Posted by: M.C. | 17 September 2010

Reaching In

“How’d we lose that good that was given us? Let it slip away. Scattered it, careless. What’s keepin’ us from reaching out, touching the glory?”
The Thin Red Line

I have been thinking tonight about obstacles. I don’t mean the ones imposed on us by circumstances or placed in our paths by others. I mean the things we do to undermine ourselves. The thousand habits we form and hold that stand between us and our contentment, our best interests, our greatest hopes and dreams. It may be that you don’t know what I’m talking about; it may be that you are someone who sights a goal and strives for it in a straight line, lazer-like. I am not.

Sometimes, I like to content myself with idea that the very qualities that fuel my imagination and my love of language and ability to create from my mind places and human beings who feel as real to me as those who inhabit this world in flesh and blood, sometimes I tell myself that this same gift of mind must be paid for in doubt and uncertainty and anxiety. But at other times, I think this is just a thing I tell myself.

The language theorist Kenneth Burke defined human beings as fundamentally “rotten with perfection,” by which I think he meant that we have a tendency to take things to the umpteenth degree. So when I think of writing a novel, a part of my mind insists that it be a perfect novel. And when I scale back my ambitions to, for now, only write a chapter or 500 words, or even a single sentence, I reject a thousand possibilities as insufficient before I can get myself to put down a word because they are not perfect.

It eats at me. Because, of course, I should be the perfect writer who is not stymied by such ridiculous expectations. Somewhere in the middle of the mess that is my deeply flawed humanity, somewhere *in* the anxiety, I know there’s an answer. Somewhere I know the answer isn’t being “better” but in being okay with these contradictions and finding a way to live with–and write from–them. I know the glory is right here, that I’m in it. I just need to figure out how to see it, how to release it.

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