Bidding good riddance to the Packet From Hell.

It’s shorter than I wanted (by 3 pages), but it’s done. DONE.

Now that it’s signed, sealed, and on its way, I can reflect on the paralyizing fear I’ve experienced since April while trying to write this damn thing. After a glowing review of my second packet, I was stopped in my tracks. Looking back, I realize I was scared to let my mentor down, scared that the third packet wouldn’t live up to the second. It became so late that I had to eventually sit down and push through this irrational paralysis and just…write. Write whatever came out of me, whatever part of the story that happened to be hanging around inside my head. In the process, I discovered that a) I’m not out of ideas and b) I can do this, and it doesn’t have to be perfect or even better. After all, I can’t learn if I don’t try and make mistakes: a sentiment that sounds great on paper but is terrifying if you’re a perfectionist.

I still have one more packet, but it’s going to be a revision of my first one, which seems pretty crap at the moment. I was hoping to have written 100 pages by now, but I’ll take 71. Especially since I’ve never written anything longer than a 10-page short story in my entire life. For now, though, I’m going to bask in the temporary relief that comes before actually sticking the packet in the mail and fearing the return.

A cool passage from The Packet From Hell.

“Sylvia Plath had become her favorite poet during her angsty, high school years. After that, much like a drug dealer, Sylvia always seemed to know when she was feeling particularly low and would start hanging around. Recently, Ellen had started The Bell Jar alongside Sylvia’s personal diary entries. If it was physically possible to OD on a dead poet, she was going to find out.” ~ me.

…is it douchey to quote yourself? 

Struggle Muscles.

I have barely been able to put pen to paper this month. Luckily, my advisor is totally rad and realizes that this sort of thing happens. I have an extension for my third packet, and my fourth will be a re-working of my first. So that’s a relief.

But the thing that’s been bugging me the most is why? Why did I churn out the first two packets with no problem only to hit the wall at number three? I brought this up in therapy yesterday. Apparently, I have very underdeveloped “struggle muscles.”

I’ll explain.

As a student, from kindergarten through college, I always did really well without really trying. I would get the concept, commit it to memory, move on, and ace the test. I never needed the extra practice or extra help. Meanwhile, other kids had to work for every A, stay after, practice on their own time. While I had it easy then, those kids were practicing skills I never needed. They were strengthening their struggle muscles.

It makes total sense. This is why I usually only do things until they are no longer easy and quit. I don’t have practice in “pushing through even when it’s hard.” I quit the clarinet when sight-reading was no longer easy. I stayed away from sports and activities in which I wasn’t naturally skilled. If it wasn’t easy, and if I wasn’t great at it, I didn’t want anything to do with it.

Now, something that was so easy for so long–writing–is painfully stretching my struggle muscles into shape. This process is bringing out a lot of fear and insecurity: What if the words just stop? What if no one cares? I’ve never taken my writing this far, and the possibility of failure as I have never known it is stopping me in my tracks. But I have to press on, and see it all as simply practice for the next packet. This is not something I can just quit without consequence, and I’m tired of giving up when it’s not easy anymore.