In browsing the Internet for websites about writing, I came across Kristi Holl’s wonderful blog. This post in particular, in which she outlines ‘The Four Dreadful Ds’, has reminded me of my own follies. Specifically, my major ‘D’ is Denial. It is long and sometimes blue and watery just like the river, my Denial.
(Will the ‘de Nile’ joke ever fall into extinction? It probably should. I’m sorry for perpetuating it.)
My Denial is long because I’ve been at this not all that long, I understand, compared to others, but it has been ages relative to the span of my lifetime. Because it feels like it’s been an age to me, Denial forges itself into belief that, after working on my writing for years, my stories are good enough now to start being accepted by literary reviews, or what-have-you, regardless of my age.
There are superb talents who find themselves published young, but almost never are they as young as I am. I know this logically. So what am I really expecting? See, for a long time, I’ve had this niggling expectation undermining my great fort of Logic which says I won’t be published for years yet. It’s akin to the pea under all my many mattresses of Logic and Productive Thoughts. I can feel it there when I sleep, that one angling pea of Denial which would have me believe that right now I could accomplish it ALL (as in everything I want), if only people got with the programme already, and ‘got me.’
My Denial is blue because denial is a very sad modus operandi to indulge in. It’s sad to onlookers and even sadder for the self. Blue is an amazing, versatile colour with plenty of meaning. My de Nile becomes indelibly blue in some patches, for the depressing quality of its flow; though sometimes sparkling prettily with hope, other times it’s just dull, an unremarkable surface only there to stare back at the sky. But blue doesn’t cover the whole spectrum, true. It’s murky in some parts, making it difficult to gauge its depths. Elsewhere, it runs shallow and transparent. You can see dirt and scum and a mucky floor. Some parts it billows across my terrain so broadly that I can actually use the de Nile to my advantage: to fertilise ideas, certain fallow inspirations, working under an illusion that the plentiful results are usable, that somehow I might keep up such productivity into the season where most of what is harvested turns out overly ripened, close to rot. Some parts it slows to a trickle, de Nile, but this is where its tinkling rush laughs louder than previous roaring waves, because the latter can blend into the background, be mistaken for wind; the light, tinkling trickle, that is what tickles into everything you’re doing and becomes much harder to ignore.
Naturally, Denial is watery. When it comes a-blasting, what do you do but let it drench you in your silliness? I’m so connected to my art; I’m not ashamed to admit how often I’ve cried over it. I’ve cried because a painting or story wasn’t coming out the way I meant it to. Which typically means I wasn’t being true to how I wanted it to come out. I’m so susceptible to people’s idea of ‘good’ changing what I like to create. Why create something I don’t like? Spending so much time conforming, placing such importance on what everybody else will see while forgetting the true message you wanted to communicate, renders the piece empty of message, empty of soul. It’s all about visual, what can be seen. But not what can be seen then absorbed, chewed on, swallowed, digested. Thought about. It’s a painting of a pretty flower, the kind of thing anyone could produce, something common that will never compare to Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. Why wouldn’t you cry if you found out you’d been compromising your potential for the sake of pretty flowers that anybody could produce?
How to sum up? I guess I’m a watery person. I’m pretty sure mental illness runs strongly through the branches of both sides of my family tree, and I’m not a light-hearted spirit in the slightest, so ‘the blues’ apply easily enough here. I’m long-winded, which covers the long bit. See, I’m Denial itself.
Admitting it is the first step to good riddance, though. The trick is to keep aware. What other commonplace phrases about Denial could I expound? At this point I really do have to keep in mind that the only thing that matters is denying negative thoughts I feed myself, like all the above; continuing to deny them as Denial itself denies my person of much good sense and sanity when I’m lost in the labour of my craft.
And each new day I slog at this, the easier it is to trust my instincts and keep going. ‘Just keep swimming’ is the way to go with denial. Jumping into Denial is daunting but I’ve found it’s the only way to keep your motion flowing forward, so you won’t stay fighting some persuasive current, or even one that’s stagnated and left your brainwaves cold. Swimming through it, swallowing some accidentally, but never minding, and aiming for the other side – getting to the other side – is the best way to overcome that undermining body …
So I keep telling myself.