February 14, 2011

Let’s Be Hard on Ourselves, Shall We?

I’m recovering from another cold that took me to my knees on Saturday. My husband observed, “Why do you always get a cold right before you’re scheduled to have a writing weekend?” Why indeed?

But, we must rise above these things, mustn’t we?

Off and on, I’ve been watching episodes of the A&E show Heavy, about morbidly obese people who make the commitment to change their lives. It actually has quite a lot in common with A&E’s show Intervention. It’s about addiction and how we sabotage ourselves in the name of escape.

The number one thing that strikes me about these shows is how much these people’s lives have in common. Of course, these shows are scripted like all reality shows, so there’s a certain amount of that, but in reality, there are common patterns. A huge trauma. Family enablers. People whose coping mechanisms are very destructive.

The other thing that strikes me is that it’s damn hard to recover. Damn hard. It often takes other people confronting the person, holding them accountable in a new way. The person has to be broken down, sort of like they are in the military, in order to be built back up. They have to be confronted with the severity of their problems and coping mechanisms. The people have setbacks, but they keep fighting.

For example, there’s the story of Travis. During the course of the 6-month training, his wife gives birth to a second son, he has to get a job, his house is broken into, his possessions get flooded out, yet he still looses 98 lbs. He started at 431.2 lbs and gets down to 333.0 lbs. Don’t you just want to stand up a cheer?! Don’t you just admire the heck out him?

Writing is a lot like dieting actually. I mean long-term writing, like writing a novel or trying for long-term success. The major decision (“I am going to lose weight” or “I am going to write a novel”) is the easy part. The hard part is the small everyday decisions that face you every hour every minute of the day. “I’m stressed right now ~ do I give in to the cravings to numb myself with food the way I’ve always done? Or do I stay strong and make the healthy choice?” “I have ten things to do for work and for the kids and, oh, don’t forget my husband ~ do I do all that and not write at all today?”

Writing and dieting have the same sorts of out-there esoteric rewards. Why write a novel? Because I want to have the satisfaction of completing it, because I want fame and fortune, because I know I was meant to. Why diet? Because it’ll make me feel better, because I’ll be more attractive, because I’ll have the satisfaction of completing something hard. See what I mean?

Certainly, I get more day-to-day reward from writing. I mean, when I’m in my writing, I love it! It’s the getting started that’s the hard part and takes the same sort of willpower as dieting.

But I’m going to take courage from the example of Travis and so many others like him who decide to confront those demons and to be hard on themselves and to just do it, damn it!

Questions of the Day: Complete the sentence, “Writing is …”


Pembroke Sinclair said...

a compulsion. I love it and hate it but have to do it!

Tamara said...

Exactly! Or why else would we put ourselves through such hell?