The Shame Project


You Know All Those Things You've Always Wanted To Do? You should go do them.

I hate writing.

I think the reason I hate it, is because of a rather huge fear of failure complex. Also, fear of judgement. Fear of judgement has been a large spectre in my life since a young age, for all the reasons you’d expect. If bullying = true (and it always is) then for all functions that follow, add “paralysing, in-my-DNA fear”. When I was 11, in particular, a peer turned to me, on the bus home, as I scribbled away at a story about a squirrel who lived with his friends in a wood, and poured derision on me and the act of writing. I don’t actually remember what they said, but I didn’t enjoy writing again for many years, and did very little of it.

But I’m really tired of being scared. I’ve done various things, with my life, with my personality, with my methodology, and the end result is still, that I don’t write much. Which is the opposite of what I want. I *hate* writing, but I really want to do it. I hate it because I hate everything I write. Everything. It’s torture. It doesn’t stop being torture, at any point. There isn’t a secret goblin inside me thinking ‘Yeh, I know you hate it, but you’re privately enjoying that turn of phrase, aren’t you?’ – or if they ever do appear, they join in the general panic attack at the thought of anyone but my RAM reading said phrase. Last year, Chris Ware came to the Edinburgh Book Fest, and – along with Joe Sacco – was asked about his writing practice. “Oh god” he said “I despair at everything I write. Everything.” Everyone laughed, but he wasn’t being self-deprecating, or charming; he was barely comfortable being on the stage. I’ve kept on recalling that, ever since.

I thought the answer was to push harder. You just do it. Stop thinking about it, and talking about it, and just do it. I firmly believed this. I knew it. I gave the same advice to other people. And I still didn’t do it. I even made it one of the things I worked on in counselling – if I could become more comfortable with failure, then the sky’s the limit – I could do all those things I’ve always really wanted to do, but never done, all those things that I’ve spent about 20 years skirting round the edge of, but never really actually *doing*. Because the thought of actually being ‘allowed’ (yes, I know, I see it) to do the things I want to do was so overwhelming that, a lot of the time, I would stop breathing, or burst into tears. Because what if I did them, and I loved them, and then someone took them away from me. And what if that someone was me, by being rubbish at them. Even typing that is making my heart beat faster, and want to run to Facebook/do some dishes/work really hard on anything other than what I actually really, desperately, want to work on.

So I tried that. I tried fixing myself first. And I still don’t write. Or make films. Or draw web comics. Or, pretty much, anything creative. And then Andrew Ducker (who, along with Julie, is a major reason that I’m actually writing this in New Zealand, as I would probably still be looking around going ‘This sand is rather nice, down this hole’ if it wasn’t for them) tried, for the Nth time, to reach with me the core of this problem, and something clicked.

I don’t want to wait until this website looks good. I don’t want to wait until I’ve practised writing a whole lot more, and grown better at it. I don’t want to wait until I’m feeling better about myself, or about my creative endeavours – because I’m not convinced, tbh, I *ever* will. I bought the domain name for this almost two years ago. I think that speaks volumes.

So I’m embracing my shame. I don’t think it’s going anywhere, and I think it’s possibly, as I say, entwined like loving, evil adamantium, to my DNA. I’m going to write *anyway*. I’m going to post a link to this website *anyway*. And I’m going to keep on writing here, and I’m going to keep on working on the website, and it’ll probably be shit. I’ll certainly feel like shit about it. But, as Andy pointed out today, I feel like shit about everything I do at the moment; so may as well feel like shit whilst doing the stuff I actually think I want to do, than all the stuff around it. I’ll write, and it’ll be bad, and repetitive, and self-involved, and unoriginal and oh so *whiny*, and all the things that I’m scared of it being and I’ll hate it. I feel really miserable about it, tbh; upset, and panicked and scared already. But I want to do it.

If I can’t beat you or ignore you, shame, then I’ll sit in you. I’ll wallow in you. Because neither of us appear to be going anywhere. This is my Shame Project.


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