I am envious of the certitude most writers possess.
That they want to write. That they can write. That what they write has meaning: to them and to their readers. That, “they should keep going” until they reach a goal: bestseller, published author, critical acclaim, a NAMA Award, a Pulitzer prize.
I am envious, because doubt is incredibly crippling. I second guess my choices. Why am I reading this 273 page book by Stephen Hawking, “On Writing” when I never even read one of his novels? Why is adding Dambudzo Marechera’s House of Hunger to my reading list feel more an act of duty than passion to me? Why do I barely remember anything from O’Level Literature except doing an hour’s lesson on the first line of Nervous Conditions? A passionate nun waxing lyrical about the iconic, “I was not sorry when my brother died”.
Sometimes, glimmers of inspiration hit. They take the form of a “free verse” poem. Only because I can’t tell syllables from vowels and iambic meter sounds foreign to me. Sometimes they take the form of “short stories”, only because there is no way I can flesh out this thought to a larger wordcount. Sometimes they take the form of “commentary.” A euphemism for reactionary impulse.
It would please me greatly, IF I could take the time to “find myself.” Go on a pilgrimage of self discovery and stare over the ocean while I scribble notes in my book. Aaaa… the dream. Except, I barely have a book idea to write on that journey. And the one I do, feels like the only one I have.
Is it sloth, pride, greed that makes me yearn for a writer’s persona? A convenient self delusion? “Oh, now your terrible communication, sporadic productivity, self destructive thought processes make sense. You are a prodigy. A genius!! Genius comes with a side of lunacy.”
I envy it, because this restlessness simply won’t go away. This reckoning with my spirit demands to be had now. These half hearted attempts only serve distraction, disruption and destruction.
These intrusive thoughts are spilling over into all aspects of my life. Just recently, I had an uncomfortable conversation about my productivity at the day job. In these times of remote work, the contagion risk of self doubt is acute.
I have made my peace with an absence of wealth and luxury. A house, a car, clothes, glittering accessories. I am priviledged to have no responsibility to a dependent, a family. But, one still needs income. If, for nothing else, sustenance. Food. None of my scribbling and musings are commissioned; purchased; or subsidized. The thought of street performances for tips in bond notes haunts. One degree of separation removed from begging and destitution.
The thought of applying for a scholarship or publishing sounds even more tragic than the current predicament. Exposed as a fraud in a profession that values authenticity. What claim, really, do you have to this title? Why? Why are you a writer?
Imposter syndrome is chronic.
Organic moments of inspiration are sporadic. Fleeting. Like the flash of a meteorite across the bleak sky. Legend has it that, one can make a wish on a shooting star. Mine is, “May time free me from the curse of doubt, and share the gift to write.”
Valentine Writes (The irony of the name!)
P.S: This post was written in 2020, with the context the time implies.
Compliment with: Call Me Valentine Writes