Boots, Walking, Etc.
I realized this morning while reworking my dissertation proposal that I have a tendency to get up and walk off when the writing process is finally going well. I’m surprised about this, and I’m rarely surprised by random personal insights. I think it would take an entire team of therapists to figure out just exactly why, so I’m not going to be able to reveal the secret in just one blog post.
I also have a tendency to get up and leave the room right at the moment when a television show reaches its climax. It probably took me two hours to get through the season one finale of Veronica Mars. Once I saw it through, I could watch it again in one sitting, but at that moment when my heroine was on fire and the bad guy was stuck in a car with a pit bull, I needed to talk a walk. This, of course, only prolongs the agony. Until I sit down and hit play again, Veronica is in flames.
So why do I keep getting up and leaving my paragraphs in flames, waiting for rescue? I’ve often thought it was the result of a sort of academic’s ADD, what a writing partner of mine calls the “Did You See Something Shiny?” Syndrome. When you’re struggling, anything seems more appealing than what you’re trying to write about, even a piece of aluminum foil wedged beneath the fridge. But I realized this morning that it isn’t when I’m struggling that I’m most likely to bail. When things are tough, I can write pages upon pages in an attempt to work things out. The problem seems to come up when everything is working.
This seems incredibly freakish. Why not ride the synaptic wave? I certainly know the pleasure of letting my brain run away with me, delivering ideas like treasure before it zooms off to someplace new. But when I’ve got adrenaline pumping like a ball in a human pinball machine, when the sentences are flowing and finally, finally, things are making sense, I’m very likely to a) get up and leave, b) check my e-mail, c) start an entirely new file with new questions and problems. As in crucial moments of really good television, when things are connecting and surging, my system feels overloaded and I’m uncomfortable enough with the lack of control that I disengage, at least superficially.
Ok, clearly I’m a control freak. But I’ve never thought of myself as a control freak when it came to writing. Creative writing has always been something that unleashed me from my need to be in control. However, I’ve rarely felt the need to seek external approval for my creative writing. So perhaps the problem is that my internal censor won’t let me write my wildest thoughts for fear that my advisor will take one look and pronounce them idiotic. Perhaps I’m writing with too much an eye on the final pronouncement. Or maybe I’m so excited to get something done that I jump straight to my reward for working—positive reinforcement gone awry. Regardless of which is the case, this is going to require some Olympic-level navel-gazing.