writing is hard (day 8 of 100)

I think my procrastination problem may be my way of manufacturing crises for myself. I grew up in an alcoholic/dysfunctional family, and I've been coming to terms with that in a deeper way in recent weeks.

Important note: I feel it necessary to add the caveat here that alcoholic/dysfunctional families come in many shapes, sizes, and flavors, and that calling a family alcoholic/dysfunctional does not mean that the people in it are necessarily bad, or that the dynamic itself is bad. Rather, it's just a fact, and a name that's useful to group together a set of similar types of experiences so that people can find resources that may help them live happier, more fulfilled lives. Alcoholic/dysfunctional families may still be full of good people, and they still may be full of love. My family certainly is both.

At any rate, I think it's worth thinking about how I feel about myself as a result of my upbringing, and how that affects the way I write now. For a long time, the very act of making a statement for myself has felt scary to me. It creates an actual fear, as in my throat closes up, I feel my shoulders round downward and my body shrink, as if to take up as little space as possible, as if to disappear. Then afterwards, if I do manage to ever eke out some opinion, I become wracked with guilt and self-recrimination over the possibility that I've said something that would make someone dislike me.

I just desperately need to be approved of. I was the oldest child, with heaps of expectations piled on me. The conventional story goes, with dysfunctional family roles, that the oldest child becomes seen as the savior of the family, the golden child that everyone in the family can point to and say, "Look! If we produced a person like this, who effortlessly gets good grades and follows all the rules and validates our way of being in the world and never makes a fuss... if we can make that person, then we must be okay!"

The thing with writing is that it's such a minefield for the kinds of things that strike fear into the heart of my inner child: the possibility of being critiqued by a real or imagined audience, confronting the fact that I don't know everything (obviously), being wrong over and over again. Writing requires all of these things, and at bottom it demands a comfort with my own imperfection. I never did develop much of a growth mindset (see the research of Carol Dweck, it's great), but I'm doing my damndest to re-parent myself into having one.


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