Is Lying to Ourselves Even Crueler Than Lying to Others?
Last year, I lost interest in writing.
That was a problem, because writing's my career. It also, for better or worse—I suspect worse—largely comprises my sense of identity.
My latest book was published last spring. Publicizing it took time away from writing. But that wasn't what soured it.
Granted, a bout with depression drained, as it usually does, all color from every activity that ever thrilled me.
But even post-depression, when the color returned to other things, writing stayed gray.
I didn't realize why at first, but now I know. Something had happened to me that often happens to those who struggle with self-loathing: I'd lived lies. Little lies, but these can wield a cumulative, corrosive effect.
We with low self-esteem tend to reflexively obey. Eager to please, desperate to dodge punishments we assume that we patently deserve, we often follow orders unquestioningly. Fuzzy-boundaried, largely incapable of saying no, we leap to do whatever others—wickedly or well-meaningly—recommend.
So I, eager to please and to make a living, wrote whatever I was asked to write.
That hardly sounds tragic. But.
Several years ago, I was offered steady gigs (dreams-come-true, for writers) covering topics that meant nothing to me. These topics aren't evil, complex or even controversial. Millions worldwide adore them, which is why I—as an experienced, prize-winning writer—was offered these enviable gigs.
At first, I felt honored. Flattered. Countless bloggers cover these topics eagerly for free. But you'll pay ME?!
So it began. I was a specialist, a raconteuse. Day by day, my writing became worse.
The trouble was, I never registered how much these topics bored me. I just kept writing. For nanoseconds, I would wonder How can anyone find this stuff even faintly interesting? then spend the next week forcibly portraying someone who did.
I never registered my boredom, which turned to dislike, which turned to hogtied rage, because I find my own opinions hazy, untrustworthy and, when they assert themselves, subject to ridicule. At the first twinge of certainty, I go blank. Hey! Look over there!
Researching stories on these topics—often under rather gala circumstances, surrounded by other writers: we, the lucky few—I always told myself: See? This is fun! while feeling panicky and sick.
Then, while writing, I couldn't focus—and scolded myself: Spoiled brat. Be grateful!
Which I was. Am. But. Writing is art. And art, whatever shape it takes, springs from the soul. Which makes me a soul-criminal, one who quietly bleached and ravaged hers.
My soul-crime wasn't writing about topics I disliked. That's part of being a professional. My soul-crime was pretending to others and to myself that I liked those topics a lot.
My soul-crime was producing art, which means everything to me, about topics that mean nothing to me. Others love those topics. Yay for them! But those topics are meaningless to me, and now I know that meaninglessness has a price.
My soul-crime wasn't accepting those gigs, writing or being paid. Hooray for self-sufficiency. My soul-crime was telling myself, like a creepy hypnotist: You don't dislike these topics! Only an ignorant rube would find them boring! You love these topics! Love them!
What lies, big or little, do you tell yourself, and why? What are they costing you? What do you tell yourself about yourself that isn't true, and you don't even want it to be true, but others do because it suits their purposes, or because they think they know what is best for you?