This morning I am enjoying the so-far-nonexistent after-effects of my first COVID-19 vaccination jab, and the last few days of my holidays. For one reason or the other, or because of the double-shot espresso I just knocked back, I’m feeling a little light-headed. Fair warning, this is going to be a rambling one (but since nobody has heard a peep out of me heard for ages, I figure I can get away with it).
It’s been a little over two years since I finished a short story (that was Centennial, the final entry in my hundred-week run of Friday flash fiction posts). Since then, I’ve started a handful of stories, but not a single one has made it even to the scrappy-but-complete first draft stage. The entirety of my output for all that time has been lyrics for a handful of songs and an embarrassing number of blog posts about how I’m almost feeling up to writing again.
Now that I’m thinking about it, those posts are interesting milestones. Each one marks an occasion when I was sufficiently engaged with the idea of writing fiction that I immediately decided to not do that and write a blog post instead.
Or maybe I cranked out a couple of hundred words on one of my five or six works-in-progress, and, flushed with the thrill of a bit of the old momentum, I had to get online to make a public declaration of progress in order to hold myself to account.
In retrospect, that was a bad idea, or at least an idea that was doomed to failure. The irony that I am right now doing exactly the same thing is not lost on me. Hey, idiot, what was that old saying about repeating behaviours and expecting different results? Yeah, that.
Rather than actual writing fiction, I’ve spent a fair amount of time over my last few weeks of vacation thinking about why I’m not writing fiction. The ideas haven’t dried up. The impulse to spin daft stories hasn’t subsided at all. But the urge to do the work – the “sit arse in chair, place fingers on keyboard” drive – is a guttering candle flame. Not extinguished, but not at its best in this weather.
It’s at least partly an issue of [waves vaguely in all directions] all this. The past couple of years have been an unbroken blur of cataclysms both minor and major, personal and universal. Given I was already on the ropes emotionally, the timing of a deadly global pandemic could have been better.
Then again, I’ve been lucky enough to have a relatively painless pandemic. If not having my head in a productively creative space is the price I have to pay, I’ll take it. And if the climb out of the hole is slow, and full of slips and setbacks, I’ll take it.
But I know there’s an element of fear lurking in the basement, as well. It’s not quite a fear of failure – I’m reasonably sure (or arrogant enough to believe ) I’m as capable a writer as I ever was. I can tell a decent, or at least entertaining, or at least technically competent, story. I can turn a vague idea into a few minutes of satisfying escapism, assuming I put the work in.
The fear is “Do I still want to?” Do I have the force or will, or strength of character, or emotional energy, or whatever I need, to do the work? I don’t know.
It takes effort to write. To spend hours typing the right words in the right order to deliberately make a bunch of weird symbols activate hallucinations in other people’s brains? It’s an exhausting activity. You know what’s not as demanding? Playing video games and watching television. There’s a reason those things are popular.
Am I more caught up by resistance to the exhaustion than anticipation of the results? Does my aversion to the pain outweigh my desire for the gain? Maybe. My caffeine and sugar addictions and an extremely lackluster approach to physical exercise would all suggest a history of avoiding doing what’s good for me.
As a side note – I also need to start doing a bit more exercise and also cut back on the sugar. You’ll prize my coffee habit from my cold, dead fingers though…
(As you can probably work out for yourself, this whole post is my process for poking holes in my own internal arguments, and calling myself out on my tendency towards procrastination. I’ve been through these self-recriminatory slumps regularly over the years. Usually I can talk myself through them and emerge into the sunlight beyond, but do feel free to chime in with your own story or to administer the virtual slap upside the head that I my lazy indulgence so richly deserves).
Right. Enough of this nonsense. Time to go finish some fiction.