Friday, February 11, 2011
How Can I Pick Just One
So what's my poison? The rumbling ground-shaker of mental worms: "Not Good Enough". That's the niggling, tiny voice that oh, so innocently insinuates that this story is nowhere near as good or fun or #insertadjectiveofchoicehere as the last story. It sneaks up behind you at the dinner table and whispers, "Wow, that sauce is missing something, isn't it?" When you're driving to the doctor's office, it's the invisible hand that shoves a memory front and center - typically the memory of that awful, terrible thing you did to your best friend in whatever grade - the point is, you hurt someone and the point of this neurosis is to make you feel like the single lowest form of life on earth. It's the fear that you're nothing more than a mediocre hack and that's all you'll ever be, by God. It's the voice that pipes up just as you're dropping off to sleep that says, "God, that scene your wrote today is stupid. Can't you come up with something that's actually interesting?"
This neurosis is brutal and vicious. Under the pressure of this neurosis, I stopped taking care of the house. Then I stopped writing. Left unchecked, this neurosis can become deadly. There's a fine line between the persistant 'You're Simply Not Good Enough' messaging and 'If You're Not Ever Going to Be Good Enough to Do the Thing You Love, Why Are You Even Here?' That's suicide chatting you and me up, right there. It came to call on me on Tuesday - a lovely sunny day - as I was driving back from . . . whatever it was I'd been doing. I've seen the sights in 'death ain't so bad' land. Not impressed by them. I know the tricks. I don't fall for them anymore. Action was required to counter this neurosis. Immediate, decisive action.
I came home and made a cup of tea. Then I sat down with a pen and paper and free wrote - this is an emptying out exercise designed merely to lance the boil and drain the gunk mucking up my head. Then I wrote about what I want from myself and from my life. This gives me a clear picture to use as ammo against this particular neurosis. One of the most powerful things you can do when dealing with neuroses is to stop the repetition (I call it a tape) when you realize you're being tormented by your own brain. Stop the tape and then consciously build an image of the best case scenario. (The rule says: Give the best case scenario equal time.) An example: with the 'not good enough' tape, I mentally yell 'cut' and then visualize my book altar (what? You don't have one?) lined with tens of individual titles - all by Marcella Burnard. Free writing helps, too. As some of the crap drains to paper, I gain space and perspective. Patterns of thought emerge - things that can be broken down, addressed and fixed. I called my naturopath. Supplements, exercise and light therapy were prescribed - in Seattle, all neuroses are aided and abetted by the pathologically short, gray days.
All well and good. But believe me when I say that nothing is going to be allowed to get between me and my work. If I have to resort to a course of pharmaceutical psychoactive meds to kick this neurosis in the teeth, I will. Cause, you think a neurotic who doesn't think she's neurotic is bad? Wait until you piss off that neurotic by telling her she can't work anymore and that all those stories wandering around in her head are never going to be told.