Not to sound self-important, but I've discovered one of the most important components of the human psyche.
It's an element that is responsible for 90% of unrealized ambitions, 95% of unfinished novels, 82.3% of abandoned dreams, and 100% of people continuing to live in crappy apartments when they could find something better at a lower or equal price.
It's called the Nozer. The Nozer is the internal neocon that rejects all change. It has one and only one function, and that's to say NO to anything that might change (read: improve) our lives.
It's the Nozer that tells you that you can't write that book, finish that chapter, paint that picture, stay on that diet, leave that wretched job, break out of that pitiful relationship, move to some place where the sun shines once in a while. I realized this morning that if I were tied to a stake and the wood was catching fire beneath me and someone came along with a knife to cut the ropes and said, "Let's get you out of here," the reaction of my Nozer would be, "Wait, wait, you know what it's like here. Who knows what it'll be like wherever he's taking you?"
The Nozer is based entirely in fear. He or she (depending, obviously) clings to the status quo with tiny claws, screaming whenever the possibility of change looms. In some ways, the Nozer is more threatened when the change might be for the better, because it's easier to imagine worse. We can all imagine worse: it's just like now, but less so. Better, on the other hand, is truly alien territory. Who knows what it might be like if things got better? Maybe the whole concept of better is an elaborate cosmic trap to take us to a much worse version of worse.
It's painful for me to realize that I harbor a mechanism that would be more comfortable with a bad chest x-ray than a three-book deal, but I do. And (here's the intuitive leap) so do you. And I contend that learning how to deal with the Nozer is one of the most important things we can do in life, and that the process begins with realizing that it's there.
Of course, for a Nozer, getting assigned to a creative person is like a life sentence in Disney World. Creative people take their lives, or at least their self-esteem, in their hands a hundred times a day. I spent most of today (Saturday) writing a short story about a man in his late seventies, someone who moved to Thailand during the Vietnam war and now has early-onset Alzheimer's, wandering alone through dark streets in search of a Bangkok that hasn't existed in decades. And finding something very bad indeed. I did about 1600 words, and every one of them had to be pushed through an offensive scrimmage of Nozers reminding me, "You haven't written a short story since eighth grade." "You've never had Alzheimer's." "Who wants to read this?" "Where's the punch line?" "At 4,000 words, this is 3,000 words too long."
So I'm embarking on a Nozer Management Program, and I'll send you bulletins from time to time. Anyone who has a good idea about how to build a little cage around the Nozer and/or hold its tiny head under water whenever necessary is invited to send their me their thoughts, and I'll recipocate with mine.
I'll think of a campaign slogan later, but for the moment I'm imagining that I'm wearing a bright yellow button that says BULLDOZER THE NOZER.
Tim - Sundays