting better, but you're not quite there. Yet. And the pressure to get there fast is insurmountable. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. It holds me back, this fear, it's unexplainable and debilitating and degrading. I don't feel like I can talk about this to anyone, it fills me with shame and self-loathing, especially because it's new and puzzling.
Where did this fear come from?
Lately I've been terrified to glance back at my own writing and see the good parts. The parts that are written well. I've been mortified to read articles about me, like this one that just came out in The Seattle Globalizer. I keep trying to belittle what I have learned and gained, to strip the shine off the praise I'm getting, to somehow convince people that I have no clue what I'm doing, I'm an impostor and soon everyone will find out.
I find that I'm subconsciously holding myself back.
I think I don't deserve to be good, so I make sure I don't get good fast to justify my sad self-pitying wallowing in this despondent misery. I'm so used to it, it almost smells of romanticism. The typical Slavic torment. Oh, let me suffer. Oh, let me lament and moan and convince myself and the stars and the universe that no matter how hard I try, I will remain mediocre. Wouldn't that be swell? Wouldn't that prove to me and to everybody that no way I could get any good? No way I could write well? See, now I can happily continue to mope and cry-eat cake and, in general, accept the position of lower standards than the one I really want to hold.
It's like that invisible hand is slapping me. You can't have it. Don't reach there. Don't you dare. You don't deserve it. You're nothing. Don't even think you can possess this gift. You're a nobody. You're the crap of the world just like everyone else. You thought you're special? Ha. There are so many like you, poor grubby maggots. You'll never amount to anything. So don't even try. Be content with what you have. Just don't stick your head out, and maybe you get to keep it.
THIS IS MY FEAR TALKING.
You see how clever this bastard is? This is what is holding so many of us back. Some vile nefarious cockroach of a person who told you―told me―that we suck. It must've happened sometime in our childhood, because that's when most of our shit gets deposited in that wagon that we end up lugging around life, in certain cases being rather proud of the amount of the shit we carry, bragging about it, joining clubs where others brag about it, where we can attest to our struggles, feel that understanding hand on our shoulder, revel in our insipid, stripped of color life. Hey, you got it bad? Man, I so get you, I got it bad too. Let's talk about it.
I want to puke.
I used to do this. I'm fighting it. Step one was learning to accept praise. I'm still learning it, still have a long way to go. Step two, well, like you haven't guessed already.
Learning to let go of this fear of writing well.
Yes, I can write well.
YES, I BLOODY CAN.
Why? Because I said so. I will extirpate this nagging parasite, I will root it out and throw it into that pile of overturned excrement, that mephitic stinking mound of stuff that spilled over from my wagon, from that wagon that I kicked and left at the side of the road. That baggage that I kept dragging through the years. That stuff that I have gotten rid of. Oh, it feels so light to be without it. Oh, I can breathe. I don't have to smell it anymore.
How hard could it be? Shouldn't be very hard. There isn't a hardened cold-blooded killer holding a knife to my throat, forcing me to declare that I'm no good. So who is doing it?
I am doing it.
And that is the hardest battle to win. To win over self. I have noticed that when I'm writing without a care in the world, when for some strange reason I forget this fear and think that I'm good, really good, that's when I produce my best writing. The logic is infallible. If you tell me that I'm an idiot, after a while I will start believing you. If you tell me that I'm no good, I will at some point not only believe you, but prove you right. Show you that I am, indeed, no good. But tell me that I'm awesome, keep telling me, and I will believe it. More. After a while I won't only believe it, I will be awesome. Tell me I'm beautiful, and I will keep rejecting it, but if you insist, there will come a magical moment when I will believe you. Guess what will happen. In that moment I will feel beautiful, really beautiful, perhaps for the first time in my life.
Tell me I can write well, and one day I will.
I find it easy to tell others, to encourage them. I find it hard to do the same for myself. I must stop tromping myself, beating myself up, and let me be. Just fucking let me be, and believe. Believe that I can write well, and it will happen. Because I said so.