Sometimes I would like to quit writing and see if a new skill is as tiring as writing is, like science or math.
Writing is so hard to approach. I can never accept that it won’t be gold the first time. Sometimes it’ll take me until 3 a.m. to start it. If I didn’t have a deadline, perhaps I’d never start it.
I enjoy it, sure. I enjoy it when I write in my spare time, or write about something I love, or feel like I’ve written something wonderful. But that hasn’t been the majority lately. Lately, I feel like I could go my whole life without ever enjoying it again.
Writing is a monster on my back, or a huge zit that I can’t stop picking. It’s awful and I hate it and I can’t do anything about it. I wake up often in the middle of the night because I can’t stop thinking about writing… because I’m nuts.
I have full-blown nightmares about silly things like paragraph organization, or who gives a damn if I use contractions? If I start with a narrative or topic sentence, won’t I still get to my point all the same? When is an idea “fully developed?”
I wake up sweating. Was my introduction trash? Is my idea new or creative whatsoever? Don’t they understand that there indeed was a ghost in Gogol’s “Overcoat?” Would my poem be better if I didn’t give away the symbolism? Is there enough detail for a reader to connect with my character? Is my sense of humor coming through? Why can’t I write any poems that aren’t dark?
Writing is so aggravating. There are days when writing is the most disgusting thing in the world. There are days I wish I was illiterate and could do nothing but finger-paint in my underwear for the rest of my life.
It only seems to go well when I ramble mindlessly. I fall off the wagon when I have to construct something to fit someone’s idea of what good writing is. Who is the king of the world that decides what good writing is?
I feel so stilted, staring at the blank page, writing a sentence just to delete it over and over. I’ll rearrange a poem or a short story sixteen times and still find no satisfaction. I’ll spend an hour crossing out and changing ONE word in a line.
I’m no better at public speaking. Maybe all my nervous fidgets and stammering is my brain’s choice of self-editing or “deleting” what I’m saying.
I recently watched Amy Cuddy’s TED talk about the power of body language. Cuddy, a social psychologist, said that “power posing” for two minutes before doing anything that requires confidence (so basically, life as a whole) can reduce cortisol, a stress hormone, and increase testosterone, boosting your confidence, tremendously.
Power posing is any position where you stretch out, such as standing with your legs apart and hands on your hips, elbows out. Cuddy calls that the “Wonder Woman” pose. When someone crosses a finish line or wins a competition, they tend to stretch their arms wide above their heads. This is a universal power pose; blind athletes who have never seen this done before naturally do it when they win too.
I’m what Cuddy calls a powerless person – I make myself small in most settings. Holding your hands and legs inward, crossing your feet, pressing your hand against your neck, or any other position in which you cower or crunch up your body makes you feel less confident and more stressed. I never noticed how much I compress my body every day, from sitting in class to talking to someone else. I only notice my fear when I’m speaking publicly or struggling to write.
Cuddy’s studies prove that our body language affects both how people see us and how we see ourselves. When cortisol decreases and testosterone increases in the brain, we feel confident, comfortable, and relaxed. When cortisol increases and testosterone decreases, which happens when you make your body small, a person becomes nervous and highly stress-reactive.
Today, I tried power posing for the first time. I don’t think it was even a full two minutes, but this is the first Monday that I don’t feel like a zombie. I went to bed at 4 a.m. last night, so nothing else is different about today except that I power posed. I feel a lot calmer than usual. Maybe it’s all in my head, but frankly I don’t care if it is because it feels good.
I am going to try power posing for two minutes a day before I sit down to write. I think feeling confident in my writing can seriously help me get ideas out on paper without hating them. Maybe confidence is the magic medicine for Writer’s Hatred Disease.
Try power posing and let me know if it helps you. Or, what does help you when writing becomes a source of aggravation? What are your tricks for remaining confident in your writing and speaking?
Spring 2015 BPP Intern