I can’t get no satisfaction. – “Satisfaction” The Rolling Stones
It is that time again. No, I’m not gonna be talking about Christmas or New Year. I wish I could. Instead, it is deadline time, and consequently, anxiety attack time. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you will come across posts every so often talking about this exact thing. The context is different, but the motions are the same. I’ve even grown used to it. I go into autopilot, brave the storm and come out relieved at having lived through it. I never emerge victorious, like they do in movies. I just feel grateful to be able to breathe again, to sleep. “To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there’s the rub, For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,” And with those dreams, the cycle continues. It is never long till these motions arrive again, lesser or more than the previous in intensity. In this life, I just can’t get me no satisfaction.
And that chronic dissatisfaction starts right from the page. My deadline’s for Monday. It is a piece of academic writing I have to submit. I have laboured on the material often enough. I have researched it, formed my opinions. But when it comes to putting it on page, I just hate every bit of it. I have still managed to put down words. Quite a few thousand of them. And yet, they look so juvenile, so silly, so devoid of sense. You get advice like “ don’t write with ego,” “don’t take your writing personally” but I can’t. Writing is such an intimate act. We all know we act alone in it, and yet we do so for a number of people. Countless, unfathomable number of people, with countless, unfathomable opinions about it. In this case, it will only be one, but his opinion on this matters so much for it. Everyone I’ve talked to about it keep telling me to just write first and worry later but, even after managing to write so much, there is so much more rewriting to do , to do any justice to the subject matter. Your relationship with what you write can be so delicate. It isn’t even about you after a point. When I look again at some of the posts here that have done well, I don’t feel the pride I felt at the first flush of positive feedback. I try to see the value of the piece of writing itself. What made it useful? What was there about it that made people care, think? Your ego about your work is a sort of generalized, hazy feeling. If the work cannot stand independently, your ego is completely unfounded.
I comfort myself with reading about writers I admire who have a similar torturous relationship with what they write. British television writer Russell T. Davies writes such amazing, funny, warm work, and still describes having a painful time doing it. I mean, he has 300+ people depending on what he manages to put on page. And still, his procrastinating habits can be so acute, he is miserable until he finally sits down to write at the last moment. I can’t even imagine being in such a position. My writing is only for alleviating my own anxiety and the annoyance of the people in my life. I can’t even think what I would do if I had to write for something like Doctor Who.( That doesn’t mean however, given the chance, I wouldn’t write for it! )
Will I always be dissatisfied with what I write? I mean, I want to do this as a career. You know, for a lifetime. Will it always be this way? Or maybe, should I consider some other career? You see, writing is the only thing that fits. That works. That feels alright. Some psychologists will say that it isn’t my writing I hate, but myself. I’ve thought about it, and maybe there is some truth in it. But, I don’t know how to work around that, given that I have only three days left. The ensuing anxiety attack would even make me waste more time. And by the time I would have recovered, I would have blissfully forgotten to work on it until, well, the next deadline comes along. Or maybe, it cannot be worked on. Maybe, there is no cure. Maybe, you just keep writing or not writing, hating it either way, and then burning out until there is nothing left of you.
Do you get dissatisfied with what you write? Do you know of any cures?