Have you ever had that stomach-sinking feeling and you think “oh shit”? I had it the other night when I realise Spike had found one of David’s slippers, and I failed utterly to convince David that sling-backs might be quite the thing for summer.
Well here is the feeling again; I have a paper accepted by a journal and read the first few sentences so horrified I can’t even reach the end of the abstract. A very familiar conversation with self starts all over. “Here we go again! Why did I end up being an academic. Why did my parents encourage me into science where I have to write things, and not music which I’m far better at and can just create things? There aren’t enough spoon impresarios in the world”.
Of course I was straight onto Google and found this super article “10 famous writers who hated writing” and hallelujah James Joyce:
“Writing in English is the most ingenious torture ever devised for sins committed in previous lives.” James Joyce (quoted in a letter to Fanny Guillermet, 5 September 1918)
Of course the difference with all the people in this article is that they were rather spectacular at writing, despite how they felt. They probably hated the concept of the process of writing on a large scale and then having their work under the public gaze, whereas I think I’m just really crap at it. No, I don’t think, I know it.
The point of putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, just fills me with pain. Words swim around on the page and I resort to reading things aloud, which given my estuarine-Essex-English is not a great solution. I went through schooling struggling with Latin, French and German grammar, and was never taught English which I always think quite staggering. The two people I admire (and envy) most in my life, one is a friend from Germany, and the other my sister-in-law who is Goan and educated in Kenya. They have the most perfect and beautiful spoken English. So perhaps our British schooling has failed more of us than I realise, apart from the notable exceptions I hang out with every day on Twitter who seem to reel off Booker Prize-quality articles in the time it takes to hide the remnants of a savaged slipper. (You all know all you hare and you are totally amazing).
BUT WE ALL HATE OUR OWN ART RIGHT?
Mariana and some of the DS106 people were having the conversation on Twitter last year about us sometimes hating our own work, and I think agreed that was a natural part of the artistic process that we challenge and critique ourselves to become better. I think for some this can be combined with some human emotions of insecurity and low confidence I would assume?
I’m not sure really. I’m facing a day of work writing audit documents for professional bodies. It is a Saturday and I already want to cry, and the thought of completing 12 of these hilariously named “light touch” forms, I know will end badly, although by the end will have cleaned the house, done the washing and walked the dog. Twice.
How on earth did I end up in a job were papers are the currency for success. “Are you REFable”? “What high impact journals have you published in”? CVs. Fellowships. Professional Accreditations. PUBLICATIONS. AAAARRRGGGGHHHH. I just feel so thick.