Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Pain: Absorb or Reject?

My fear of pain started young, and for anyone who knew me as a child/teenager, I was (and still am!) woefully bad at sports. I hate being in pain. I do not like being pushed harder. I do not want to be told that "anyone can stand on their head in a corner and spit nickles for a certain period of time". I would rather quit and move on.

From early on, I gave up at pain. After getting hit in the face with a basketball in 2nd grade (hey, it hurts a lot with glasses) at a two-week camp, I never tried again. In high school, I "played" volleyball and the coach wanted me to dig for the ball. And I thought "seriously, you want me to dive, face first into the carpeted concrete and hit a ball that will turn my arms bright red? No, thank you, I'll sit on the bench please." My dad never understood why I didn't go out and practice to get better (uhh... it hurts!). Even cross country, I only lasted a year, and my goal was only to not be last. So yeah, generally when things are painful I stop (and if you're wondering why hand-eye uncoordinated Natalie could be on a high school volleyball team? It was only because the high school only had 30 people in it, and I did it because we got to travel with the boys basketball team...).

When I recently decided to finally write more and had (what I thought) was a good idea for a book, I went for it. Luckily the first person I told, was supportive and encouraging. So spurred by that, off I went, it felt natural. Sweet! Maybe I'll be able to do something creative, be at least part of the person I wanted to be when I was growing up (a writer and an artist - hey, I'm left handed, it makes sense!).

But I made a fatal mistake, I did not follow the instructions of one blog that said to Keep it to yourself.

Whelp, I didn't take that seriously, and shared again... it only took 1 more person before I hit the negative comments that made me feel as if what I was doing was unoriginal and not worth pursuing. Embarrassed I thought, what's the point? I barely started and already hearing it's a dumb idea, I should just quit. It's just going to get worse, and as I know myself, I go out of my way to avoid pain and conflict. Negative feedback in any form takes years for me to move past, some of it I still hold on to until this day (yes, I still remember indirectly finding out a woman I idolized thought I was annoying, talk about knife in the tender psyche of a pre-teen!). What was I even thinking attempting such a project?

But there was that small small voice in the back of my head that said - keep on and keep it to yourself.

It got me to thinking about how being creative is such a vulnerable thing. I mean, you want what comes out of you to be appreciated and validated. You want to hear "that's a great idea" or "wow I really like what you did", or at least "good luck". Whatever you've created was or is something important to you/how you felt/a pivot point in your life. There are a few options when faced with this, don't share your art, quit, or I guess for those with larger balls than I, push through and create anyway. I realized how hard it is to create art and maintain your self-esteem to keep going. No wonder so many artists descend into madness or alcohol.

So if all of this is just about the process, then maybe I'll learn how to be better at not listening to negative feedback on something I am pursuing. Or at least nurture the creative side to find another idea that seems better.

Anyway, I think I'm going to keep writing, but planning on keeping the whole thing to myself. So if you ask me what I'm up to, I'll say I'm writing. And for all you know, it may as well be tweets I'm writing to the Twitterverse. I'm going to attempt to push past my instinct to quit. And if I get 5,000 more words down the road, and I feel like it's not working, I'm going to re-read the "How to Write a Novel" post, put on some Sigur Ros, and attempt to just keep writing.