Here Goes Nothing

Well, I’ve started. The impending “first blog post.” I have spent a lot of time thinking about writing, talking about writing, and, ultimately, putting off writing. I had the grave misfortune last month to have someone tell me that my writing was good. A panel of judges in my very first writing contest, to be exact. This unanimous decision to award me with the first place prize was just the nudge that I needed to shy away from ever writing anything ever again.

It’s much easier to imagine yourself being a writer than it is to sit down and put fingertip-to-keyboard. I have the Pinterest board of writing prompts, Helpful Habits of Highly Productive Writers, and Top 10 Things That MUST Be in Your Novel. I have the notebook on my person at all times, poised to write down the ideas that will surely strike me like a lightning bolt throughout the day. Hell, I even looked into buying a typewriter to put on display in my house to show the world. Look at me! I write things! But the words haven’t come.

I am not the only one setting the stage for the birth of my Great American Novel. The forces of the universe have come together to provide me with the ideal circumstances to pursue my writing.

I recently moved across the globe and am living in a country whose language I do not speak. I am surrounded by the picturesque European cafés that I imagine were haunted by Hemingway, and yet I have been brewing my coffee at home instead.

I have few friends here to entice me into time-sucking social events and a painfully open schedule, and yet I let the hours, days, and weeks pass without writing more than a (hopefully) clever tweet.

I have an English degree from a prestigious liberal arts college under my belt, along with a personal library full of great writers to amaze and inspire me, and yet I haven’t cracked a book since my plane touched down on the runway.

So, why has it taken me nearly a month to start writing?

I blame those judges. With their well-meaning, well-written responses to my essay, calling it “brilliant” and “touching.” Declaring that “We will see more greatness from this young author.” Criticism makes us stronger. It shows us our weaknesses and allows us a chance to confront them head-on. Praise, on the other hand, supplies us with crippling ego and a reason to pat ourselves on the back. We can wallow in it without the guilt that often accompanies indulgent self-pity. After all, we should be proud of ourselves. We accomplished something and someone noticed. But I am learning that I must let go of the good feelings in the same way that I force myself to move past misfortune. I have sat in the sunlit glow of that essay for long enough. I spent the last of the prize money in this lovely café, purchasing the cappuccino that I sip as I write this.

Here I am. Writing. Praise be damned.

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