“Now he would never write the things that he had saved to write until he knew enough to write them well. Well, he would not have to fail at trying to write them either. Maybe you could never write them and that was why you put them off and delayed the starting. Well, he would never know, now.”
–Ernest Hemingway, The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1936)
Afraid to try; not good enough. There’s that fear of digging in deep, opening old wounds, leery of discovering what’s I’ve buried deep. It is my lifetime work of denial, in all its many facets.
What if there were really monsters under my bed as a kid, and I put them away, trying to ignore them, or burying them deep in my soul, so I wouldn’t have to confront them? I’m good at denying the existence of that question.
“Go away and leave me alone,” I say to myself.
In my writing work, there are topics and germs of ideas “out there” that should be explored, that remain on the “idea list”. They are controversial, provocative, and daunting. Some are political, most are sociological hot potatoes. Some of those are today’s monsters under the bed, the thoughts and fears I am now denying, at least not confronting.
I’m good at running away from confrontation, from the difficult stuff of life, the emotional chaos that literally begs for self-examination, self-reflection. It’s flight or fight, and denial. Yet, when I dig into the tough stuff, scraping off the scabby outer coverings, and allowing the pus to seep out, so I can cleanse the psychological infections, a newly revealed truth emerges. I begin to heal, and, more importantly, to understand.
All writing is a form of self-exploration, a teaching moment for the soul. I work at trying not to realize that, which is part of my denial and my lifetime of procrastination in dealing with the tough subjects.
Hemingway’s character wasn’t ready to face his monsters and put pencil to paper to dig into those personal challenges. He knew that, and knew he wasn’t ready to take it on, yet also knowing that he should take it on, because that is where the challenges are, and, ultimately, the reward of going deep and wrestling with the really tough stuff in life.
Writing challenges me, pushes me to go deeper inside of myself, to confront my night monsters, my fears, my doubts, and my unfinished thoughts. There is work to be done when I write, so much more than moving the pencil across the paper, an act of growing myself, of discovery.
4/16/2021 Neal Lemery
Wow, it’s so cool to see how writing affects you. I myself don’t have such a deep connection with it, even though I do have this weird compulsion to keep writing. Thanks for sharing!