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The Silent Years

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I read a fantastic post from James Clear a few weeks ago. He quoted Ira Glass (see picture), who said that there's a phase in the artistic process. During this phase, you notice all the ways in which your creations are not as good as others. This quote made me feel both hopeful and despondent at the same time, which is a paradox. But if anyone can create paradoxes, it's Ira Glass, right?

I feel hopeful because it's just a phase. And also, it's not just me. I've started this phase recently. I read stuff I write, and I know it's not good enough. It isn't. It's ok, maybe, but it's not as good as I'd like it to be. Which is a sucky place to be in. It kills the motivation to go on creating. Or at least, it wounds it gravely. I think that is why my motivation has been flagging lately. That, and the summer holidays. But summer holidays are over, and I'm still struggling to find the motivation to write. And I'm unhappy with my writing. But, at least now I know that it's part of the process and that it's ok.

But. The other thing Ira says is, it would take years and a high volume of not-so-good work to close the gap between what I write and what I enjoy reading. So this sucky place I'm in? It's going to take years of public failure to dig my way out of it. Why years? Because Ira says so. And I can see that I've got an awfully long way to go, so I believe him. Why public? Because if I don't show it to anyone, if I don't get feedback on my writing, it's not going to get better. I know this from years of writing academic papers. You think you have this amazing idea until someone pokes holes at it. Sure, better your supervisor than a room full of old white men in a science conference, but it's still a public failure. And it's only the process of other people poking holes at your ideas that makes them into actually good ideas. And only by going through that process you are stretched into someone who can poke holes at your own ideas so that the ones you bring to other people are better and stronger.

So, I'm not exactly looking forward to the next few years. They will be gruelling years, apparently. But I did decide to cut myself some slack. I have no deadline, and no need for income, so I can take as long as I need to figure this out. But I also don't have to work full time at this. I can take the time to read and exercise and do other things I like doing. So I've built myself a new system. I'm still working out the kinks (it's only the first week back to school, and we're still figuring out the schedule). But hopefully, this system would allow me to write even when I don't feel like it and keep progressing with my edits so that eventually I will have something I will be happy enough with to share with a wide audience. I will, of course, keep you updated on how it goes.


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