My problem is that I can’t always write about what I want to write about. Sometimes I find it difficult to write at all. On these days my fears feel like they will overtake my passion though I know it cannot be so. My artistic soul is being judged then and there on the page. Writers shouldn’t be judged on their writing they should be judged on whether they have the courage to write at all. It’s not the critics that exist out there in the world that bother me it’s the critic that exists within myself. You know that class you had where it didn’t seem to matter if you spent two weeks working on an essay or two hours? That’s how writing feels a lot of times. I know that something I only spend a couple hours on may be up to someone else’s standards, but it sure as hell isn’t going to be up to mine. Perhaps that’s my underlying problem right there: maybe my own personal standards are too high.
I knew this guy – he was my lab partner my senior year in high school – and he used to get frustrated when he didn’t get all the answers right on a test. A ninety-nine percent wasn’t good enough for him. He needed to know where he went wrong and then felt the need to prepare for the next exam like he had failed the one before it. Getting one question wrong on an exam felt like failure to him. That’s how I feel about my writing. Forget the piece of work in it’s totality because I know that’s going to be solid if I gave it to someone else to read. I’m fretting not over paragraphs or even sentences, but words. I’m thinking about whether I should have used a Latin word in a personal essay or not. My writing group used to isolate my sentences and pick out words that didn’t fit the flow of the sentence or the flow of the paragraph. I’ve always been surrounded by poets. That has made me a very detail-oriented writer.
My problem is that I worry too much. I worry about things I have no control over, in fact, those are just about the only things I worry about. There are times when I worry about how much I’m worrying. I call this the “worried worrier” inside me and there are times where if you are not careful the worried worrier can dominate your worldview. The worried worrier can create a problem in even the best circumstances. A year before I was set to graduate from college everyone was congratulating me because I was going to be graduating with honors at the top of my class. I had worked damn hard to get there. My college entrance GPA was 2.2. My exit GPA was 3.78. I had worked my butt of for four years so that I could prove to the world that I wasn’t really the fuck up that I felt like I was. I wasted away my twenties and I wanted to prove that I could actually not mess something up. I didn’t feel good about the place I was in. I wanted more. It is our nature to want more in life.
I was focused on getting into the right graduate school, putting myself in the best position to succeed once I had secured my doctorate and was trying to put my business on the right track to succeed five years down the line. I worried about these things not only because I had worked so hard to get there, but because I was convinced that these were the things that would control my future happiness. Then I thought about the matter a bit. I never worried about how things would impact my future self before, so what changed? Well, my future wasn’t panning out the way I wanted it to so I tried to make it better. I significantly changed the person that I was so that I could be the person that I wanted to be, but the truth is that you can never change completely. You cannot erase the person you were before simply because it would be more convenient moving forward. You have to overcome the negatives or better yet: turn those negatives into positives. The worried worrier in me saw these negatives as things that would always define me and the worried worrier saw negatives everywhere.
You cannot defeat the worried worrier within you. This is not because you lack the willpower or because you cannot overcome obstacles, but because the worried worrier is an idea and ideas cannot be defeated. In World War II we took on Nazisim. There are still Nazis in the world. They didn’t die off with Hitler in that bunker. We defeated slavery in the American Civil War, but we have been and will probably continue to be incapable of defeating prejudice in our society. It is because these are ideas that we cannot defeat them. There are positive ideas that we can’t beat back too. That story about the guy who’s been playing the lottery for thirty-five years and one day picks the winning lottery ticket. The person who had the rich uncle who left them millions of dollars that they didn’t even know they had. These stories are the things that keep us going in the face of adversity.
The question remains though: how do you defeat something that is a mindset? The answer is: the same way you defeat any powerful adversary and that is through attrition. You wear down the mindset until you know what you can do to successfully counteract the problems you face. This doesn’t mean that you won’t still have problems. Most of us will have the same problems our entire lives and it’s unlikely that we’ll ever solve them. There are ways to counteract them though and the harder we fight against the forces that keep us from achieving our goals the better off we’re going to be when it comes to overcoming problems in general.
I would say that I find myself writing about 80% of the time that I don’t want to write. That means I’m forcing myself to write despite the fact I don’t believe I can be successful. I’m fighting a war of attrition against my mind which is trying to convince me that I will never succeed at the thing that matters most to me. My mind is engaged in a lifetime war against the forces of good that drive me in everything I do. Sounds hopeless doesn’t it? It’s not. This is how art gets made and this is why art is appreciated. The easiest thing you can do is to not do something. It takes courage to go out into the world or to sit down at the computer or to pull out that book you’ve been meaning to read. Anything outside of your routine that you have always wanted to do is going to be tougher than hell to do, but there’s a reason your mind is fighting it. Your mind doesn’t want you to break routine because your mind knows that it will be worth it. The hardest thing I do every day is getting out of bed. It would be easy to sit there. It would be easy to do nothing. You don’t remember the times that you stay in bed and you don’t remember the times where you stick to your routine either.