Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Peeking at the Medusa

Self knowledge is so hard. There are so many ways I'll procrastinate before actually working up the courage to look at my writing, my revisions, my comments, even if I already know that the outcome is good and that the revision suggestions are minor. I have to creep up on them, trick myself by circuitous routes, bargain with myself, create calming rituals while polishing my shield to a mirrorlike sheen.

Nobody wants to look at a monster. Because once you find a monster you have to do all that work to slay it, and who wants to get off the couch for that? Risk, too. But what might be worse is if you go looking and discover it's not a monster at all, but something quite ordinary, and the quest is no quest but rather some everyday type of clean-up event. And then who are you, if not a heroic slayer of monsters? You'll have to figure that out all over again.

And so I avoid looking at the medusa, because, even though I know that really she's beautiful and she's laughing, everyone goes on and on about how terrifying, horrible and dangerous it is to look, and I end up paralyzed in spite of myself. I have to work myself up to it, bit by bit, knowing that if I can just make it past the inertia and the shock I will be fine, just like how I hate starting to write like I hate starting to exercise or just about anything else, but once I am in the middle of it I enjoy it all.

Small steps, then. I open the file while heating up some lunch. I print the essay while eating. I download the readers' reports, then write a blog post. All the while I tell myself, "you are doing fine. You have already taken a step towards revising with this little step, so you can stop at any time. But since you have already taken that little step, why not the next one? Why not turn over the page and look into that mirror?"

And then? And then?

Yes, and then. Now.


P said...

I totally get this. You are an awesome monster-slayer. Awesome!

Bavardess said...

This is such a great description of this stage of the writing process.

Dr. Koshary said...

I'm amused at how different our fearful attitudes toward writing are! I have a whole different set of cultural references and metaphors for the process, but I am struck by this similarity: both of us visualize the process as an epic battle against evil. Curious. (And yes, I know that your medusa's evil characterization is highly debatable.)

Bardiac said...

Totally off topic, but my students turned in their first word paragraph exercises today; we worked with them in class, and it sounded like they were thoughtful and interesting! YAY! Thank you!


kermitthefrog said...

hey, also off topic, but your allergy post came up in my feed reader and is now not visible on the page itself. just wanted to say I'm so sorry, and no matter what is causing the extreme reactions, that state sucks. hope that you can return to semi-normal eating soon, or at least treat yourself to some delicious foods that aren't on the no-go list. (cheeses? chocolate? uh, squash?)

Lucky Jane said...

Chime to Kermit (waves). In my limited experience, the way allergists deal with this is to start with a narrow range of foods and then slowly add back until the offending item is found. And it may be multiple items.

Regardless, it sounds awful. Feel better, Sis. I'm relieved you seem to be relatively OK. Sending healthy thoughts your way.

P.S. My verification word is "globs." I hope that doesn't mean anything, other than perhaps a spoonerism of "blogs."

Maude said...

had the same problem as kermit. But here are hugs for both posts.


a friend and I were talking this weekend about some of the very things you describe during the writing process. You are not alone, if that helps.