That Bully, Punching Me With My Own Fist

I read a blog post earlier today (a guest post by Matt Ragland over at Jeff Goins’ blog) that featured a metaphor for art that captured a little of my creative mood right now.

Matt compared writing to that big bully from childhood who would take your hand and cause you to strike yourself in the face, all while saying, “Stop hitting yourself? Why are you hitting yourself?”

In many ways, that’s where I was this morning: my inner critic was alive and much more juiced up on the caffeine I’d ingested than the physical, writer ME was. The self-doubt was raging and the delaying tactics began to queue up one by one.

Doubt and self-criticism can leave you feeling drained of your creativity.

Doubt and self-criticism can leave you feeling drained of your creativity.

It started early last week, when I learned that the fiction basics course I was scheduled to teach locally didn’t have enough students signed up and had been cancelled. My wife and I also found out that the hopes we had for moving (and, the related hopes I had for a dedicated office and library space to work in) were dashed in an unlikely series of unforeseen circumstances. Then, in an unusual turn of events, I was asked to substitute teach at the high school where my wife teaches on four straight days; something that rarely happens AND just happened to coincide with my “new year, new schedule” mentality. Because I subbed four days, there were four days of my writing & creativity schedule that were, for all practical purposes, off the calendar, so my “new start” barely limped along last week. Over the weekend, I watched the Facebook and Twitter feeds of my friends and fellow writers of the MFA program I graduated from last year as they gathered for the January residency and graduation, which I didn’t have a chance to attend; I felt, keenly, that loss of community and creative inspiration. Add to that a steady stream of literary rejections that have been trickling in like Chinese water torture and I find myself at a point of questioning my skill, my work, and my desire.

That bully of self-doubt and criticism has been hitting me in the face with my own hand for the last few days, and when he asks, “Why won’t you stop hitting yourself?” my only response is, “I can’t!”

I pushed through, this morning, and spent time writing the novel. Later this week, I’ll go forward with teaching my Legacy of Words writing class and debut my just-finished and published workbook for non-writers who want to begin to tell their life story in words. I’ll make a few dollars editing and coaching a few of my writing clients. I’ll absorb the next round of rejections of my short stories, and then find new markets to submit to. I’ll move forward, because that’s the only option, really.

The bully will go away, for a while. But, I know he’ll be waiting for the next opportunity. I’ll keep my milk money in my socks, just in case.

* * *

photo credit: Alex E. Proimos via photopin cc

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8 thoughts on “That Bully, Punching Me With My Own Fist

  1. Catching up on my blog reading and just came across this post. For a minute, I thought my bully had entered your life, but then I heard it loud and clear dragging me down. We all have one, don’t we? My new year started off in a difficult way following a family death and another family illness, so I’ve taken 90 days as a self-assigned retreat to regroup after the last year, but each time I think I’m ready to tackle my memoir project that bully comes creeping back in. I think it is what it is!

    • I don’t think it matters what is happening in our lives: even when things are smooth, the bully finds an avenue for attack. During the really hard times, though, there are just even more things to have to push through.
      The only way to get the flow back is to start doing SOMETHING…even if it is gibberish free writing or morning pages or ANYTHING…most of us could probably make a whole blog post every day about the things we did instead of writing…but at least making that post would be writing!! 🙂

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