Monday, January 15, 2007

Dear Watcher

Today, as I was working on a column to submit to a magazine, I needed to find an old column I'd written. So I went to Brady's computer (my old computer) to find them. This activity, of course, led me WAY off-course, as I read through old documents and got lost in the memories. One delightful little tidbit I came upon was a letter I wrote to my "Watcher" - that nasty naysayer who lives inside my head. You know the one... The Voice who tells me I'm not good enough to be a writer. The well-disguised 'distractor' who pulls me away from my focus.

I find the letter to be still relevant, though thankfully less so. I believe it was a writing assignment from "The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity " - a book by Julia Cameron. I highly recommend it if you have any sort of creative block. (Or even if you don't.)

I had something similar hung above my computer for a while, a reminder to stop worrying and fretting and to just do it. Finding this letter was an interesting opportunity to think about my watcher, see if it has the same hold on me. I'm happy to say it doesn't. It's still there, but I'm more apt to knock that shameless naysayer smack upside the head. Who is your watcher? What would you say to it?

Dear Watcher,

I’m not even sure what to say to you, because I’m not sure yet that I write often enough for you to get a good hold of me. Or maybe it’s you I’m grappling with, who tightens the feeling around my neck when I can’t write about something, who keeps me away from the computer and busy doing laundry and floor sweeping and other tasks that seem more important but are really just an excuse.

Perhaps you wouldn’t mind leaving me alone for awhile. I mean, you just made me go back and delete that extra space in the word awhile, between the ‘a’ and the ‘w’, even though I’m supposed to be writing stream of consciousness and not worrying about editing. I know it’s because I’m on a computer and it’s easier to go back quickly. But I think that during these exercises I’m supposed to just go on, and not edit. So if you would, please, settle down – we can edit later.

I would also appreciate it if you would not be so hard on me when I read the work of another. You immediately start telling me that I’m not nearly as good as that writer, that I don’t have a grasp on any subject like those others writers do, that I have no expertise in any area that would give me permission to write about it. I know all those things and it makes it worse that you confirm them. Why don’t you kindly nudge me to try anyway? Why don’t you tell me that perhaps I can tackle a subject in a different way, a way that might grab different people from the ones who are reading the "competitor’s" work? And why did you just use the word competitor? That’s crazy. We don’t need to see it like that any more.

Please don’t expect me to grasp the ‘wow’ of a passage and get to it on the first attempt. Writers have gone raving mad while trying to write, get their deepest thoughts out, make their best story gel together. Why should I have any less of a time with it? Of course I’m going to screw it up more often than not. Do you think painters or potters are any different? Do you think they pump out perfection each time they work? Isn’t it a constant journey toward betterment, but never achieving perfection?

You need to allow me to write more often, and you need to stop telling me that laundry and dishes are more important, because they’re not. They’ll still be there later, but my spark of an idea for a column or story may not. You need to remind me to carry my notebook with me so I can jot down those ideas that came to me all week but didn’t write down because I was thinking like a writer but not acting like one yet. You need to support me in the attempt and not be so hard on me when I write nothing but drivel. And you need to focus on me, not on others. I am having trouble justifying my need to write and I need someone in my corner, not adding to my fears.

If you could try a little harder, well, that would be lovely.

Warm regards,

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