As it rampages through the operating system of my heart, it leaves chaos in its wake: Confidence is badly corrupted, self-esteem deleted completely. It ties up all my courage so my entire system freezes. This virus pops up threatening messages on the black screen of my ceiling at night, taunting me with my weaknesses. It drives me to act in panic; to act stupidly and recklessly.
But in my writing, I have finally found an antivirus: Passion.
When I’m turned down again and again, when I’m told that what I write is still not good enough, that should spread the infection even deeper. But passion identifies the bad code and contains it. The nagging doubts and negative convictions are partitioned to where the damage will be limited. Passion allows me to relish the challenge of considering serious critiques and taking on the task of restructuring an entire, laboriously planned novel, despite my fears. It fills me with excitement when I’m told that a piece of work I am proud of can still be drastically improved, despite my worries that I’ve reached my limit.
Passion is also the firewall that keeps other viruses from getting in. It is fuelled by my determination to continue writing so that I might one day be able to write like a Robin Hobb or a Ursula Le Guin. However, it also protects too well at times: I feel guilty when I play games, watch TV, or browse the web randomly. It means feeling just a bit grudging of my time spent with family or friends, and it means having no social life outside work.
Yet, like any other struggling pleb balancing crazy work hours with whatever they love, you do it because one day, perhaps you will be able to do justice to that incredible story or game or artwork or song that’s taken up residence in your head.
Although what’s left of your operating system may be mostly unintelligible, it’s still possible to recover your key files. As courage is freed up, confidence and self-esteem can be downloaded again, even if all the settings aren’t exactly the same. There is time to re-install programs and recreate documents as you keep working with what you have.
The virus will always be around, searching for a crack in my firewall and evading my antivirus. It will never disappear completely. But now I now have a weapon. I will run the antivirus again and again, to seek it out and delete it. It may be a struggle I will enact until the end of my days, but I will never stop fighting.
Leanne Yong is an aspiring author who is working on her second young adult novel. Check out her blog at Clouded Memories for more information and a journal chronicling her latest foray into novel writing.