Today’s guest post comes to us from Anna Quon, author of Migration Songs (2009). Anna and I have recently become Internet pals, and she writes for us today about the process of writing and the ego; writing, after all, can be unglamorous and all-too “real”.
It’s about to get real up in here, is what I’m saying.
Leggo My Ego!
I wrote something yesterday. Not very much, and not very good, but something. It is a little bit heartening because I was beginning to think I was a big zero, and now I realize I just have to do what so many writers say they have to do, and what I myself have often said: sit down and write every day. How did I forget that so soon? Was it the month I spent leading kids at Townshend International School in writing workshops, during which I didn’t myself write anything? Was it the month in between where I hovered at the zero-degree Celcius mark, with nothing solidifying except a skim on top… of the page, that is?
Now I am here at Cesky Krumlov, a fairytale town in Southern Bohemia, feeling slightly under the weather and spending a lot of hours napping to ease the back pain, the gut pain and the foggy head. I bought some coffee today for the French press and had my first cup of homemade coffee in months; it’s awful stuff but palatable with milk and sugar, and it might save me some korun. After all, even if I want to go to a café to write, tea is generally much cheaper than coffee. And I won’t have the excuse of caffeine deprivation to keep me from the keyboard.
Why is it so easy not to write? Some people say they MUST write or they don’t feel well. I envy those who have a burning need to put beautiful words on paper. It makes me wonder whether I am doing something wrong. Why do I find it so hard to take pleasure in my writing? I suspect that the fact that writing is a source of anxiety and insecurity for me says something about me, and not about writing.
Maybe it’s because I care about it too much? But many people care that their writing is good, and don’t have to drag themselves kicking and screaming to the computer. Is it my general dissatisfaction with myself? That seems closer to the truth.
Here’s what I really think. It’s because I am too focused on myself, too wrapped up in my own ego to really experience the joy of writing. An inflated ego can easily deflate, and then every word is a source of anxiety and insecurity—and a deflated ego puffs up to over-sized at the least provocation. An ego that has learned to maintain a modest size and to let go, on the other hand, is more likely to enjoy the free flow of words that sitting in front of a computer can provoke.
Revising my first novel was terrible. I had such a deficit of hope and a such a sense of doom that it took constant pep talks from my editor to get through it. I realize now that my insecurities as a writer are connected to my egotism, which will not be cured in a day but which, at least, does not have to be lethal. There are plenty of roads to healing a misshapen ego, as the religions of the world attest. It might even be that developing a more human-sized approach to the practice of writing (or any other practice) is good medicine for the egomaniac within!
I wrote something again today. It’s not great but at least I sat down and did it. And now I’m going to have a well-deserved nap. I’m finished for a time with the quality control and the ego pressure gauge, the gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair. As my friend Greg would say,
‘riting’s done, now it’s time for the other two of the three r’s: rest and relaxation!
Anna Quon’s first novel, Migration Songs, was published in 2009 by Invisible Publishing (here is Quill & Quire’s review of it). She currently lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia but is traveling and teaching in the Czech Republic at the moment. Check out her website or her ongoing guest blog.
Good luck with your second novel, Anna, and thanks for your contribution to this little blog!