This morning I am thinking about how we get out of our own way.
What is it that keeps me from doing my writing? I have escaped my stepfather, I have no one in my life actually telling me not to write, or that if I write something they will harm me or leave me. There is no one demanding that I abandon my writing to prove that I love them. I don’t even have a day job to blame for my lack of words or lack of time. The onus is entirely on me at this point. I am the only one rehearsing, repeating the messages that say I can’t or should not write. I am the only thing standing in my own way.
We were discussing this last night at the final Write Whole meeting of 2013: self-sabotage. There are books — whole libraries, more like — written about self-sabotage: why we as artists would rather clean the house or update Facebook or watch our twitter stream or read a book about self-sabotage rather than simply give ourselves over to our desired work. For you, spending time with this blog post might be self-sabotage, a way to procrastinate instead of doing the writing you really want most to do. Maybe you have twenty minutes a day for yourself, and you’re reading this or checking up on FB friends instead of doing your morning pages.
I could invite us to consider — to write into — the causes of our self-sabotage, to add to the piles of words about how we are trained to do the work of our augers and oppressors on their behalf so that they don’t have to exert the effort anymore. But unless that writing feels fertile and creative to you — and for me it so rarely does these days — I want you to forget it. Me, I don’t care anymore why I’m not doing my work. I’m so tired of all of my excuses. Yes, I’m scared. Yes, I’m afraid of what might happen if I step into my power. Yes, I’m sad it took me this long to do it. Yes, the words are difficult sometimes and rarely appear on the page as beautifully as they did in my head. Yes, I hear my stepfather arguing with me about whether I’ve gotten that part of the story right. Yes, I hear my inner community organizer telling me that I shouldn’t be spending time on this writing but should be instead writing a grant so that I can offer more writing workshops to more people so that their words can get onto the page because after all their words are more important.
Who cares why we self-sabotage? Yes, the reasons are important, and yet we don’t have to rehearse them anymore. There is always a really good reason — not even an excuse, but an honestly good reason — that we can’t get our work done: We had to go to our day jobs, we’re exhausted from working multiple jobs and being the primary caretaker for our kids, our back is acting up, there’s been a new act of violence against our community that we need to organize around, someone told us that we weren’t a good writer, our kids need us to make their lunch we’re out of paper and our printer is out of ink or our pen is out of ink or our cat won’t leave us alone or we’re afraid we won’t be able to say what we meant to say or we have finals due or we don’t write the way other people think we should write or there are bills due that we can’t pay and we don’t know where the money is going to come from and we know we should be doing some real work instead of wasting time on the page.
Here is one more for me: I am sure that if I really let myself into the kind of writing I really want to do, then I will be free. And then what?
There is always a truly good reason that you can’t do your creative work. The work will never get done if you are waiting for that day when your life to opens up and invite you with a cup of hot tea and a cozy cottage in the woods and a month alone in the wilderness for just you and your words, when all the other tasks are done, when no one is wanting anything else from you. And trust me that you would still struggle with self-sabotage, that the inner critics would still come knocking even all the way out in the wilderness. At least, this is true for me — maybe you are different, or have found your way out of this internalized, crazy-making maze, and if so, then I applaud you. Maybe you have found your way to a place of equanimity with those voices that say everything else in your life is more important than generating the words that will not exist anymore in the world unless you write them. Maybe you have discovered a way to step around the work of the inner saboteur, the way you learn to step around a tantruming child or a raging batterer, those narcissists that only ever want your attention on them.
Doris Lessing said, “Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.”
I am tired of listening to myself explain to myself why I didn’t get my work done yesterday. Yesterday is over. I have been lucky enough to get another day to try again. Take twenty minutes or an hour or three hours for your creative work today. Give yourself the opportunity to feel what it’s like not to do the critics’ or abusers’ work for them. Feel the feelings of discomfort, if they arise, and do it anyway.
And thank you for those good, good words.