Imposter Typewriter

“When you wake, levitate

Ideas pouring out.

Then you set out to make 

something great,

But nothing comes out.

Are you quick on your feet?

It’s time to dig deep.”

This is it. The part I hate. The part where the words won’t come.

The part where the thoughts keep poking me, hot daggers of biting accusations.

You’re a fake. You don’t belong here.

Your words. Recycled regurgitated garbage. Repurposed and rearranged to fool everyone. To fool yourself.

I tilt my shoulders, arching away from their pointy barbs.

The words. They’re there. I can feel them twirling around in my mind, taunting me. Sing-songy tunes luring me to reach out for them. And when I do they dart away in cruel laughter. Imposter they squeal in sinister delight.

There is darkness inside of me. There is ugliness. It’s curled up right next to laughter and joy. Arms and legs wrapped around each other in a corrupt entanglement.

There is angst and fear and fire and passion and turmoil and sweat and blood. Coiled in an incestous tryst. There are screams of rage and tears that have plunged the depths.

And it all wants release.

But self doubt reaches out. It’s long, bony fingers crawl through my conscious. Slowly making it’s way, blithely flicking away any thoughts of creativity. Finding every seed of inspiration and pressing it’s dark fingertip down until there’s nothing left but pulp.

“Guardians at the gate let you in, 

into their mansion,

I’m the acidhead homeless man

Who demands 

an explanation.

Can you be wise if you never leave the room?”

The same question haunts me over and over.

Who the hell am I? To think my words matter? To think they are worth putting to paper?

This is not romanticization of the tortured artist.

This is not a decadent serving of indulgent wallowing.

This is not splashing around in artistic misery.

Self doubt is not unique to writers and artists.

We are not alone in this suffering.

We just talk and write about it more than others.

Soliloquies have been penned about the war of art. Hemingway and Anais Nin spoke of bleeding on the paper. We write about our limitations and doubts and fears. We all sing the slow-hand blues of writer’s block. We put our thoughts and words and vulnerabilities out there for the world to gawk at. It’s what we do.

It’s not just writers. Everyone suffers from the same thing. Everyone has moments of feeling like a fake. Of doubting their expertise or ability. Most just do it quietly. Alone in their bed at night. Or in the cozy confines of their therapist’s office. Or they whisper it to their lover when they need reassurance.

Does everyone feel it?

Do surgeons wrestle with self doubt over their craft? Do they spend sleepless nights worried that their skilled hands might falter?

Do lawyers question every word and twist themselves into knots? Do they worry that they could have argued more convincingly?

Do electricians walk away from wiring a house and question whether the house will go up in acrid flames?

Isn’t it just part of the human condition? To doubt ourselves and our talents or skills?

Could it be that self doubt serves a purpose? That it pushes us to try harder? That without that push, without the nagging questions, we may never hone our skills or get better at whatever it is that we do?

Maybe the whole point of the cruel exercise to fight the demons in your head.

Could it be that self doubt is the drill instructor screaming in our ear, trying to break us down. Waiting until that determined voice in our head responds: Fuck you. You say I can’t do this? Just watch me.

Could it be that the lack of self doubt is the thing we should be concerned with? The surgeon who thinks he’s god? The leader who never questions his decisions? The electrician who shrugs apathetically when the breaker trips? Wouldn’t we rather have more  introspection and thoughtfulness than ego and hubris?

The absence of doubt does not give birth to greatness. It creates dictators and megalomaniacs and careless, uncaring practitioners. It is not a sign of confidence or aptitude. Doubt is the thing that makes you better. The thing that makes you change, grow, evolve. There is an unseemly rigidness in those who don’t ever question themselves.

What if we embrace it? What if we give it a nod the next times it’s bony fingers curl up and beckon to us? We see you. Thanks for showing up.

What if we recognized that when those feelings creep in, that it’s not a bad thing. That it’s our minds way of giving us a little kick in the ass?

Maybe today’s the day we need a little push. The day we need to wake up from our reverie and pay a little more attention to what it is we do.

As long as we don’t give in to it.

As long as that doubt doesn’t cripple us. Stymie our forward motion. Let doubt serve a purpose. Let doubt be the catalyst for making us practice, toil and sweat more.

Let doubt make you better at whatever it is that you do. Welcome it and use it. If you harness it, the doubt will be fleeting. It will serve it’s purpose and then crawl back in it’s hole.

It won’t always be easy. It can be insidious. It can infect your progress and make you want to quit. It can break you down.

That’s when you remind yourself why you’re here, doing what it is you do.

Remind yourself that for every day of stymied creativity, there are days of ideas flowing and words tumbling out effortlessly.

That for each day that your curse your need and desire to do whatever it is you feel compelled to do, that there are days that you revel in it. That it brings you satisfaction or joy or gratification.

I know that I’ll still have moments, days, where I feel the building frustration. Where my words won’t come and I’ll question why I even try. I’ll feel like quitting and erasing every word I’ve ever written.

You’re a fake. You don’t belong here.

I’ll push through it. I’ll try to remember why I’m here. Not for any grandiose notions of greatness. I’m not here thinking that my words will set the world on fire. Those kinds of thoughts belong to the tyrants and the narcissists.

I just know that I love words. I just know that it’s something I feel compelled to do.

I just know I’m incomplete if I don’t write.

This is simply my thoughts, spilling out of my head. Maybe they don’t really matter.

Maybe that’s ok.

Maybe I’m not an imposter.

womaninrain-2

Have you ever been excited about something, only to be let down? You feel energy firing up your senses and you give yourself over to the moment. But then the moment feels… dull. Boring. Lackluster. You’re left wanting. It can be a detached lover or a singer on the stage just going through the motions. When complacency resides where passion should burn, the disappointment floods you.

