There’s a game that goes on inside my head. Maybe you’ve played a similar one? I wake up, raring to go. I’m energized, focused, ready to make my mark on the day. Then this internal conversation happens:
“Ok, today, I am going to write!”
“Excellent! Good for me! But first I have to clean out the Lazy Susan. Then I’ll get right on that writing thing.”
“Wait, have I ever cleaned out the Lazy Susan in the last seven years of living here?”
“Nope, but, hell, how long could it possibly take?”
“Um, it could take a long time. And I have, maybe, an hour or two of open time today. I really want to write.”
“Of course I do. And I will write, just as soon as I finish up this Lazy Susan project.”
So you know how this story ends, right? We’ve all been there at one time or another.
Creatives get anxious when we are creating, we just do. A friend once mused, “do you suppose physicists worry like artists do that their work won’t be any good?”
We’re anxious because there aren’t any guarantees. Your book might not get published, your film may not make it into any festivals and your Kickstarter project may not get funded and then you can’t record your next album.
That’s why sometimes it can seem so much safer just to empty the dishwasher, organize your bookshelf or clean out your email.
But of course it’s not safe, not really. At least not to your soul – that part of you that whispers, “what if?..” If we chose safety every time instead of composing that song, learning that new pattern or writing that entrepreneurial business plan, then that part of you that wants to take the chance is dying a slow death. Not my definition of safe at all.
On top of that, my experience has been that those concrete, distracting tasks don’t actually make me feel any better in the end.
My daughters and I have been reading a series called “The Books Of Umber.” At one point, the protagonist laments, “I don’t think I can take one more unanswered question.”
Creativity is by it’s definition one long series of unanswered questions. No wonder we’re anxious all the time.
The cure for the anxiety is of course, at once maddeningly simple but certainly not even remotely easy.
We need to create anyway.
Create through the anxiety. Create in spite of the anxiety. Create because of the anxiety.
Sometimes the anxiety will win – or at least it will look like a win. I did clean out the Lazy Susan today. It took up all my time. Until I decided that writing was important, and then I made more time.
Guess which activity made me less anxious?