How many days do you recall spending alone in bed, doing nothing, in which you felt fulfilled by the time you rolled over to sleep? Aside from maybe a day called off, sick, I can't think of any. I think one of the greatest struggles as an artist is fighting off the desire to do absolutely nothing. It's easy to write it off as laziness but I think a more accurate description would be a creative depression. You don't want to do nothing. It feels like every part of your mind is screaming to get up but the floor feels a thousand miles away. I'm not pressuring anyone's creative habits or saying that anyone who sees Sunday as a day of rest is a slacker. We all need rest days to recover but at what point does relief become an addiction? For me, if I take a single day off, I slide back deep into hibernation from life. It isn't enjoyable. It isn't necessary. My mental muscles aren't repairing themselves; they're just weakening over time lost in the void.
Anecdotal evidence: I realized a few months back that on my rest days from exercise, I would accomplish absolutely nothing. I'm not just letting my body heal. I don't write. I don't study or clean. I find myself sunken into bed, listening to podcasts and eating junk food. I was unhappy with it and changed my habits so that I could exercise seven days a week, just as a defense mechanism from this slothishness. I was never more content. Of course, you can't overwhelm yourself or hurt yourself by going too hard. I'm cautious not to make self-injury out of a good habit. I think that the creative process can be the same way. Even on the days where I'm not adding to my word count, I'm taking notes, toying with structure, or piecing together my next project. I can only remember one instance in the last thirteen years in which I wasn't actively working on something. After finishing my last, I wanted to take a break from writing in order to get my real life in order. That was relieving for about a week before I went crazy. I mean, life is great and I wouldn't change a thing about my life as it stands, but writing is such a huge part of what I love about life. It felt like ending a marriage or a death in the family. Productivity enriched my life.
Even your worst words are a step forward towards your best self. Honest mistakes are lessons worth learning. You'll never be good enough if you never give yourself the chance. As his sometime-advocate, trust me when I say the devil on your shoulder can be seductive, but he doesn't have your best interests in mind. Fear is your enemy. Insecurity is the weight you have to lift. The writer is Atlas, shouldering the weight of the world. Creating a world with your words is a lot of responsibility. I often wonder if this failed artist is a cautionary tale about the dangers of playing God. In many ways, artists are athletes, and we're all on the same team. We spot each other with critique. We should be here to cheer each other on. We're all freaks performing in the same circus. What if Shakespeare decided to sleep his days away? Would the world be the same without Picasso? Is the world as we know it possible without George Lucas? If you waste your potential on nights spent in self-doubt, you're not just letting yourself down, you're letting the team down.
Thanks to Maureen for keeping the company afloat while I squandered my summer feeling sorry for myself.