Knowing the destination before setting out on the voyage

Me, Myself, and this blog,Writing & Stories — Sean Bonner @ 1:37 pm
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Earlier today I mentioned that there’s never been something I’m so equally attracted to and horrified of in my entire life – as writing. I’ve done it and not done it all my life and I’ve written about doing it and not doing it probably more than I’ve actually done it. I have this problem that I’ve become much more aware of recently, which might actually be making it worse now that I know about it, where I’m petrified of beginning writing if I don’t know where I’m going to end up. Depending on your perspective this has never/always been a problem for me to some extent – or rather, it’s been a problem in other areas that I didn’t realize were problematic, but hasn’t really been a problem with writing.

In my most prolific writing days I had no idea where I was headed until I got there and that was my salvation. Writing was incredibly therapeutic and with just a spark I could dig into my head and spill my guts all over a page and not only feel good about what I’d written, but feel better mentally as well. Like I’d worked through something. Solved something that I didn’t understand before and that drove me to keep doing it. At some point I got the idea that I needed that spark to give me the push, and then at some other point I realized those sparks don’t really happen on command. And then I started worrying about them and how to find them and what to do without them. The spark was like a quick strobe flash in a dark room that gave me an idea of what route to take to get through it, and without that I just keep standing there not knowing which direction to move in.

I told a story last year (and many times before actually) that as a kid I never took first steps, or said first words. I sat around staring at people for ever – much longer than I should have – and then just started walking, and just started talking in full sentences. It’s a story passed on to me from my parents and I don’t even know how much truth is in it. But I guess I convinced myself it was true, and then used it as an excuse by blaming some weird way my head works. I have to know I can do it before I start. Or I have to know the destination before I can embark on the journey. Which I think is bullshit, so that’s conflicting to say the least.

The thing is I love writing. When I’m in the groove it’s easily one of my favorite things in the world. If I could do that all day I would in a heartbeat. When I’m not in that groove it’s torture and I beat myself up about it all day long, which I’m certain only makes it that much worse.

I’ve talked to a number of my “writer” friends, or just my friends who write even if they don’t consider themselves writers. I ask them if they know where they are going when they begin. If they have a roadmap. If they just dive in blind. And their answers, of course – I knew before I ever asked them, are varied. Some people have outlines, some people have ideas, some people barely have a spark. So there’s no one solution, no one answer. And again, I already know that so I don’t know why I keep asking. But I do. I feel like I’m 1 year old just watching everyone walk around too afraid to try to take a step. Does that mean that at some people in the future I’ll just *get it* and suddenly be able to write without issue? I doubt it, but that’s a good excuse to not try today.

And it’s not even a fear of failure. I don’t mind if I suck. I don’t mind if what I write is stupid. I mean I don’t want to write sucky stupid stuff, but if that’s the result then I’m already OK with that because it’s a result, which is better than what I have right now. I’m afraid of getting lost. Afraid of staring at the blank page and not having any idea what to write next. Afraid of trying to tell a story and not having a story to tell. If I don’t actually write it then I can keep telling myself that I have a story that I just haven’t written yet. If I force myself to start writing it and hit a wall, then I have to admit that I don’t have a story. Which is where that desire to know the end before I begin comes from. And again, I know it’s stupid.

I’m not even looking for advice here, just trying to kick my own ass and sort through the crap in my own head so I can better grasp what it is that is actually standing in my way. Like with this post, I knew the first sentence because I’d already written it on twitter, everything else just appeared as I typed the line before it. So that’s something.

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1 Comment »

  1. Sean,

    I have to say I’ve always enjoyed your writing. I myself have always enjoyed writing too, and I struggled through a couple of blogs that started out strong but eventually fell victim to the odd post every few months wherein I just apologized for not posting more, etc. It was a mix of genuinely not having enough time and not having enough ideas.

    However, I knew I wanted to be writing more, and what I ultimately ended up doing- that worked- was giving myself a format to work with. I adopted a “five things” idea (which I more or less stole from Giant Robot magazine), wherein I’d write… five things. A day. I figured my life is interesting enough that I can come up with at least five things to talk about on a daily basis.

    I started this in February of 2010 and haven’t missed a day (except weekends and when I’m on vacations). I actually look forward to doing it every day. There’s always SOMETHING to write about, link, etc, and it’s never something I feel frustrated about.

    I’m not suggesting you do this exact thing, per se, but I’m just telling you what worked for me was having that BLUEPRINT to work from. Not having to come up with a title and a subject and compose multiple paragraphs and wrack my brain changed everything.

    Anyway, if you want to check it out, it’s snapflashsnap.blogspot.com. I really do enjoy your writing so whatever you do, keep it up!

    Matt

    Comment by Matt — July 25, 2013 @ 9:29 am

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