Thursday, October 2, 2008


It's so easy to give advice; it's not as easy to live a practice as it is to preach it.
That is, I think, why the Catholic church has confession: we all have sins for which to be absolved, both the high and low; the Pope has a confessor.

Here's my confession: I feel unworthy. Please note: this is not about logic; it's about emotion. When I sit down to write my efforts are hindered by my feeling that I have nothing to say.
Left to itself, my intellectual mind is quite sure that I do have something worth saying. But bring emotions into the picture and things come to a quick halt.

Just a couple of days ago I wrote about not apologizing for your writing. But I have been struggling with a piece of writing that keeps coming out as an apology. It's easier to say "just write a draft and let it go," than it is to actually do it.

That being said, I am constantly working to improve my ability to manage this problem, and to work on my ability to move to a new place where I am working more effectively, and really living more effectively, because the same demon that hinders me in writing hinders me in other realms of my life.

What does this involve? A practice. A willingness to be wrong. A willingness to be seen being wrong. A willingness to recognize that a problem with work that I have done is not a problem with me, but rather indicates something I can learn. In a way it requires a completely new mindset--one that is not focused on perceived failings, but is instead focused on what can be created for the future.

The point of confession is that one no longer bears the burden of the sins; one is absolved. For the writer wouldn't it be nice to be absolved of the sins of sloth, of accidie, of not having done enough reading, so that we could move forward without carrying those burdens? Imagine confessing your sins and being free of them. Wouldn't it be wonderful to let go of the burden of having been lazy last week? Of having not finished that paper?

Bearing the burden of the sins you committed last week, last month, last year, doesn't help you move into the future. What good to spend three seconds lamenting the time you wasted yesterday? The cost of those three seconds of lamenting might be that you start to feel yourself unworthy. And does that help get started? Does that help get the project done?

We need to confess our writing sins. And then forgive ourselves for them. And then write some more. If we are going to move past them, we must recognize them and acknowledge them for what they are. If we take them to be signs of a deep internal character flaw, then we set up a situation in which we feel ourselves flawed--a classic set-up for writer's block.

So, what are your writing sins?

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