I’ve been struggling to write lately.
It isn’t for a lack of time. I have made plenty of time to sit at my laptop with a browser open. I’ve watched the curser smugly flash on a blank document as if to say, ‘what? nothing? Come on, impress me.‘ Just to give in to the ease of distraction.
And it isn’t for a lack of topics, my head is constantly bubbling with things to write about. My head jumps from thought to thought and I ponder what I would say about it, how I could argue it, or why I feel so strongly.
And it isn’t because I don’t want to. For me, writing is cathartic and its therapeutic, it forces me to focus my energy, make a decision about something, and practice an art I want to be better at. Writing, makes me to decide what I think about things and why. I have to clear my mind of everything else and just ponder one idea.
So why the trouble?
Lately, I feel like my life has gone from second gear straight into sixth and I am just trying to keep up. Not in a busy way, in an “aaahhhhh!! uncertainty!” kinda way.
(You see consistency is mentally calming. A study came out once that showed that if prisoners were consistently treated poorly, even tortured on a regular schedule, it was less psychologically challenging than prisoners who were periodically treated well and then poorly on a sporadic schedule.)
So how is that stopping me from writing?
John Cleese has an wonderful talk on creativity where he outlines our need for space, time, time, confidence, and humour to make great creative things. He says we not only need space away from distractions, we need the time to restrain us, and time to sit with an idea longer than we are comfortable. In it he points out that, “it’s easier to do trivial things that are urgent, than it is to do important things that are not urgent, like thinking,” We need to get used to being uncomfortable forcing ourselves away from the trivial things in favour of the important things.
Similarly, I know there have been studies (none that I could quickly find) that shows how productivity and work load reach a tipping point where productivity drops drastically when there is too much going on. When we are being pulled in too many directions, or our list of to-dos is too long, we are actually less efficient than if we had just a few things to get done.
As a student I created mental space by militaristically scheduling my life. Even if I didn’t follow the schedule it meant I didn’t have to think about the ins and outs. I knew that once I checked off a box I could move to the next.
This is a far more difficult endeavour when you can’t control the check boxes, or when they aren’t even really check boxes to make.
But again, writing?
Every time I sit down to write, my mind strays. I’ve been giving in to the easy other stuff. Part of this is because my mind is busy with so many things I have a hard time sorting one from the other long enough to get a clear picture of what I would say. Another part is because I try to commit to writing as honestly and openly as possible, but that can be tough. It feels exposing. But if you don’t write sincerely, it feels contrived. Sometimes I just don’t know how to get out the things I want to say.
I guess this post isn’t really about much, but I genuinely feel like sometimes you need to just do things. You need to do them, even if you do them poorly. You need to force yourself out of your spot so you don’t get stuck. So this is me, unsticking. A little practice in asking myself why I’m struggling in the hopes that I won’t struggle so much next time I sit down at my keyboard to tell you where my mind is at.