Sunday, October 06, 2002

anxiety of influence

I was just about to begin writing a new story (the idea came to me at the precise cusp between sleep and wakefulness) when I found myself thinking too hard on HOW I was going to write it. Even before I had committed a single word to screen, I was already considering the very methods I’d employ to get it right. Normally, this is fine, because I do need a certain level of structure and planning at the start – I’d envision the shape of the whole and have a basic understanding of its general contours. This portion of the creative process occurs swiftly, and to be perfectly candid, much of it is unconscious.

So what happened this time? Usually, after these little preparations I just pour myself into writing, sticking to the invisible form of the story, and writing in my “voice” – which is my default narrative style. This time, I felt suddenly overwhelmed by the very act of writing a story and felt for a moment how absurd it was for me to even try, given the fact that innumerable writers, all greater than myself, have put to paper stories of immeasurable worth.

I felt so small.

Oddly enough, I recognized this “malady” for what it was, from my college days of criticism – anxiety of influence. I suppose every writer goes through it once in a while (although strangely, I’ve never experienced this when I am in dramaturge mode), but being swept by it almost full force – why, it’s enough to make you want to cry.

However, what I did was accept the fact that it happens. Besides, I’ve no aspirations to write a masterpiece, just a small story about a girl who refuses to talk after her mother’s death.

And my voice is my voice, after all. I may never be able to step away completely from the shadows cast by those greater than myself, but I think that only matters if your goal, as a writer, is to be great.

I want to tell stories.

So I will.


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