Pep Talk

The blank white page is a hungry creature. Its feed: confidence, ink, remaining seated until the ride has come to a full and complete stop. There are myriad reasons to avoid marring the page and, barring being crippled of hand or speech, none of them amount to much more than a lack of fulfillment of purpose. If you cannot bring yourself to spend the time necessary to apply your ass to your chair, you’re going to end up not much better than the high school star quarterback who talks about the big game, because nothing bigger ever came along. You wrote a handful of poems? Great. Did you revise them? No? It would alter the voice of spontaneity you so crave because to commit to a purpose is too terrifying and so you fall back on the ages old lie of the muse? Well, good for you, scout. You wrote a couple short stories that got some acclaim in a small pond, but never tried to do anything since, and you’ve been submitting the same items over and over and over and over and proving the adage about the functions of insanity? You’ll go so far. How many novels have you started? Plotted? Thought about real hard in a daydream?

Believing in yourself is a beautiful thing, but if you can’t then act upon that belief, what good is it? What is your purpose if not to create art and make the world, if not better, different? Where is change to arise from if not from you? But make those excuses. Craft the lies to yourself that you’ll get to it tomorrow. Overmorrow. A fortnight away and you’ll get started. Just one more level. One more beer. One more nap. Anything to keep from having to commit yourself to something that could ever be judged as a failure. You say perfectionist like it’s a good thing. It’s not, though. It’s a crippling self-doubt. It tells you that you must be the best, or you will be nothing. And while, hey, it would be wonderful to be the very best (like no one ever was), that still doesn’t excuse you from trying. Sucking out loud? Failing? That’s how you learn. But if failure makes you stop? Then stop. Go do something else. But quit pretending like there’s going to be a “someday” somewhere along the line where you’ll get your shit together. It isn’t going to happen until it happens, and that happenstance is entirely on when you decide to knuckle down like a big kid and get that shit done.

It isn’t easy, but, again, lying is. Lying is the easiest thing you can do to yourself. It’s the truth that’s hard. Or maybe it’s the imposter syndrome, sitting on your shoulder, whispering in your ear that everyone knows the truth about you; everyone knows the truth but you. And that’s a liar too, but it’s a good liar. It can make you look back on decades of productivity and passion, of training and teaching, and it can tell you that it just isn’t good enough. Without that stamp of approval (and mentors don’t count, no many how many laurels or grants have been afforded them), you’re going to wallow. Are you good enough? Are you? Have you tried? Have you been tested? Have you thrown out something that isn’t the very best and decided to start over anew, with the terror that only virgin territory can bring? Because if you’re resting on your laurels, and your ass isn’t in that chair, shit ain’t going to get done. Dreams are fine, but they don’t pay the bills, they don’t save the soul. Dream big, write bigger.

You probably have a good four books in you that you could finish by the end of this year. They’re in your notebook, meticulously plotted out, and just waiting for you to flesh out their bones. They want to be realized, but you’re going to avoid eye contact like a Freshman trying to keep from gaining the professor’s attention because they’re unsure of their answer, or because they haven’t done the work, or because maybe they too have been taught that Good isn’t Good Enough. Until you can make eye contact with that page, and with that blinking cursor flashing tauntingly on the white wall of your word processor (or your little marbled journal, so you can do it on the fly), then nothing will happen.

But something should happen. You have art in you, and you can express it artfully. But you have a fear in you, and you can express that even better. The pills have helped make you want to stay alive, but they haven’t got you back into the swing of things just yet. Perhaps take a few more anxiety pills and put down the bottle. The drink just makes you want more drinks, and that’s just another distraction. If you give an author a neat whiskey, she’ll probably want another, and a sandwich to go with it and so on ad infinitum while the empty page still stays unmarred and the cursor does its best to curse you for your wembling. You have stories to tell, scars to ameliorate, wounds to cleanse and suture closed. Art is the engine of change, and of civilization, and while it’s super great that you’re doing your best to help kids learn how to formulate their own thoughts and slap them on the page, it doesn’t excuse you and your lack of initiative. You, alone, are the one that can tell your stories.

Khloé, Lode, Thimmer, Arna: They need you to bring them to life, to share their struggles on the page, so that maybe someone like them, someone like you, could find a way to work their way out of their own struggles. If you need motivation, think of them, the future that needs to hear what you have to say, to see the world you wish could come, and to find their own peace with the eternal void that awaits us all at the end of our days. You can do this and more. But you have to get started. Now.

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