I’m sitting here at my favorite coffee shop, having a beer, and stewing in whatever weird funk I’m in today. I’ve been staring at Chapter 6 of the first draft of my book for 45 minutes. All I have so far is “Chapter 6”. Not even a title for the chapter. Just “Chapter 6”. I have an outline for the entire book, but now even the outline looks weird and off and I’m wondering if I need to rethink the entire operation. Nothing seems interesting enough to write about – especially not for an entire chapter. I feel like I’ve written so much so far, so I research “average word count of a nonfiction book”. The answer is 80,000. I go back to the book so see how far I’ve gotten. Surely I’m at least halfway there.
7765 words. Shit.
The familiar thoughts come to the surface.
There’s no way you’re going to finish a book. Idiot.
Who are you to think you could do this?
Authors write every single day. They have a drive you’ll never have.
You have nothing to say.
UGH. I know these anti-affirmations. I know these thoughts, and I know them intimately. I know this voice, because it’s my voice. God has even given me an answer to these thoughts – something he has stored in a glass box to break in case of emergency: It doesn’t have to be profound; it just has to be true. I love this response, and some days I can beat the thoughts back with it – answer them with truth – but I’m finding it hard to do that today.
Whenever I have an uncomfortable feeling, I try to get down to the bottom of what’s causing that feeling – one of the benefits of being trained in the mental health field. What is this blah feeling in my gut really telling me?
Do I feel depressed? No.
Do I feel annoyed? Frustrated? Close, but no.
Am I just tired? Or hungry? Or thirsty? I mean, I wouldn’t turn down a snack, but no.
I kind of feel… worthless. Maybe not completely worthless, but like I’m lacking some worth. Like my worth is at stake. Like my worth is a plate that I’m constantly balancing, and if I look away for too long, it’ll drop and shatter. So I dig a little deeper.
Why do I feel like this? Because I haven’t written in a week.
Well, maybe I haven’t, but I have been doing tons of other stuff. I’ve been working my butt off on Brush Strokes stuff. I’ve been spending time with my niece and my family. I’ve been recording and promoting a podcast. I’ve been reading. I worked out today for the first time in a month. I started an art challenge to work on my “art for art’s sake” 2020 goal.
But I still haven’t written. I call myself a writer. This is what I left my job to do.
Okay okay okay, but HOLD UP. Let’s get to the bottom of this. Is it really because of writing specifically?
Is it because I equate my worthiness with my productivity?
I seriously know better than this. We literally just talked about this on this week’s episode of the podcast – the concept of doing all the things and why we feel the need to do them. Is it really for us? Or is it so we can prove we’re not a waste of space to others? To ourselves?
I feel self-assured and valuable and worthy most of the time, but the truth is that I don’t feel that way at other times. Sometimes I catch myself feeling like I need to be able to list all the things I did in one day, as if my life were a resume, to feel like I’m worth a damn. Like if I keep producing things and keep completing things and keep succeeding and putting out content and doing laundry and getting likes and making money, I’ll somehow prove that I’m worthy to be here on this earth. To take up the space I’m taking up. Like I’ll only be valuable if I stay relevant.
The crazy thing is – if you came up and told me you felt the same way, I’d grab you by the shoulders, look deep into your eyes, and say, “Friend? That is bullshit. Your worth and your productivity have nothing in common. You are valuable and worthy and loved, just as you are. Without any preamble, without any ‘proof’, without any action or resume or checklist. You are worthy, because you were made in the image of God. You have the thumbprint of GOD all over your DNA. Just being alive and here on this earth makes you worthy. You don’t have to earn that spot, just like you could never un-earn that spot.”
Maybe I should look into the mirror and read all of that out loud to myself.
I know this is more of a diary entry than a motivational, educational, inspirational, any-other-ational blog post, but I needed to word vomit and process things. And I do that the best through – hey whad’yaknow – writing. The very thing I’ve been avoiding.
As Cecil Day Lewis said, “I do not sit down at my desk to put into verse something that is already clear in my mind. If it were clear in my mind, I should have no incentive or need to write about it. We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.”
Maybe it’s processing through writing, or maybe it’s the beer, but suddenly I feel much, much better.