For years I’ve been plagued by the crippling disease known colloquially as “the poops.” Also, I’ve had a bad case of writer’s block. Let’s focus on the latter.
Inspiration for me often strikes when I’m bathing. I’ll run, dripping from the shower, to a laptop or journal to release the overwhelmingly brilliant idea bursting out of me. But as I sit, leaking onto the page, I realize I have nothing to write. Writer’s block, the cruelest of mistresses, has struck again.
This is a common theme in my life. I often find myself unable to translate the colors in my head into anything that makes sense. Whether it’s a short story, a screenplay, or just the most well-written fart joke of all time, my hand refuses to convert my brilliance to ink. No matter how long I sit and ponder, little to nothing comes out. Sure I’ll squirt a few half-thoughts here and there, but my serial-killer scribbles never translate to anything fully formed. For example, I looked in my notebook just now and saw, “Pizza hut not open at 6:15 am.” As helpful as this knowledge may prove to be someday, I’m not sure it’ll launch my fledgling writing career into the stratosphere.
So what was causing my writer’s block? A lack of skill? Of motivation? Or was it something deeper? As an English major, I had a little advantage over morons majoring in useful trades. Heck, the Justice Studies kid could barely write his name much less create a cohesive fantasy novel (“he thrusted his mighty broadsword between the heavy chest of the beastly monster Darius”). I had a little skill, a little motivation (grades, prestige, glorious fame), but I just wasn’t able to squeak anything out besides what I needed to pass (the class. We’ve moved on from fart references, come on).
So this week I sat down to think about it. Why have I been able to write more recently? What has changed? I’ve started to get a little money from Cracked.com, but my writing surge occurred before they reluctantly agreed to publish me.
Digging a little deeper, I think I’ve found the source. Turns out, the problem was (and still is) pride. And shame, basically. I used to be unable to write because I was afraid of writing something terrible. Clearly, I no longer have this fear. I was worried I’d write something that people hated, that people would finally out me as a moron. They’d always suspected, but now there was definitive, written proof.
Today, I had my second article for Cracked officially published on their website. And though the view count is high, the comments are brutal. People are most assuredly not on board with the idea that Angry Birds could somehow have a hint of anti-immigration subtext.
I’ve been called “Mr. Fantastic” (for my ability to stretch plausibility). It’s been suggested that my article was “lazy, freshman year sociology student level analysis.” And, my personal favorite, that I must be a “petite fascist” for my “beliefs.” What the commenters lack in understanding they more than make up for in creativity.
In short, it’s exactly what I feared would happen a few years ago. This morning, I was absolutely humbled. Obviously a lot of the criticism is misguided, and my article will someday be published in the Library Of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant,” but man does criticism suck. It’s sort of like getting kicked in the butt with a steel boot, except your butt is actually your heart. My heart, guys.
You know what, though? Without a willingness to let my pride be trampled, I wouldn’t have written anything at all. In less than sixteen hours, I’ve already had over 460,000 people read my stupid article. Of course some people are going to hate it! We can’t get 460,000 people to agree on anything. Except how terrible my article is, naturally. I am the “Great Nerd-Unifier.” The larger the stage, the bigger the audience, the louder the ridicule.
And that fear of failure, that desire to improve, is only fueled by criticism. After all, it’s not like I know these people. And they don’t know me. Why would I let them have any control over what I do or write? My pride isn’t something that should be protected or coddled. It should be kicked, punched, and beaten purple until it no longer holds me back.
My songwriting professor in college once told us that a songwriter’s job is to “pull his heart (not butt) out of his chest, hand the audience a sledgehammer, and say ‘here’s my heart, beat it to hell.'” This may seem melodramatic, but he’s right. What quality art has ever been made while holding something back? “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking,” by U2 wouldn’t be quite as powerful if it had been called “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, Probably.”
So bring it on, nerds. There’s plenty of terrible writing left in me. Here’s a sledgehammer.