There are probably a million times more aspiring writers than there are actual perspiring (working) writers.
The reasons why people want to write but don’t or haven’t is probably an even larger number. I know, my own reasons for not being published until I was 49 are long.
Many times in my reading of articles on writing and chapters in books about the “writing life,” I find that procrastination is a common trait amongst writers. Some go through elaborate rituals before they type the first word.
If we were rational, we’d just give it up after a fashion, recognize that “wanting to be a writer” is an elaborate self-deception that masks a lack of willingness to do other things. We “want to be a writer” because we fantasize about “working from home” and getting paid to daydream.
Anyway, eventually something happens and we either die unpublished or we manage to see something of ours in print. Whichever comes first.
So why is it painful? Why the long, drawn out process from “wanting to write” to actually writing and getting it done?
Is it the raw naked terror of seeing something of ours in print, out there for the world to see… and the world hates it? Bad reviews? Or just that it feels like we’re prostituting our fantasies and when they’re published, they are no longer ours?
Anyway, there’s a point to this post and I’m getting to it right now: February 16th is the Feast Day on the Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar of St. Onesimus. Who is he? From my other blog, Sober Catholic:
“In St. Paul’s Letter to Philemon, the Apostle reveals that Onesimus, a slave of Philemon who escaped, possibly with stolen property of his master’s, has been with him for some time and has been of valuable service. Onesimus has also been baptized and as such is now a brother in Christ to Paul and Philemon, as the latter is also a Christian. However Paul is convinced that due to the Christian charity that Philemon has shown in the past, he will take back Onesimus and greet him as a brother, equal in dignity and will not punish Onesimus or re-enslave him.
And so Onesimus is sent back to Philemon by Paul, with this Letter as a sort of greeting and passage.
I’ve always been intrigued by this. Imagine you’re Onesimus. You’ve been a slave. There must have been a reason why you escaped. Was Philemon cruel? Or did you just have an instinctive aversion to being considered property of another? You just saw an opportunity to leave and took it? Anyway, the punishment for escaped slaves was most likely death. Probably painful and not quick if you’re also guilty of theft. And now your new friend, whom you’ve been serving and who has treated you like an equal, a person, is sending you back to your old master. With full confidence that Philemon’s Christianity is all that is standing between you and a painful termination.
Would you want to return?
I didn’t think so. Me neither.”
OK, so you have this tremendous aversion to returning to your former master. You’d rather continue enjoying this new life of freedom. It’s safer. (At least I’m assuming he didn’t want to return to Philemon. Maybe he did with full faith and confidence, but I’m thinking he was at least a little nervous. I’m going with “tremendous aversion” or “a little nervous”, otherwise this post and my other one on Sober Catholic would be rather pointless.) But, your current mentor/friend/advisor/boss is telling you that “This is what you have to do. This is important. It’s your mission and job now to accomplish this thing.”
OK, so you have this tremendous aversion to actually physically writing your novel. Or blog post. You’d rather continue enjoying this life of wannabe writerdom. It’s safer. No bad reviews. No one illegally downloading your ebooks and depriving you of your just income. But your family/friends/Facebook writer buddies/fellow indie authors/annoying conscience are all telling you that “This is what you have to do. This is important. It’s your mission and job now to accomplish this thing.”
Now, I’m not necessarily equating writing with returning to a former owner. But writing, or the desire to, does have an enslavement-like hold on people. It’s hard to overcome. Either way, whether it’s giving up the dream or forging on ahead with creative courage.
Now, as a Catholic I believe in the intercessory power of the Saints in Heaven. That “great cloud of winesses” in Heaven that St. Paul mentions are observing us, and if God permits, can hear our wants and dreams. Since they’re closer to God than we are, we can ask them in a prayerful manner to interced for us. (If you don’t believe in this and think that people should only pray to God for intentions, then don’t bother to ask your friends or family members to “pray for you” next time you’re in a bad way. It’s the same thing.)
So, the next time you are having an aversion to actually doing some writing, just assume it’s hopeless and you can’t overcome it yourself. Just as St. Onesimus had to return to Philemon to rectify the damage done (he did steal something) but only did so at St. Paul’s urging, so too can you get over your feelings of pain or whatever and return to the actual act of writing.
Say a prayer for St. Onesimus’ intercession. Ask him for the courage to face whatever fears about writing you have.
And then get to writing!