Define the Enemy

Why am I not writing? My current project is a journal-style story about a dead man by his killer, an idea I am really excited about. So why am I writing this blog post instead of writing that story? Fear. A little bit of laziness, but mostly fear. As long as I have been a writer I have had a paralyzing fear of actually of writing. It has never expressed itself that way. I never actually feel fear, but I know that’s what it is. Instead my fear expresses itself as a desire to go for a run, to read the book that has been sitting on my nightstand, to watch television because God knows I will never finish Lost unless I start watching more. And so I do these things, day in and day out, and I avoid writing.

Many of the writers I talk to have fear as well. The most common one is fear that their work isn’t good enough, or fear that their work won’t get published. At a poetry slam, someone told me that he is constantly picking up after his kids instead of writing and he just don’t have time. More recently, in a forum discussion, a woman said that she was taking time away from her novel so she could go back to it with a new perspective. She hadn’t written in three months.

What’s the problem here? It isn’t that people have priorities. If you have a family, they need to be taken care of. Taking time away from your novel is a good idea, I genuinely do believe it helps the process. In my situation, running and reading are things that keep me healthy and engaged. Maybe not so much television, but you get the idea. To overcome this fear of writing, we need to define the enemy. For us writers, the enemy is writing.

Let me put this into a different perspective. If you’re a runner, and I am, your enemy is the run. It isn’t the pavement or the trail, because they are indifferent to you. It isn’t your body, even though it may feel like it at times. The enemy is the run. The enemy is an energy, a force of nature. All runners learn this. The hardest part of running isn’t lacing your shoes or crossing the finish line, it is starting, and continuing, the run.

Writing is the same. It is an energy that is universal. Here is the trick: There is no enemy. What? James you spent this entire blog saying to define the enemy, then you defined the enemy, and now you say there is no enemy, what gives?

Here is what gives. It will always feel like the enemy. You need to identify it as that first, to recognize the value it has in your life. Writing wants to challenge you. It wants you to struggle, because that is how you grow. As a kid, you think your parents not letting you eat fast food every night means they are the worst and they hate you. But that isn’t the case, they are just trying to help you grow and be healthy. Writing, and the universal energy that is all struggle, wants you to succeed.

You are able to convince yourself out of just about anything. We ca be damn persuasive with ourselves. We don’t want to face down the enemy. Now you know the truth, there is no enemy. There is only the struggle, and you will succeed.

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