On Creative Paralysis, Feeling Naked Online, And My Inner Critic Whose Name Is Chad
I’m a dreamer. I always have been. I could spend hours daydreaming. I’m almost never bored, and I relish lazy days and quiet moments where I can spend the day in my own head. I can literally lay in bed for hours, making up these amazing stories and fantastic scenarios in my own brain. I flesh out characters. I can almost taste the fruit in the exotic places my mind goes to. I’ve always been like this, ever since I was a child. My favourite teacher, a lady by the name of Mrs. Casey in grade three, she saw potential in me. She was a big fan of “Anne of Green Gables” and made us read the first two books in the series in her class. She used to call me “her little Anne”. Most teachers saw wasted potential with me- a girl with a sharp mind who did no homework, struggled to pay attention in class, and read books during lectures- but Mrs. Casey saw promise. She submitted one of my poems to some contest, and was directly responsible for me winning a Young Writers’ Award at the age of nine. She managed to get a lot of quality work out of me.
I wish I had kept in touch with her, because she managed to work some magic that nobody else has been able to- she was able to help me take all this incredible stuff in my brain and get it out. I could have used that in the last 20+ years. I probably would have been more successful.
See, the problem with me is, once it comes time to take these ideas and put them onto paper (or a screen, in this case), I freeze. My brain shuts down. It’s like my Dreaming area with all my ideas is in a vault, and every time I try to get one of those ideas out my brain goes on lockdown. I freeze. I stare at a screen. The ideas start swimming in my brain and I don’t know where to start, and I get overwhelmed and panicky and go into shutdown mode. I shut the laptop down. I walk away, feeling defeated. I go pick a fight with Republicans on the internet to ease my pain. It helps, but it doesn’t solve my issue.
Since I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD and taking Wellbutrin, things have gotten better. I can find little bits and threads to grasp onto as a place to start. Starting has always been the hardest part. Starting something makes me panic. Once I get into a rhythm, I’m all set.
Part of the problem is the ADHD, but another part of the problem is how naked I feel about exposing my thoughts. My last blog was about how I chose to go into a career that focused on my body because that was less work. What I didn’t say was that it also made me feel less exposed than anything creative I’ve done. See, people critiquing my body- well, it’s shitty, but I didn’t create that. I can exercise, I can apply makeup, I can wear clothing that compliments my body type, but at the end of the day, I’m working with genetics that someone else gave me. I can’t take full responsibility for that. Anything I create, though- that’s all me. That’s all my mind. Anything that I put out into the world is a part of my mind that I’ve exposed- a part of my soul laid bare for anyone who cares to read it. That type of exposure goes far deeper than skin, and it terrifies me.
Is it normal for creative people to define themselves so deeply by what they create? Or is it because I spend so much time in my head that giving those thoughts away piecemeal seems like such an intimate act? I’ve spent years readily showing my body to anyone who could afford a five dollar membership fee, but writing, my stories- my greatest passion- is something I hold much closer to my chest. It’s been much more difficult for me to show others, and the fear of rejection when it comes to a piece I’ve created is far worse than the fear of rejection from people who don’t like my body. When I get no feedback on my written work, it gets into my head.
About a month ago, I was at my trans partner support group and they asked us all to draw our inner self-critic. Everyone else drew black holes, furnaces, etc. This is mine. Meet Chad.
He’s like the Youtube comments section, anthropomorphized. He was the epitome of every guy who used to make fun of me in high school, every fuckboy who sent me a dick pic, every dude who slut shamed me or negged me, every jerk who’s picked a fight with me on the internet, every nerd boy who called me a “fake nerd girl” and tested me on obscure geek knowledge until he was satisfied I knew enough to be allowed into the club. I gave him judgy eyes and the most punchable smirk I could manage with my amateur drawing skills, and I brought him home.
I submitted a bunch of pitches today, and I even submitted a short story I’m proud of to a children’s magazine. I stared at Chad after each one I submitted. I’m going to keep submitting, even though he whispers in my ear how much of a failure I am with each submission. Each time I write, I hear him telling me how I’m a moron to even submit to this magazine or that publication,that my writing is garbage, that I don’t have an interesting story to tell, that I’m going to fail and end up broke. He tells me that no one will ever want me. It was hard submitting those pitches. I felt like crying after hitting the “send” button because Chad was going on and on about how worthless I was. But I did it, and I’m proud of myself for doing it. And when I get my first submission accepted, I’m going to take Chad out back, and I’m setting him on fire.
I’m going to get back to the novel I was working on years ago- the one I abandoned when Chad started getting into my head, telling me I was putting all this work into something nobody would read or enjoy. And when I finish it, Mrs. Casey’s name is going to be the first in the thank you notes.
Chad is currently telling me not to bother pressing “send” on this, that it’s absolute garbage and nobody cares.
Fuck you, Chad.
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