One of the things I have encountered while trying to write full time is how much it just looks to other people like you are screwing around.
Yes, there is some screwing around to be expected, but a lot of what you don’t see is mapping out your thoughts, drawing in information, and trying to get to a state of equilibrium where the outside distractions are at a minimum and your work can begin.
I was talking with a friend last night who was in the middle of helping out a friend with some divorce drama. She had work of her own to do, but being a good friend, she took the time to work things out with her friend who was struggling. After a few hours of this, the end of the evening was closing in and she still hadn’t written her paper. The friend was fine, she probably would have been fine, but for my friend, there was still a paper to be written, an impending deadline, and now a whole bucketload of frustration and exhaustion.
Yesterday was a lot like that for me too. I started off the day after a rough night with the dog wanting to go out at 7:30am. We headed out into the snow, where she took care of business, and then we ran into my dad, who always wants a conversation. I am not much of a morning person. Unlike a retired man who begins every day at 5am and always has some kind of project to fiddle with, my brain refuses to engage until around 10. The reason for this is I often work until 2am. That is when the house is quiet, no kids are throwing Star Wars trivia at me, and nobody has to use my computer for endless busywork projects their online school throws at them throughout the day. Even the dog chills out from her need to be petted, a toy thrown, or let out.
My dad likes to visit. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just I have a finite number of things I have to say in a day, and trying to fill out the early morning pre-coffee with conversation is really pulling the rope a long way in a dry well. So, my day started with guilt.
Are we going to fix the heater in your car today?
No. I hadn’t been planning on it.
Oh. Gonna write some blogs today then?
Fuck. I was. Now that I’ve been guilted about it, I think I’ll do a couple loads of laundry, and about a hundred thousand other things that aren’t writing. Maybe feel like I’m not doing enough to satisfy the production level which is expected of me by my family.
A buddy of mine once told me when I was struggling with some writer’s block and I couldn’t stay off social media, “Avoid garbage words in the morning.” he said.
The old legend of Samuel Taylor Coleridge who sat down to pen Kublai Khan and how he was interrupted by the Person from Porlock and most of the great bits of the epic poem evaporated from his head is something that happens almost daily for me. When I have to struggle to talk to people in the morning and force some semblance of conversation, which usually ends in some sort of criticism, I’m not happy. Between my recent daily emails of how I am lacking as a human being from my ex-wife and my dad’s critivisits, it’s a wonder I get anything done.
Sometimes I just don’t want to talk to anybody! Much less someone whose negativity I have to match to make a connection.
The hardest thing about the creative process, whether it is painting, poetry, art, writing, singing, songwriting, broadcasting, etc. is convincing people who don’t have to come up with shit from thin air that you are actually being productive. The same goes for writing papers, writing copy for companies, studying, etc. It’s work. It requires concentration. If roles were reversed, could they just sit down and put their thoughts into some kind of media? Those who can do it well make it look easy. It doesn’t mean that it is. It doesn’t mean that we don’t agonize over details to get them just right, so that a reader can just breeze through it and not appreciate the artistry that went into it.
Think of a cabinet. Somebody planned that, measured the wood, cut it to specifications, planed it, assembled it, stained and finished it, and all the rest. And you just stick your coffee mugs inside of it. Do you ever think for a moment the work and effort it takes to put something together like this? No! Because it is so basic and utilitarian you aren’t meant to throw yourselves at its feet and worship it for the art that it is! It doesn’t mean that passion and thought didn’t go into it. It doesn’t mean that they didn’t step back when it was done and say “I hope somebody really enjoys this.”
We all consume. We all just carry on. To the next one. And the next. And so on.
If you don’t make better boundries, people will come in to your life and grab everything they can carry off. If they get mad about the boundaries, then those boundaries were made exactly for that person. Boundaries filter out the people who just take and never give back. Feel about as guilty at the outrage they exude as you would someone flipping you off in traffic. It’s a meaningless gesture. If what you are doing has meaning. If you are chasing your dream or following a plan to achieve a goal, then keep moving forward. Put up those boundaries and do it without remorse.
Because when your energy is spent, they just go home with a full tank and a comfy bed, and you are the one questioning your life choices at 11:40pm. They won’t feel ANY guilt about it. They won’t be the ones without shit written, a late paper, another sleepless night, a sense of failure, and the whole thing to try to avoid again tomorrow.
We don’t get an unlimited number of tomorrows.