Last night while cooking dinner, I was thinking about writing and about how thinking about writing is not writing. Waiting to have it all worked out in my head is, for me, both an escape and a map to nowhere or frustration. Either I’ll think so long that I’ll forget to write, or when I do write it will not be nearly as good as it was in the ethereal recesses of planning and conjecture.
Why do I think instead of write–worry instead of write, find distraction after distraction, cook more than I need to, play four or seven games of spider solitaire on the computer?
Risk. Writing, I stand to fail–failing over and failing better aside, failure isn’t fun. I’ve often thought that one of the main risks of writing is disappointing other people–teachers, classmates, writing colleagues, editors at the other end of Submittable–and not getting approval (oh, that craving). That’s part of it, but maybe that’s not the biggest problem.
Playing cards on the computer, I might lose, but I just play again. If someone comes up to me, looks over my shoulder and says, You’re a really crappy card player, I’m not going to feel bad, because I don’t care, and so I’m not risking anything.
If the poem (or more nerve-wracking, the prose piece) doesn’t turn out, I’m bereft because I do care, and now I’m wondering whether maybe I’m not trying my hardest, doing my best. That feeling? That’s a big risk–with only one way to get past it, and it isn’t cards or thinking.