Mr. Black and Me
by Jens Hughes
No outside influence or unforeseen deterrence has been a more destructive force in my life than I have. Most of my life’s letdowns originate not from bad luck or lack of skill. No, most of my letdowns can be traced back to a common, disheartening character trait: lack of confidence. I could bring everybody through my “woe is me” sob-stories about insignificant missed opportunities, but honestly, who cares? My next blog will detail those, because I need to know that my dancefloor missteps are not the worst in history. But those are grievances for another time. This time is about a resounding defeat over that trait. I have fought and been beat-down as many times as I have won when I have pitted myself against my confidence issue.
Even in my writing, my old nemesis would show up and chirp in my ear, “Are you sure that’s the right word?” or “This is ridiculous. Why are you writing this?” I envision that a slow, evil smirk would work its way across his face (let’s call him Mr. Black) as he forced his way into my mind. After each paragraph, I would backtrack to painstakingly comb over each word and each syllable until I had written a paper or story that had no semblance of my humor or voice in it. The message of my writing would not speak to any message I would actually want to say. It was only the inhibited voice of Mr. Black.
I hated writing, even though I had mostly aced any English paper I had turned in. I was plagiarizing Mr. Black’s work with every keystroke, and I would cringe if I ever read over it again. I was fearful of what people would think of my writing. As it turns out, this led me to procrastinate an English paper. We were to write an action-orientated paper on something that had occurred in our life, and it was due in two hours. I busted out my computer and began to churn out words in a way that was unfamiliar to me at that time in my life. Mr. Black was nowhere to be found and neither was the backspace key. I ripped out five pages with time to spare. Mr. Black came out of hibernation moments after I turned in the paper. He was sure I was going to look like a crazy person with the jumbled nonsense I had just tried pawn off as a college-level paper. I started to think that I should have skipped the class and taken reduced credit for turning in a late paper.
The next time I was in the class, the instructor handed me my paper, littered with red ink. I thumbed through the pages to see that the first page wasn’t her only target. She even took the time to write complete sentences to criticize my work. But then I read what she had written. She had taken the time to mark each individual emotion she felt during a portion of my work, and praising it as one of the most entertaining paper she had read. I received a 98% (punctuation and whatnot…) on the paper on which I had spent the least amount of time for the entire semester. That was when I realized that, in the real world, I will win and lose battles with Mr. Black, but when I am writing, he doesn’t stand a chance. I was like the teenagers in the Freddy Krueger movies who had just figured out how to beat their monster. Writing was my arena, and Mr. Black was ill-equipped.
Since then, I have written mostly uninhibited. I let the words flow with no thought to what people will think. Writing became soothing to me. Whether I have created stories or just vomited my thoughts onto a Word document, I have discovered things about myself that I never would have otherwise. Mr. Black jumps in and out of other areas of my life, including book promotion and general self-promotion. But through writing, I have finally found a good use for him: revision.
Jens Hughes is a former soldier and current multidiscipline nerd. His first novel is Beyond Technologies, because you shouldn’t have to speculate about your eternity. Visit his website, BeyondTechnologies.co; like him on Facebook; follow him on Twitter; or contact him via email.