Negative Space Can Be Positive

I sometimes tell the world I want to ignite my writing with napalm, nuke it from orbit, or otherwise never see a word of it again in my life. Those of a steadier nature often construe these declarations as weepy despair, attention-seeking melodrama, or raging rejection.  Wrong. These statements are none of those things.  Since it isn’t fair to define something by what it isn’t, I suppose I should tell you what they are.

They are factually-shaky truths that help me traverse a necessary emotional transition between disappointment and adaptation. There. I’ve now used all my big words for the week. Here’s the plain-spoken Stephen-King-approved version: I get the energy to do new things by admitting that I don’t like where I am. I say certain things out loud because the magic of voicing them makes them lies.

Frustration and discontent are normal, healthy outgrowths of failure, the seeds from which determination and inspiration grow. For some people, those seeds are as light as spores and scatter as fast. Other people can displace or crack through the hard emotional shell and tease out sprouts with the amazing speed of a macaw given a bowl of walnuts. Some of us, though–some of us need to soak the spiny shells,  file off the sharp points and give those seeds a lot of verbal polishing first.

Failure isn’t the only thing to trigger seeding behavior. It’s simply the biggest external one. Internal conflicts cause it too. So does insecurity. And self-doubt. (No, insecurity and self-doubt are not the same. They’re a bit like conjoined twins, but entirely distinct in their personalities and effects.)

Seed polishers welcome any help that gets the nasty little things buried faster. We can always use assistance spreading soft loam over them, adding a sprinkle of water, and giving them a little sunshine.  That’s all that’s necessary. Time takes care of the rest.

If you are brave enough to lend a hand to anyone dealing with the spiny sharp emotional seeds of creative failure and insecurity,  please remember that this is not the right time or place for offering practical advice. If you drown seeds in water and bury them in fertilizer, they do not survive. Yeah, I’m milking the analogy there. Milking it hard.

Emotional honesty is important to me. I’m not going to pretend my life is all highs. I will make valid statements of raw pain and pride in survival. (Look at my owie. It’s a doozie! Let’s amputate at the shoulder and cauterize the sucker!) I will make them a lot.

Warm fuzzies, kind praise, affirming anecdotes — all those help the transition go smoothly and with a minimum of anguish and upheaval.

Lists of practical coping strategies and encouragements that focus on not being a loser-quitter-whiner-negativity-thrower? Not so useful.

That’s all I have to say on the topic. I may revisit it later. For now, let’s wrap with a happy graphic and a happier thought: negative signs become positives when you cross them off.


2 responses to “Negative Space Can Be Positive”

  1. Dan Brown Avatar

    “It's a mother beautiful bridge, and it's gonna be there.” — Oddball

  2. John Gardner Avatar

    never give up never surrendergonna make a change in once in your life give them something to talk aboutyou are the world up yours your blog has been officially rick rolledps I have always wanted to write( or to own a restaurant or both). you have already achieved beyond my wildest dreams. and I brag constantly that I know you. i have met Frederick Pohl ate a snack at his coffee table i know earl sewell went to school with him i am friends The K.M. Herkes, like ride to the airport friend, like open the fridge without asking friend, like come by uninvited friend(which i will do soon), like wear my shoes in your nonshoe wearing house (cause i know my feet smell, knowing that you clean up after,cause you like clean floors, but never commenting, because i'm worth it?) friend, like eat the last slice of pizza with a feeling achivement friendyour continued success is my joy