It’s almost midnight. This article should have been submitted a long time ago. Instead I’m sitting here thinking about what to write about in the article that should already have been completed, and telling myself I must get it done with. Needless to say my editor is not very happy. I receive this message in my email – “Njeri, please, please, submit the article.” I can’t blame her; I’m not happy either. It’s really not for lack of trying that the article has not been completed, oh boy, I’ve been trying. I’ve spent the last forty-eight hours focused on one thing only – getting this article done. I’ve spent time thinking about ideas, researching various topics, reading inspirational blogs, praying for motivation, meditating on writing the article, visualizing a completed article, focusing my mind with breathing techniques, calming my anxiety with tea, relaxing myself with TV, unplugging the TV, taking a break with naps, working at a desk, at a coffee shop, in a library, on my couch, in bed, on the floor, eating chocolate, eating fruits, doing yoga, going for a walk, taking even more naps, focusing hard, focusing really, really hard, not focusing at all, sighing, screaming, sleeping, writing something, writing anything, just writing whatever. Doing anything I could possibly think of to get this article done.
Yet the ability to get this article done continues to elude me and I can feel this sickly sweet sauce of frustration, guilt, failure and self-doubt that I’m marinating in beginning to boil. I wish I could say that this is a singular occurrence and that I’m just in a bit of a funk this month. But alas, almost every month I’m faced with this internal battle whilst attempting to create an article that would be worthy of your engagement. I want these words on paper. I want this article to exist. I want to entertain you and also entertain myself in the process. But man, it kind of sucks trying to get it out and just get it done.
I realize that this is not about simply getting the article done; it is about getting all kinds of stuff done. Any stuff done that I would much rather delay, avoid, or if possible, forget about. Whatever the task, be it as minor as taking the rubbish out, washing the dishes, or as significant as filing my taxes, if I can find a way to put it off, a way to rationalize that doing it anytime later, be it a month, a day, a week, or even a minute later will make the task easier, more pleasant, more enjoyable; if my brain can put together a theory that completely justifies my behavior then that is the path I will, more often than not, take. And you better believe that I will put together some fantastical theory as to why it makes perfect sense to delay getting this stuff done just a little bit longer.
You may call it laziness, apathy, disorganization, lack of self-control, or immaturity, all of which are labels that imply disinclination to activity despite having the ability to do so. Though I can fully attest to bouts of immaturity, it’s not that I don’t want to write this article or do the hard work, it’s that I can’t seem to figure out how to do the work or what it is that I’m meant to be writing in a way that doesn’t feel like downright torture.
All right, that’s a blatant excuse and quite possibly a lie. The fact is that I don’t feel like getting the article done. I don’t feel like thinking. I just want it done. I know that things worth having, the really, really good things in life don’t come easy and require hard work. And I know that work involves discomfort, the curtailment of leisure, and in economic terms, disutility; the degree to which a commodity or activity fails to satisfy human wants. But what if there was a way to ease the discomfort of getting this stuff done? What if there was a way to acknowledge, approach and understand whatever feelings that arise when facing the dreaded task in order to make them more bearable? Does getting stuff done really have to cause so much anguish? One of the problems I constantly find myself facing when trying to get this article done is that all I want is to be able to tap into that inner volcano of creativity and ideas where things just naturally gush out like molten lava and cover the blank pages in black and white ashes that instantaneously merge into sentences. Where everything just comes out and is laid on the ground in perfect form and matter just as it’s meant to be.
Instead it’s usually more like an anthill. You can see or feel the movements of the busybody ants, aka my brain cells, but you can’t tell if anything is being created.
Just tiny, hardworking ants mulling around aimlessly. It is this sense of aimlessness, this lack of direction, the not knowing where I’m going, what I’m writing, the uncertainty behind it all, wanting to have this whole picture, this whole article, this whole story done and gift wrapped and bow tied and ready to present to the world, but I can’t seem to figure out what that final product is meant to be. Or if it will be!
Then all I want to do is take a nap.
Yet despite the pain of creativity I do recognize that there are moments of pure pleasure, otherwise there wouldn’t be any gratification in the act of creating. There is of course the satisfaction and pride upon completing a piece of work and the confidence boost of having gotten stuff done. But there are other enjoyable elements in the process itself; I love the sound and feel of my fingers tapping away on the keyboard (perhaps why I type so aggressively); I love the mental and physical rush when my brain expounds a thought and milliseconds later words magically appear on the screen, on paper, in existence. I often enjoy the challenge of creating logic, meaning and structure, reaching the point where you’re oh-so-close to releasing the sparks of insight and mental exertion.