Saturday, April 20, 2013

Secret 5

5. Don’t be afraid of writing badly.

My understanding, probably based on television shows, is that if you are afraid of spiders and no longer want to be an arachnophobe, you go to see a kind, gentle person who keeps just loads of tarantulas in their spare bedroom. There, in that spider wonderland, you gently acclimate to the spidery presence. Since I am afraid of spiders and have never undergone this delicate cure, the very phrase “Spidery presence” give me the absolute willies. However, supposedly, if I went to this beneficent, saint-like spider herder and spent regular hours with these miraculous eight-legged creatures that I shouldn’t fear because they are our friends and help control the number of nuisance insects in the world, if I hung out closer and closer with these spiders, I would, before long, be letting them crawl all over me while I blithely sipped cappuccinos and made Indiana Jones jokes.

Since this works, theoretically, so well with spiders, I thought I would take it as my model for helping cure my possibly damaging fear of writing badly. The idea would be to carefully jot down just a line or two of terrible prose and then breathe a lot and have warm drinks and tell myself kind things. Unfortunately it turns out that I am incapable of producing bad writing on purpose. No matter how wise and pure my intentions are the moment I sit down to write all my plans dissipate. It’s like a fever that seizes me without warning. I suddenly want to be funny, graceful, expressive, winsome and clear-headed. Yes, when I write, I can be boring, pedantic, egotistical, maniacal, cumbersome and obtuse, but I can’t do it on purpose! It just sort of jumps out at me, like a spider, causing me to shriek and flail and go hide in my room for a couple days trying to soothe myself. If a spider herder professional tried to cure people of their arachnophobia by waiting until they were feeling calm and comfortable and then  flinging spiders at them they would be disbarred from the Arachnophile Professionals Association faster than a black widow spider can eat the head off of her mate.

Coincidentally that’s just about how writing something awful makes me feel, the same way thinking about one spider eating the head off of another spider makes me feel. Nevertheless I do understand that both these things, cannibal spiders and bad writing, are part of the natural order of things. They are the way of the world, they happen, and I should not fear them, but instead should embrace them. Not literally though as I would get web and poisonous oozing spiders all over my shirt.

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