Anxiety is the Root of Laziness

Too often, when I think of doing something creative, my stomach tenses and my heart races. Without this physical sensation, as I learned from the Radiolab guys, I might not feel this too-familiar fear at all. (Thanks, body, for both permitting and discouraging my artistic attempts.)

Hearts race, stomachs tense, and anxiety sucks. However, knowing that this is the root of my laziness can help alleviate a few cycles of anxiety that start when I acknowledge my laziness. (Yes, Francis Bacon [or Thomas Hobbes?], knowledge is power, but it’s power that can be used by many parts of the mind and for many purposes, and not all of them are fruitful pursuits.) If I’m in an anxiety loop (anxiety–>laziness–>more anxiety) I might say:

“I don’t want to make something enough.”
“I must not be meant to do this.”
“Truly creative people are completely driven to make things; it pours out of them. If I have to fight lethargy to write something, isn’t that a sign I shouldn’t write at all?”

That last thought especially is riddled with false revelations. Just because so many writers and artists might describe a flow they enter when making something (“The words poured out of me,” “It’s as if someone else were painting it,” “I felt like a conduit”), doesn’t mean a feeling of anxiety isn’t present for them at other times. While I have also felt that flow a few times myself, maybe more importantly, why should flow and a sense of ease have a monopoly on creativity?

If flow isn’t there, but fear is, grant me the Opus Contra Naturam (Work Against Nature) of the Renaissance alchemists, and I will find another nature to work for.

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9 thoughts on “Anxiety is the Root of Laziness

  1. I make no apologies for quoting one of my favourite artists – Picasso said ‘Inspiration comes, but it has to find you working’. That’s partly why I blog on a regular basis. It makes me DO SOMETHING! It doesn’t matter what you do – something else will flow out of it. Great post.

  2. I’m another blogger who use uses my blog to make me do something – sometimes I find that I’m crowding out more important things to do the blog, but I stay true to the blog because the blog stays true to me in my lazy periods.

    Does that make sense? For me it does, but perhaps not everyone.

  3. Great thoughts. We assume that “flow” should exist as a sort of blissful state the moment we imagine undertaking a creative activity or project. Sometimes, flow takes root after we begin. We need to begin, to convince ourselves that we are capable and to have accomplished something tangible in order to set a sort of personal track record. Then, the next time, the sensation of flow takes hold sooner and sooner, as we feel safer. You are not lazy. 🙂

  4. Flow is a product of Creativity in response to a need. Everything phenomenal speaks to a need. Take the wheel as an example. That was damned creative. Everything Michelangelo or Einstein or any of the great masters produced spoke to a need, whether practical or cosmic.

    This means your art should have purpose. It can fulfill a completely selfish need or it could be a response to someone else’s need. Anxiety will fall away and creativity will pour through you. Find something your are passionate about and address the need it inspires.

    Much of our problem with “art” and “creativity” is the narrow definitions we assign to these all-encompassing subjects. One of the definitions of “art” is the “exercise of human skill” while another is “skill as a result of learning or practice.” This makes art something accessible to everyone because it is the expression of skill.

    “Creativity” is defined as “the ability to transcend traditional ideas to create meaningful new ideas.” There’s the notion that you have to learn the rules before you can break them. People in many different fields of learning and craft are transcending traditional ideas the world over. Steve Jobs was an innovator in computers, his passion. He addressed a need even though we don’t traditionally label his field as one of the arts.

    Keep in mind that anxiety tells you that something is wrong. I don’t think it’s a matter of laziness on your part. I think that explanation is a blind to hide the underlying issue (and yes, I need to take my own medicine!). I think you could get a jolt of juice by redefining your perception of creativity and of art. A good book that addresses this subject, written by the late Osho, a tantric practitioner, is titled “Creativity.” It is a delicious, enlightening, and concise read. I am going to be snuggling up with that little gem now that you’ve tickled my memory (and creativity) with your need.

    Which reminds me, I answered your questions about ritual awareness in my latest post: What To Expect When Engaged In Ritual Activity. Stop by and have a look-see and thank you so much for participating in my Call to Interaction. Peace!

  5. i have this issue too at times, and my answer is to try to get out of my head (NO!!!!not drugs!!!!!) and into my HANDS. my hands think really well when i let them take over – i try and sort out a drawer or box of materials and follow what catches my eye. also i mix and match fabrics or yarn and make machine cords, a slightly mechanical process that demands attention from my monkey mind and the anxiety switches to being careful of my fingers etc and after 20 mins i realise i have relaxed and can have a go at something intentional. have you tried brusho? it’s a bit like marbling and again the randomness can release you from the inner critic…

    but please do be very careful if you read osho, i helped debrief a survivor of sexual abuse after one of the osho cult events and it is dangerous stuff…mangling consent is a way of silencing victims who then self blame and are high risk for self harm and suicide…

    all good wishes
    singing bird

  6. ps: anxiety and excitement are identical in the body, it is the mind that labels one good, one bad..for writing, perhaps try owning the sensations by writing about them and then closing your eyes, and blindly picking a word and then writing 10 words or 10 lines about that word, eg pounding, nails, hammer, carpenter, witness, behold, cradle, cherish, lullaby, wind blows….
    and repeat…you’ll end up somewhere really different!
    again, all good wishes 😉

  7. I AM SO HAPPY I found this… I’ve been questioning my “laziness” or feelings of lethargy for years… My doctor attempted to explain it- but try puttingthese feelings into words to someone who is bipolar, and A.D.D diagnosed on top of a “creative” haha. Thanks again for writing this! 🙂

    • I’m so glad you found it useful! I still struggle with lethargy and plain old anxiety, and need to return to these ideas often. Being merciful about I feel helps me a bit too–that it’s okay to feel lazy, even about things that I “should want to do, should find joy in writing or drawing.” 🙂 Best to you in your creative pursuits!

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