Self acceptance. The world is full of it these days. Or at least full of coaches and self help books who tell you to exercise this highest of all post-modern virtues. Be fearless, be forgiving towards yourself, be happy with what you’ve achieved, even if it’s nothing. Too much drive will drive you insane.
Listen and learn, nods my coaching self.
CODSWALLOP, screams my driven, writing self.
Because what would my life be without this constant pang of guilt that shoos me away from fun activities, BBQing with my friends or just happily sitting on my couch, dabbling with my facebook account? Where would it be without the urge to go over that sentence, that paragraph, that manuscript, one more freaking time to make sure it is the very best it can be? Without this crippling fear that all the effort is in vain anyway, because I am void of talent?
It would be a happy place, content even, one might argue, and it might be true. But it would also be a place without a finished book, and without one that I am really proud of, because I have polished every word until my eyes hurt.
This kind of permanent angst-ridden drive doesn’t only apply to writers but to many people who try to achieve something beyond easy reach. Illustrated by the following paragraph out of tennis legend Andre Agassi’s highly recommendable autobiography that strongly resonated with me, where a matured Agassi, poised to reach the peak of his career approaching his 30ies, talks to his trainer Brad Gilbert :
“I feel a remarkable confidence in my game, and a new purpose for being on the court – so how come I still feel all this fear? Doesn’t the fear ever go away?”
“I hope not”, he (Gilbert) says. “Fear is your fire, Andre. I wouldn’t want to see you if it ever completely went out.”
I have nowhere nearly achieved the things yet that Agassi has but I really can relate to this. Because just as much as doubt and fear can limit you, they can be the fuel you need to make it to your goal. As far as I have come with pushing my creative writing career, it was always blatant fear of letting myself down and not writing well enough that jabbed me in my behind to keep moving. Yes, yes, it is negative energy but then what comes out is not only good. It’s better.
Contentment just doesn’t do it for me as a writer. I know because I have gone through an unusually long stretch of “feck it all, I am just happy” mentality during recent months. It was a really great time, me reading books, idling about, cooking and loving it. All rosy in the garden, except my current manuscript stopped dead in its tracks. No new paragraph, no new word. Nada. I didn’t feel like continuing it and nobody was there to beat me up for it. I was happy with what was. And nothing new can come from that. I just can’t get enough mojo out of contentment. It is a cosy, energy-sucking, self-hugging comfort zone that would simply smother me and my writing if it wouldn’t be for my inner drive.
Will it make a difference if there is no such thing as a book written and published by me? Certainly not on a universal level. Most probably not on a global level. But it might for some people who read it. And it damn sure does make a difference to me! And so I keep driving and pushing. But it’s okay. Thanks to many coachings, I have finally accepted that as part of myself…
What do you think? Drive to die? Drive or die? Let me know your opinion!