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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Sunday, March 2, 2014

On a Smaller Scale

On a smaller scale, positive and negative thoughts will be simply signposts. The positive ones will be small satisfactions: "oh, that paragraph makes sense now." The negative ones will be small frustrations: "oh, doesn't make sense, not yet!." They won't have tremendous emotional power, because they won't take the form of sweeping statements (I'm brilliant / I'm lousy). You still have to listen to them, because they contain useful information. You want to know if the sentence is good or not, after all. What you really need it the freedom not to be afraid of a sentence that isn't good yet.

The kind of ego that shows up in negative judgments is even worse, in that respect. It is egotistical to think you are bad at something when you haven't earned the right to say you're bad yet. I can't play violin at all, have never picked on up, but I've only earned the right to say I'm bad at it if I've practiced for hours for a few years and then still can't play.


Thomas said...

My advice to writers (are you back in the advice business, Jonathan?) is not to act on their feelings about their writing when writing. Just do the planned work. The right time to feel good or bad about your writing is while reading it, hours, or preferably days, later, when you have resolved not to work on it, just read it. Make a note of how you feel. Of what should be changed. Then plan (for another day) to do the work that is necessary to improve it.

Jonathan said...

Yes, back giving advice. I can only give advice when I am actively working. Otherwise, it seems to be "idle" advice without real relevance.

You will have feelings about writing while it's happening, but on a smaller scale. Those smaller scale emotions are both unavoidable and useful, even if it is the tiny satisfaction of having a sentence come out nicely.