I blame Buzz. In my life I’ve had painful, unrequited crushes on two different men named Buzz. I met my first Buzz (Buzz #1) in college. He was a bit wild. A theatre student, and a terrific actor, he had all the bad habits one might associate with young, sensitive theatre types.
The second Buzz (Buzz #2) was an adorable man I worked with when I first arrived in California. I met Buzz #2 when we were working as teaching assistants at a local elementary school. His work ethic was astounding. I think it was the first time I ever really saw what hard work looked like and the personal satisfaction it brought. I wanted to be just like him.
And that is why, because of him, I’ve become an overachieving pressure wracked loon.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. It’s a good thing. I like being a loon. Being a loon suits me. Most of the time. But sometimes I put so much pressure on myself to do a job well that I become frozen – and not in a hip, Madonna Kabbalah, turning into a flock of black ravens sort of way. The truth is, I become paralyzed by fear of failure.
Case in point: Recently, two events happened to stop my writing in its tracks.
1. My writing teacher/mentor/guru/whatever liked what I wrote. He really, really liked it. Liked it as in “too bad the manuscript’s not finished because you could sell it on the basis of this beginning” liked it. Holy cow.
2. And then he gave me a challenge. He asked me to write a simple treatment for the new manuscript. A few pages describing the beginning, the middle and the end. A story arc marking conflicts and resolutions. A reason for caring what happens to Cora, Wanda and Rose. Say what?
Sigh. And now I’m frozen. Paralyzed. Stuck. The thing is I’ve gone and raised the bar. I wrote something that garnered praise from a person for whom I have immense respect, so now I have to do better. I can’t abide simply maintaining. I have to improve. Dang. Seriously?
When it came time to begin writing the treatment I charged full steam ahead for a full five hundred words. And then I hit a very, very hard wall.
Why is writing a treatment so difficult? I couldn’t possibly be the only person for whom this is torture. Is it because it’s too much like real work? Is it because I prefer to let my characters lead me?
The truth is, a story arc is little more than a map. And like any good map, there are always alternative routes clearly marked. Maybe if I begin to think of a treatment as being less like torture and more like an amazing journey, I’ll begin to find my way again. I’ll begin to thaw out. I’ll stop fearing success.
See? All along I thought I feared failure. Maybe my real fear is that I’m getting close to the truth of the story I’m trying to tell, and it scares me.