Editor’s Note: The author, Laura Stuart, is a student in the fall 2010 Women’s Studies Program Special Topics course, That Chick is Crazy: Women and Madness, at The University of Akron.
You have this great idea for an essay rolling around in your brain. You’ve mentally sorted out what and where every A to Z belongs. Getting this thing written down occupies your every thought, and you can barely focus on anything else.
You sit down at the computer, a fresh Word document ready to go, a cup of coffee sitting on the desk.
It’s enough to make a writer go crazy. I admit that I have had full-on hissy fits over essays that failed to materialize right away. I curse myself, the computer, and the entire literary world for my shortcomings. Sometimes I wish I could just stick a USB cable into my brain and let its contents spill onto the screen. Then again, I’d also be terrified of what that would be.
The little voice in my head tells me that I’ll never make it as a writer, and I might as well go reapply for my old burger-flipping job. If I’m lucky, when 3 a.m. rolls around, I will have managed to scratch up something that I’m sure is pure crap just because I want to get it over with and go to bed.
Once it has been printed, read, and in some cases graded, I refuse to look at it ever again for fear that I will literally die of embarrassment for daring to allow this thing to see the light of day.
Heck, half the time a thing doesn’t get written because I fear that it is terrible.
Maybe it is self-destructive to think that way about my writing. It can’t be that bad, can it? There are probably a lot of folks out there who experience writer’s block and don’t feel the need to whine about it like I am. This being National Novel Writing Month, there’s probably quite a lot of people struggling to write 50,000 words in only 30 days, and turn off the inner editor.
I only have to write a measly page.
I could attribute this insecurity to what Sandra Gilbert and Sarah Gubar describe as “anxiety of authorship” in their chapter “Infection in the Sentence.” They describe the obstacles faced by women writers trying to make it in the male-dominated literary world a few centuries ago. The simple act of being female made it difficult to even get their work looked at, yet alone taken seriously.
The woman’s duty was to make babies and make dinner. How dare she over-exert her fragile female mind by trying to be a writer? Also, what could she possibly write about that’s worth reading about?
No wonder that writers like Jane Austen would often downplay their writing, telling others that it’s no big deal. It’s just some silly little thought, really.
Even today, I still feel like I’m wasting my time trying to be a writer, especially as a woman. It’s especially discouraging when I consider that one of most successful women writers at the moment has met success writing about her abusive boyfriend vampire . . . who sparkles.
Maybe I shouldn’t let it get to me. Maybe I ought to just write, no matter what. I should ignore my inner critic. I should accept the good grades and the praise I get from strangers.
Instead of letting writer’s block drive me mad, I should let writing be my salvation.
Filed under: That Chick is Crazy: Women and Madness, women writers, Women's Studies student posts | Tagged: anxiety of authorship, infection in the sentence, National Novel Writing Month, women and madness |