But… when there’s passion? When a singer looses his mind on stage? When art is inspiring? When someone’s words touch your soul? Those are the things we live for. That is what drives us to do great things, to connect with others. Beyond merely surviving in this world, passion is what gives us life.

Today, I’m on Elephant Journal writing about Sex, Art and Rock and Roll. I would love it if you would join me there:

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/03/sex-art-rock-and-roll-how-passion-fuels-our-inner-fire/

 keith-richards-1969

“I can’t get no satisfaction

Cause I try, and I try, and I try…”

-The Rolling Stones, I Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Raise your hands if you’ve ever felt like quitting.

Ever felt like you were a fraud.

Like maybe you were good… once. But whatever it was is gone.

A fluke.

If you’ve ever felt like abandoning the need that burns within you to create…

I get it.

I think we all get it.

Anyone who sets out to make art, anyone who’s existence feeds on creativity and the need to put themselves “out there” in the form of pictures, words, music, gets it.

Because sometimes being an artist/musician/writer/creator just sucks. It is walking around naked, baring your soul and serving it up for public consumption. It is wanting to have people respond and connect to it, yet wanting to crawl under a blanket of anonymity when they do.

And sometimes it is nothing. A parched and desolate landscape of empty thoughts and hollow ideas.

This is when it hurts the most. You twist and turn in frustration. You snarl at those who have the misfortune of being in your presence. You question your worth or your talent. You feel the stinging burn of tears as you allow those bastards known as Fear and Doubt, creep in to your mind. You worry that it’s all dried up, the well of creativity is empty.

Yet we keep doing it. We keep trying to do the thing we love.

But maybe… maybe we don’t have to continue this torturous cycle of elation, doubt, fear, despair. Maybe…  maybe we can all be like Keith Richards.

Yes. Keith Richards. He is one of the hardest working musicians and songwriters in rock history. He was known to practice for hours upon hours each day. He poured himself into writing melodies when the record company was demanding new hit singles every 12 weeks. Hard work. Putting in the hours. We’ve all heard that the key to any creative endeavor is exercising the muscle, showing up, doing the unglamorous work.

But there’s more to it than that. You see, Keith knew that inspiration could come at any moment, so he never travelled without his guitar and he slept with a tape recorder next to his bed. Maybe you’ve heard the story of Keith getting up in the middle of the night, picking up his guitar and playing a riff and mumbling something about “satisfaction.” He had no recollection of doing this, but the next morning he listened to hours of static until he got to the part with the seed for what would become the Rolling Stone’s biggest hit.

He wrote one of the world’s most famous guitar riffs in his sleep.

Effortless. Guided by the guitar gods. The mark of a true musical genius.

But what if it wasn’t genius or divine intervention?

What if it was simply that his mind was at rest and it was that stillness that allowed the creativity within him to come to the surface?

What if we could all do that?

What if we could all be Keith Richards?

What if we could all have the thing within us flow effortlessly and without the tug and pull that we engage in every day? What if we could tap into the reservoir of ideas that’s hidden beneath all of the noise? Beneath the hustle and the chaos and the alerts and pings and beckonings of life.

Because it’s there. We all have something that’s lying in wait. Waiting for a moment of quiet to peek it’s shy tender head through and be recognized. While you’re pounding away in frustration it is sitting patiently, waiting for you to take a breath and listen.

And this is the hardest thing to do. The desire to create something takes over logic and we drown it with our relentlessness.

Eventually we’re caught up in this frustrating place of toiling and sweating and trying and what we’re trying to get is just out of reach. Eventually we burn out.

But we don’t have to. Art doesn’t have to be suffering. Not if we respect it. Not if we nurture ourselves and nurture our art. But this, too, takes effort. We have to take time. We have to give ourselves a chance to listen to what’s beneath. Pause. Breathe. Watch a sunset. Watch a sunrise. Sit in silence. Take a walk. Go for a run. Sleep. Dream. Do whatever allows your mind to roam.

It’s no coincidence that inspiration often comes during the quiet moments. That while you’re standing naked in the shower, while you’re driving in your car with the windows rolled down, while you’re sweating in the yard under a warm sun, that these are the moments when you feel the ideas coming forward.

Find whatever gives your mind space to breath, and do it more. Whatever task or activity brings forth ideas that send you scurrying for a pen and paper? Do more of that. And if that’s not practical or possible on a regular basis? Then meditate. Just breathe and sit in stillness. The bottom line is the things that you’re trying to do, that you do not do for fame or fortune but simply for the fact that they sustain you and make you feel whole, you need to give them the courtesy of time and you need to open the door to allow them to come out.

You need to nurture them.

Respect the creativity within you. Instead of battling and fighting and trying to summon by sheer force of will… Instead of battling for the thoughts to come, instead of trying to tease out the next sentence, breathe.

I want to sink into it and get lost in the flow. I’ve felt it. I’ve felt the elation as it happens effortlessly. That is what we keep chasing, isn’t it? The sweet spot of creativity and productivity.

Like being in a dream, yet awake. Like playing a song in your sleep. Magic.

It’s there. We can all tap into it if we pause. If we stop beating it up and treating it like an obedient dog that will come when beckoned.

If we take the time to take care of it. Take care of ourselves. We can see what is in there waiting to emerge.

So don’t give up. You’re not a fluke or a fraud. You have beauty and art within you. Kick fear and doubt’s ass to the curb.

Take care of yourself. Be gentle with your creative spirit. Allow it the oxygen it needs to grow and make itself known.

Let’s all be Keith Richards.

 

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