Performance Anxiety

There’s always a period of time before I start a project where I’m afraid of what I’m about to do. I’ll have everything planned out– unless it’s one of those woah where’d you come from, let’s get you over with quickly then, ideas– and I’ll be excited to get to work so I can see my quiet thoughts live and in colour in front of me. Except, the closer I get to my start date, the more I balk.

I feel like anyone who’s serious about writing doubts their ability; I have days where I’m like, psh, I’m so good at this, I was born to do this, why did I ever want to do anything else? Those are the rare days, if I’m speaking honestly; the other ninety percent of the time I’m left scrutinizing ideas or already written works and thinking about how hard this stuff is. For every good sentence I write, there’s about sixteen more awful ones, and if I’m not tearing my hair out at that point, there’s likely a screw loose. But then I suppose every author has felt like that before they really got going, and continued to deal with that apprehension after they discovered that they could make a living from their scribbles.

I know that with enough elbow (knuckle?) grease I can write good stories, ones that people will read and talk about. It’s just that it’s easier to imagine success than it is to actively achieve it, and that scares the hell out of me. I’m not afraid of the work, believe it or not. There’s nothing I love more than a good heavy writing session (editing is a completely different story; editing is a process Satan himself invented, I’m sure). I also revel in the rush I get when I finish a large project. (Again, editing excluded. Because that is like pulling teeth.)

What I’m scared of is starting. Because once you start, anything can happen. Once you start, there’s a possibility that you can get thinking about what crap the whole thing is and give up before you’re done. Or you can reach the end and cut off all the rough bits and slap a fresh coat of paint on your piece and send it out into the world with a bow in its hair only to be ridiculed by all who see it. Once you start, you can fail, and doesn’t that just scare you to bits?

It doesn’t always happen that way, I know. There are books on the market and short stories in magazines to prove that. But in the beginning, at that place where everything is rusty, and getting anything out is a whole lot like trying to get the first few sips of a chocolate milkshake through a plastic straw, it always feels like you’re headed straight down the not-so-nice and difficult path. I find myself thinking about quitting more in those beginning stages than I do at any other part of the project.


It’s probably not even that bad; I’m a total wuss.

I guess in that way, writing–like starting a workout plan or committing to piano lessons– is very much a test of faith in yourself. Nothing good ever comes easy, but whether you finish– regardless of the outcome– comes right down to how bad you want to get to the end. And because of how bad I always seem to want to get to the end, I push through the terror I feel at the beginning, right through the muck of the first few paragraphs, and then, once I’m up to a good clip, I keep going, because that’s what I was born to do.

But don’t you dare mention the word editing, yet. That shouldn’t come in until it is absolutely necessary. Before that point it is a forbidden swear, and until then, the project is beautiful and everything is perfect and don’t you ruin it, you little wretch.



If I’m Going To Waste Time, I Might As Well Do It Here

Welcome to the twenty first century, where instead of beginning diaries and giving up after the first three entries, we start blogs and eat up URLs only to abandon them later on. I myself have attempted three. The first was launched when I was in the tenth grade and thought it would be hilarious to start a joint-venture with a good friend at a slumber party (we made a painfully cliche post about body image and left it at that). The second made a short appearance during the summer following my graduation from high school. At that point, I was riding on a wave of hormones and nostalgia so high that I could have passed for the fifth member of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants heading into university that fall.

If you’re reading this, (bless you, stranger) then you have managed to stumble upon my third attempt at keeping up something serious. Now, this thing isn’t a diary exactly; it’s more of a log book, so if you’ve already begun rolling your eyes at the thought of having wasted forty seconds scanning the thoughts of an eighteen year old, relax. It isn’t that sort of blog. I will not be describing angsty situations with my non-existent boyfriend, who will not be mentioned again, not even if he steps out of my imagination and into the vast realm of “IRL.” I will not be dishing out any juicy secrets, or teaching girls how to contour their faces with mineral highlighter (what does that even mean?), and I will not, I repeat (in capital letters, no less), WILL NOT be writing fanfiction because that stuff scares the hell out of me.

I will be keeping track of what has become a very large part of my life as of late. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a story-teller. My mother still has some of my earliest works (four page epics written in crayon on word-processor sheets and construction paper) stored in keepsake boxes above her closet, for heaven’s sake. Creativity is in my blood. Before I could print, I performed, dragging others into the worlds that I had created with an insistence only a three-year-old could be capable of. Eventually, when I discovered that pencils didn’t go up your nose and could be used to keep stories locked in place, I began writing them down. When other kids were telling their teachers that they wanted to be astronauts or lion-tamers or President of the United States (because even in Canada, that seems to be the coolest job in the world), I was imagining myself sitting at my desk with a tea watching the sun come up over the final pages of my first novel.

And now, that image has become my reality. I never expected to seriously want to write one. I mean, every teenager today wants to be the next Stephen King; hearing someone say that they’re writing a book isn’t exactly a rare occurrence. Hell, I even tried to do it at fifteen but got bored a hundred pages in. This time, though, The Big Idea has wormed its way into the corners of my brain, and it won’t go away. It’s massive, it’s lofty, it’s The Big Kahuna. This is it. The story that’s been building up in my head for years has decided to make an appearance, and my goodness, is it ever huge. I think, like the blog situation, the number of those who have attempted to write something like this is great and many have left their work unfinished. I don’t want to fall into that category. I’m ready to squeeze into the smaller, successful margin.There’s something about the magnitude of this idea that makes it seem different (says everyone, ever). This isn’t just a hobby anymore. This is my life.

I started writing with the intent to publish eight months ago, fitting in small intervals of plot here and there in between term papers and exam prep, unable to contain my excitement for summer because it meant that I had time to write the whole thing down from start to finish with no distractions. Except, now that summer is here, the list of distractions is not only endless, but self-created. I’m like the Queen of Procrastination. I’ll write a sentence and reward myself with an hour of Twitter or video games or another person’s novel. I’m one hundred and twenty two pages into this baby and I just don’t have the attention span to keep it up.

If you haven’t figured out the significance of this blog title by now, let me spell it out for you: I really should be writing that book, but instead I’m screwing around on the internet, doing things that will get me nowhere. One can possess all of the God-given talent that they want, but success won’t come to them unless they work at it, improving their skills by practicing their art. I don’t just want to be a writer; I want to be an author, and I’m not going to make it to that point if I don’t start working at it in earnest. So, out of a massive session of frustration and self-loathing, came the decision to turn my work-induced ADD into something productive. If I’m not working on that story, I’ll be working on getting my thoughts somewhere for someone to read. This blog marks the first day of that mentality; day one of “The Great Journey Toward Authorhood” (I promise, that’s the last time I’ll make up a word). In it, I’ll be writing about looking for agents and researching publishing houses. I’ll be recording struggles and triumphs and talking about my experiences as a young writer in over her head. Who knows? When I make something of this (I’ve decided to eradicate the word “if” from my vocabulary) this blog could become a tool for people like me.

I just have to write that damn book first. Wish me luck.