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.

On New Year’s Resolutions

Neil Gaiman.

I love the above graphic-ized quote from Neil Gaiman (confirmed his from his Twitter account). The “live as only you can” especially strikes a chord–the part of me that agrees art can be a life. The wish (blessing?) acknowledges that joy, creativity, and surprise–something different–are really what most of us are looking for in the new year. While I might vow to replace all refined sugar at home with agave nectar in 2013, what I really want is transformation. To be and do something different and unexpected. Simultaneously, to change for the better and be more myself.

But I find the resolve isn’t often present when it needs to be. It’s in the daydreamy planning times, the kinds that I’m always indulging in, be it December 31st or May 31st. To change, really, I need to change my behavior in the moment when it counts, and do what I really want to be doing when I don’t feel like doing it. (I remember hearing once that that’s what it means to grow up: to do what’s important even if you don’t want to or feel like it.)

Then Randall Munroe of xckd fame produces this gem:

resolution

For me, ultimately, there’s no sense in New Year’s Resolutions. When I’m ready to change, I will.

Eternity in Time

It's almost winter now; maybe late summer like this tomorrow?Does anyone else ever feel like they can slip right back into an old life? I get the feeling that no time period actually ends. There’s never a real last day at a job, last exam of a class, or last night at an apartment. Well, that’s not entirely true: I remember lots of last days, nights, and exams. They definitely happened. It’s more that those moments to mark passage–the rituals that accompany change (for our last night in Massachusetts, we ate pizza and watched Sherlock on the mattress dragged into our tiny, empty living room) don’t ever fully succeed. Those pre-change scenarios are still possible. Or, they feel possible.

In a minute I might tie up my apron at the bakery after high school, take a midnight walk to 7-11 from Stonehill College, or pop down to Davis Square on the 96.

Moving back to my hometown may be exacerbating these nostalgic feelings; I’m in a city I return to and leave from, and it’s strange to have not left (again) yet. At the same time, I do believe that past events in specific times and places are indeed still happening. Somewhere.

“Eternity is in love with the productions of time,” writes William Blake. I think time is a bit eternal in its own way.

Alone This Evening

Light inside the dark.

The string lights in our dining room.

The spouse is playing D&D at AnonyCon, so it’s just me, the pup, and the dulcet tones of Joseph Arthur coming from my feeble speakers. Spent a lovely afternoon catching up with an old friend, and then came home, greeted Loki, took care of him, quoted an editing project (hope I get it!), washed a few dishes, grabbed a cranberry ginger ale, and sat down at the littlest desk we have. So, here I am.

For an introvert that craves solitude, it’s strange to admit that I don’t really like being alone at home. The quiet that offers peace is also the quiet that my anxieties use for their own sinister purposes. Instead of indulging in stuff-it-down distraction, I’ll try to follow a friend’s advice, and let them have their say.

Peace gets to speak next though.

Everyday’s a Good Day With Your Paint

A friend drove over in the sleety snow yesterday to hang out with me and Ken. We daydreamed aloud about winning the Powerball, stopped by the diner for some second dinner, and then watched a few episodes of The Joy of Painting.

Even in 1984 video quality and 1970s attire, Bob Ross remains refreshing. He takes on many roles in the show: art instructor, entertainer, therapist, life coach, and soul soother. The Joy of Painting stands for so much of what’s right about making art: it’s accessible, and with a few tools, available to all. It has the capacity to heal and the ability to empower.

If you didn’t see John D. Boswell and PBS‘s remix featuring the soft-voiced man himself, check it out below. If you have seen it, enjoy the uplift in your mood from another viewing.

Procrastination and Living in the Present

As a chronic procrastinator, this comic by Josh Mecouch of Formal Sweatpants (based on this article over at You Are Not So Smart) makes my stomach lurch. Throw in some accusatory, guilt-ridden conversations with a “past me” (Why didn’t you do [insert urgent task here]?), and it’s too familiar.

But it’s not just pitifully pathetic to envision a future self doing all the things you want to have done but don’t want to do now: it’s the shadow of a necessary illusion. Even for the purposes of living well in the present, it’s just not possible to avoid crafting these imaginary selves. In order to make meals for the week actually happen, in order to enjoy a movie night next Wednesday with friends, we need these illusions, don’t we? It can’t all be “Yes. Laptop. Yes. Leonard Cohen cover. Yes Christmas advertisements and twinkle lights.” It’s gotta also be “Yes. Me, here, now, going to the store to buy soap for when we run out soon, so my future self won’t be stinky. Me, here, now, thinking my thoughts about the future in the present, updating a calendar filled with days that themselves aren’t real yet.”

What is it about envisioning the future that allows for both action-infused planning and avoidy-lazy procrastination? In either scenario with the sweatpants or the soap, why do we always make our future selves work so hard? I see her now, the future Sarah doing the work I could be doing right now! And lo, she won’t, she really won’t: she’ll resist, just like present me.

Well, eventually she will get to it, the important things. One of us Sarahs will, but that one’s never the same.

She’s always sitting here, right now, hands typing over the laptop, listening to the Leonard Cohen cover, glancing at Christmas advertisements and twinkle lights. And she’ll say, “Sorry, future me, past me, and present me. I’m too busy at the moment to talk to you three, but let’s chat again sometime soon.”