Monday, November 09, 2009

Desire and Anxiety

Anxiety filled every crevice. Every corner. It pushed on his chest from the inside making it hard to breathe. He could feel it foaming up from deep inside the center of his chest, expanding, making his arms and legs physically ache from the pressure. It made him want to cry, to let the tears spurt out as if from a fire hose.
He didn’t understand where it came from. It must be fear but of what? It happened every time he sat down to a project—writing a paper, drawing a commissioned portrait, editing a commercial. It was fear. Fear of not getting it perfect the first time.
It didn’t bother him quite as much when he was editing a commercial. The clients the TV station took on were so cheap that he didn’t care what he turned out. His buddies called him the turd polisher. That’s probably why he’d stayed at his job for so long—15 years now—because it was safe. He could polish turds with the best, and since no one paid any attention to turds, unless the stink was particularly bad, there was no real accountability. The clients who’d never done a commercial before thought he was amazing because they didn’t know what a better editor might be capable of given a greater budget and more time.
But when he sat down to write or to draw, he actually cared about what he was producing. He wanted it perfect. His life depended upon it, somehow. It was what he’d really wanted to with his life before he’d entered the advertising world as a lowest-tier tv editor. He’d wanted to be Ray Bradbury, then Tobias Wolf, then Richard Adams or a male Margaret Atwood. He’d also wanted to be Monet, Matisse, Degas, and even Warhol.
The force of his desire to create something that, at the very least, didn’t stink at all, and at the most, people would clamber to see or read or watch had always violently collided against this seemingly immovable wall of fear with him caught in the middle. He’d tried to reconcile the two, or to conquer the one and nurture the other (many times he wasn’t sure which he was doing to which). But he’d inevitably feel like he’d have to escape or be crushed.
He gave up the crazy idea of becoming a writer or artist for a time, feeling as if he were drowning in a sea of artists and writers who’d already expressed every idea humanity was capable of. But the idea kept pursuing him. Especially the writing idea. He went long, long stretches of not writing but it kept nagging at him, pulling at the hem of his shirt, needling him in the back of the neck. People had no idea he was a writer, or wanted to become one. Most knew he was an artist because he was always drawing. Drawing came easy and there was no pressure because he had no intention of trying to sell it or push it on others. No one saw his blog, though. No one he knew, anyway. He didn’t want them to. He only wrote because if he didn’t appease the nagging little pest every once in a while, it might irritate him to death.
He knew he’d have to write something substantial sooner or later, though. He’d have to brave the violent clash of anxiety and desire and either perish under the onslaught or come through it somehow a changed man.

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