Occasionally, like all writers I think, I waste time (and energy) talking myself out of some major project I'd like to tackle.
Self, I say, you simply don't have enough time to write that. Pathetic little self, you don't yet have the credibility you need to get that project sold. Little nobody self, what makes you think you can get access to those interview subjects? Insignificant little writer self, how do you plan to execute such a vast project, the likes of which you've never even tried?
Delusional self, I continue, that just wouldn't contribute to the bottom line, so stop dreaming. Sorry old self, I say, that idea is just too big (or too different or too much of a reach); you shouldn't try it until you have more (take your pick) experience, publishing credits, contacts.
Finally, I say to myself (by this point I'm on a pretty good self-defeating roll): Who do you think you are anyway?
It's pretty easy to see how quickly I can go from the above to….procrastinating, hedging, avoiding, delaying -- and forgetting all about it. Eventually, I put the BIG idea in a mental drawer, sigh, and move on -- to projects I know I can handle, those that come with guaranteed paychecks, those I know (based on past performance) I can complete with relative confidence.
The funny-sad part of all this is that I don't (ever, really), become unproductive on a daily basis. I keep on producing words and pages and finished pieces, like I always do. I keep taking on new editing clients and ghostwriting projects and workshops, as I always do. I don't stop writing new material or stop teaching, or stop coming up with good ideas for the work I'm already doing. I don't stop querying for freelance assignments or stop submitting my work to literary journals, like I'm always doing.
But then, that's the problem right there: What I'm already doing. Not reaching. Not stretching. Not thinking about or doing something about even one of the bigger solo projects that I both hunger for and recoil from.
I try to ignore and deny this tendency I have to push aside my own BIG goals and just keep doing what I do. I reason with myself that there's no DIShonor in that, in continuing to write, teach, edit and otherwise work hard at a writing life I've carved out through hard work and perseverance, is there? No.
Sometimes I forget. I drop the smiley face, and the sunny everything's-fine front, and let someone see what it is I keep shoving aside as a writer -- that raw, empty spot I want to fill in with the work of that BIG idea, that hole I keep covering over. That happened a few weeks ago when I shared a meal with a writer friend who told me, simply and firmly, to get over it, to get on with it.
Writers, this is the kind of writer-friend you want. You want this kind of friend even if, at the moment, you want to toss your Caesar salad onto her lap.
Since that lunch, I've been thinking about the bigger picture, my BIG ideas, and for the first time in a long time, there's no attendant Greek chorus of Oh-No-You-Can't and Who-Do-You-Think-You-Are playing an endless loop in my brain.
And now, here comes 2011. Time for me, a list lover, to make the planning list I do every January, of what I'd like to accomplish writing-wise (or at least work on, diligently and with conviction) over the next year. Looking back at last year's list, I can cross off 7 of the 10 things I listed, and that's pretty good.
But nowhere on that list was there even one BIG idea, one project that beckoned and also scared me.
In 2011, I plan to scare the hell of out myself.