I’ve had this book for awhile; loaned to me by another sister. I never completely finished reading it, and as I scrolled my library for a neat snack, it wasn’t too high on my priority list. But as I now found myself flipping through pages, Chapter 10 caught my attention:
“Writer’s are people who tolerate a high level of anxiety. We have a talent for holding up well under tension. Anyone can start writing. To keep on creating and to grow as a writer you also believe you suck. You question everything you write. I know writing students who really do seem to believe they are great, they love writing, they write a lot, they seem blandly cheerful….they spew out words. They have no doubt, they reveal no anxiety. I think that is great. But my students who are doing really fine work, really committing themselves to writing honestly, deeply, and truly—-they have anxiety. They doubt themselves all the time. Writing stuff that is going to affect other people intensely is walking a fine line between anxiety and pleasure—-its a vibe you ride.”
I actually love this advice. I find it present not just in writing but other forms of art as well. Some of the most nervous, most introverted people are the most talented: the “Brilliantly Untalented” and Undiscovered Geniuses. This is not to say you party goers out there should worry. Nor is this to say the introverted are overcome with intense fear, for fear and faith cannot coexist (one will rule out the other). But they have a kind of humility that seems to balance out the negative components of anxiety. They know that there is talent present, but they also believe that they suck. Is it contradictory? It may be, but yet this contradiction keeps them writing and keeps you reading. Every time I’m on stage to recite a poem my stomach turns into butterflies and it feels like everybody in the world is depending on me to deliver them from a crisis. It is a feeling of great pressure. Its an understanding that though I’ve been given a gift to bestow upon my audience, I am simultaneously aware that this gift is not mine; that it belongs to one greater than myself. Then I notice, that in such anxiety, I’ve tapped into a kind of depth people could really feel. I did not have to think too hard about it. Did not think so grand of myself that I would begin editing my soul I just spoke, hoping the butterflies won’t make it so far up my throat. My belief that I am nothing, that I suck, and that I am Brilliantly Untalented, has in the end seemed to always produce the greatest work.