I heard about a young man who wouldn’t start his screenplay because of the worry that if he died unexpectedly before it was done, someone might find his unfinished manuscript and conclude he was a terrible writer. He would, of course, be much too dead to clarify matters and say: “Wait! It was only a first draft!” Writing is indeed a risky business as far as self-image is concerned. What was this man afraid of? The imagined opinion of an unknown person going through his affairs who might find a first draft of the screenplay he hasn’t even written yet and have a critical thought about it? While I have not found this “post-mortem discovery of a first draft” fear to be a common one, plenty of similar bogeyman constellations glow in the dark firmament of a blocked writer’s wordless nights. Just how nuts are our sensitive egos?
Very nuts. It’s the human condition to feel compelled to protect and defend our sense of self (this is also the compelling substrate of much great literature, I might add). Writing is a challenge because it inevitably opens us up to the experience of receiving criticism, and we have to tolerate this input to continue writing, and to develop our craft. Sometimes our previously held view of our ‘self’ needs to die so we can grow into our next incarnation as a writer. This means taking less seriously the negative and positive ideas we cling to about ourself, especially if they limit our productivity, or our ability to go public with our work. As writers we have to let the ego die a little. It’s uncomfortable, but the feelings pass and something better is born.