On loving things too much

January 17, 2014

I have a flaw. I love things too much. And loving things too much is not always a good thing, because it can  inhibit you from creating your own things. Because when you love the words of others, your own words die silently in your throat. How can I write about love, for example, when Sophocles, to name one artist,  already did it in Antigone in such beauty, so eloquently, so perfectly centuries ago:

Love, all-conquering love, you fall on house,
and furrow innocence in girls asleep:
you ride the oceans to the meanest farm.
No god escapes you, no, not one, and man
succumbs to madness with his brief day spent.

What more can one say? That won’t feel superficial, inadequate and amateurish? What can be said that won’t be squashed under the burden of comparison with everything that has been written so far?

I did realise from an early age that I was not obsessing about movie stars or singers the way my peers did. I did not care about celebrities’ autographs and no such posters adorned my room. But I deeply admired writers and I took great pleasure in having my books signed by them. I was not fangirling over actors but I was, I am fangirling in a way about ideas, words, stories, books. And it so happens sometimes that the work of the people we admire paralyses our own creative endeavours. It often feels like everything has already been said in the most skillful and exquisite way, that it seems overwhelming and terrifying to share your own creations publicly.

Sure, there is an issue of fear of failure and resistance here I need to explore to surpass my creative barriers, and it may be advisable to kill my idols, humanize them and see myself as a person who can deservedly be considered one of them… The only problem is that I like my idols where I can see them. On their pedestal, thank you very much.

I have no interest in deconstructing them. On the contrary, I want to preserve the feeling you get when you love something so much, it overwhelms you. I  observe the way my pre-adolescent female pupils obsess over teen idols: the mere suspicion that I don’t who Harry Styles is, would  provoke such terror and puzzle that would break your heart. And that is priceless. Don’t we all look back nostalgically at a period when we unashamedly loved and had absolute and uncompromising faith in things and people? As we get older, we lose that ability, we grow out of a lot of things, we become disenchanted with everything and not a lot of things captivate us.

So I choose to embrace my excessive love about things, my fangirling, if you wish. Because it allows me to remain open and appreciative of other people’s art. And I think when you are open and honest about what you love and admire in an artistic level, you allow the creative energy to flow in. And as for my creative barriers, I am working on it. And books help. There is a lovely quote in Patti  Digh’s book Creative Is a Verb: If you are Alive, You Are Creative  which gives me perspective:

The only real way to be creative is to create. Without attachment to outcome. Without attachment to sales figures or blog hits. Without caring about the ways in which your work is dissected, criticized or loved. But with a keen, overwhelming, burning, passionate focus on what it is you long to say more than anything in the world. That’s the thing. That’s the only thing.

And another quote from Steven Pressfield’s Do the Work, which I just finished reading:

You are not allowed to judge yourself.
Suspending self-judgment doesn’t just mean blowing off the “You suck” voice in our heads. It also means liberating ourselves from conventional expectations—from what we think our work “ought” to be or “should” look like.
Stay stupid. Follow your unconventional, crazy heart.

How about you? Do you often feel overwhelmed in your own creative journey? Are you afraid that your work will fall short compared to your idols? How do you deal with it? Any inspiring quotes? Let me know in the comments!



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  • Shana Miller

    Yes Louisa I totally understand this feeling!! But I’ve come to realize that my work is not to be compared to the classics n the best sellers! It is mine to become great from its own uniqueness. It’s not to meant to mirror the work of the greats. I love reading the writing of those that LOVE words. So all writers…don’t stop writing n let the world see your work! There’s someone out there who will relate to what you had to say, and it’ll touch their soul!

  • Maria Petrides

    I have been in a similar space with you these days, Louiza. And it’s often one that surprises me with glimpses of pleasure and admiration. I had just finished reading the exquisitely imaginative ‘Middlesex’ and so i then went on to listen to Jeffrey Eugenides speak a little on the excitement of writing. One of the many impressive and inspiring things he had to say was that we (writers & novelists) live in social conditions remarkably different from those of ‘Madame Bovary’ and ‘Anna Karenina’. He says that in some ways we can say that “literature is over because it doesn’t direct any movement in culture any more. So we don’t have to worry about its demise.”
    I say consider what your readership might be when writing and just write. Leave the criticism, which should be welcomed, to reviewers and critics. We can’t be critics of our own writing.

    • Louiza

      Maria, thank you for sharing this valuable insight! I went on and listened on Jeffrey Eugenides myself, after your ideas here and the thought provoking quote you mention! Indeed we may have witnessed the demise of a certain concept of literature…How is literature going to transform/is transforming?! is an interesting puzzle!

  • Saba Idris

    Yes Louiza, I also feel that what i would write won’t ever be comparable to what has been written. its not only the published writers who scare me, but my peers and other people around me also make me feel that I still need to learn a lot before I can write a good piece. But I try anyway.
    You asked what is the thing that gives us hope? I had a teacher who was really simple and used to simplify everything we read. Her method of teaching wasn’t ‘grand’ or as impressive as those of the senior teachers. But she was, and still is, one of the favourite teachers of the department. That was precisely because of her simple nature and her easy guidelines of writing. In the past she had also been an editor in some company. and so i think that if she can write, then there is still hope for me. (I think being an editor is almost the same as being a writer as both require the same talent).
    Also, I heard in Batman that it is not the thoughts that define us but our actions. so it doesn’t matter that I like writing if I don’t write. I already have a hobby that i want to do but don’t; so I’m going to make sure that I write so I don’t end up with any more regrets.

    • Louiza

      Saba, what a beautiful comment! Love that you are putting the effort, that you ‘try anyway’ as you mention. That’s all that matters!

  • Motunrayo

    Actually Louiza, you just narrated what happened to me on 18th. I went for an Open Mic programme for Poetry and Stories in my country. Lots of famous and talented writers including upcoming writers were there to present their works. I had mine to present too but I was imtimated by their works which are good and perfect. I was marvelled by how they were able to use big English words to describe non-exsiting things. I was discouraged, cos mine, wasn’t as perfect as theirs and it’s filled with simplicity, simple English words but when a particular quote came to my mind from one of my favourite books: Harry Potter,that, ‘Its not our ability that shows us who we truly are, its our choices’-Albus Dumbledore, I knew I had to make that choice of not giving up and that if I don’t make that choice of trying against all odds, I will never forgive myself. I wrote down my name alongside those presenting Poems and was later called to present. At the end, I was surprised to see how many people liked my poems and gave me some of websites to post my works.

    Nice write-up, Louiza.

    • Louiza

      This anecdote is so great, Motunrayo, thank you for sharing! Must have felt so terrifying at the open mic stage, but then again so empowering when you won your audience! So happy for you! And would love to read your poetry! Feel free to provide us with links!

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