Thursday, 22 January 2015

The Pressure To Be Better

alternative girl photo
They say "the pressure is good for you, darling."

Nothing makes me want to be a better writer, a great writer, like reading other great writers. I don't mean famous literary icons or journalists, I mean people like you. Human beings with stories to tell, and words to toy with.

But nothing scares me more than the realisation that there are better writers, more accomplished and wise with experience. At times I am animated by a puppetry of motion, electric with ambitious ideas and voltaic words. Sometimes, I'm incredibly proud of the things that I have done and the words I have said, until I read someone else's. Then comes the lump in my throat that forces me to admit, maybe I'm not as good as I think I am.

Over the last few years, I've written funny words and political opinions, I've shared raw and unspoken stories and loud realisations. I've gotten into trouble for some of it, and I've been unapologetic about all of it. Along the way, I forgot that I was even capable of doing it. 

Curious minds ask me where I've been, how I'm doing.

I am unnerved to say I've been exactly the same person in the same dire situation.

I have it down to a fine art, the sincere smile, the earnest sound of "I'm fine, thanks" and the swift reroute of pleasantries. I know how to shake off the look of bewilderment in their faces.

The pressure to be better hits me me like a rainstorm on exposed wires. 

Then the electricity is gone, as if banished by the roar of my ego.

It's like being in a lightless room, watching black shadows play on creamy walls and being too afraid to breathe. I know that if I could get up and switch on the light that shadows would retreat into the walls, and that my lungs could inhale new air, but the fear of facing it renders me motionless. It keeps me still. It leaves me wordless. 

I get controlled by my need to be a better, greater version of myself.

I am my own worst enemy, and all I hear is sirens.

They are all warning sounds, and they come from myself. They tell me to quit while I'm ahead and they tell me to run to safety, they are the voices of common sense and defeat. They cut the power cord for a while, and I stand still.

Then, without noise or expectation, the light is restored. My fingers release ink, and my mind releases itself. I let myself out of the dark, hastily forgetting that I put myself there in the first place. 

Writing is what I do, and I don't do it to put money in glass jars or bank accounts. It causes me as much anxiety as it does joy, akin to any oath of true love. I am a better person because of it, and I understand myself because of the words I have shared. Not everyone can put pen to paper, or turn heartaches and histories into human links. Not everyone can turn untamed thoughts into cohesive reasoning.

Sometimes, I'll publish a post and I'll feel so proud of it and I'll cradle it like it's my first born. The next time I go to write, I feel like I can't beat my own last words. Drafts lay there scattered and unloved with cruel annotations and open endings. They stay unfinished like unwanted black coffee in old china cups.
blonde selfie photo

We're all helpless to self doubt, and we will always want more. You see it in numbers on scales and labels on dresses, you see it in holding hands on grey streets and bank account numbers you don't have to hide. You want to be thinner, fitter, better. You want to be grown, and complete.

We are told we can, and that we will. They never said it wouldn't feel like this, they just said we could do it. We didn't know about the nightmares, or the sacrifice. We have to believe them when they say we can do it. All great people ascended from nothing- you don't achieve greatness, you grow into it.

Not all of us will turn words into gold, and not all of us can save a life by the written word. Promise yourself that you will share your stories, and I swear I'll remember them even if you happen to forget.