Sometimes, I am a ridiculous human being. One of the things that I struggle with the most is putting the “good stuff” off until later. I behave like this with pretty much everything, from not using the good china to not watching the DVD of a movie I really want to see. It’s like I want to put things off until the prefect moment to do, use, wear, eat, or watch them arrives. I know, however, that there is no such thing as a perfect moment. There will always be something that makes “now” seem like not such a great time, whether it’s other commitments, chores, worries, stresses, annoying people, weather, or any of the thousand other things that make up my life.
Nowhere is my ridiculousness more apparent than in my approach to reading books, writing, and creativity in general. I come up with a great idea for a novel or other creative project, or get a great book out of the library and instead of working on it/devouring it immediately, I let it sit there while I wait for a more perfect moment to come along. Instead of doing/reading the awesome thing, I do and read less awesome things. Or, worse, I do crappy things like household chores or taxes.
It’s like being given a present and then refusing to open it. It’s like getting to Christmas morning or your birthday and then saying, “I’ll open these later when I’m in a better mood, or when I need a pick me up, or when I have more time.” Who does that? No one, right? You get up and rip into your presents, fully enjoying the moment. I can do that with holiday gifts, but not gifts of and for the mind. I put those off until “later.”
I’ve often wondered why I do this. It’s not genetic because none of my other relatives act like this. I’m an otherwise level-headed and intelligent person, so it’s not like I don’t know any better. I’m as aware as anyone that I could die tomorrow and “later” may never come. Then all those great ideas, books, and unwritten novels will rot in the dust with me. So what, exactly, am I waiting for? I think I’ve finally narrowed it down to three things that are driving this behavior.
- Fear of disappointment. What if it’s not as good as I think it will be? If my idea doesn’t pan out, or the book is a flop, I’ll be disappointed. It’s more comfortable to live in a bubble where the thing can still be good, rather than take the risk that it might be bad.
- Fear of the end. When I’ve read the book, it’s over. When I’ve written the novel (whether it’s published or rejected), I know how the effort will end. I can’t go back to the state of delicious anticipation and the enjoyment of discovering everything for the first time. I can’t go back to the excitement of the process. It’s fun to live in a state of anticipation and excitement. It’s like being a kid again and being excited for Christmas, but dreading the letdown that happens when it’s all over.
- Fear of starting over. As long as I’ve got a backlog of “good stuff” that I could be working on, I feel like I don’t have to start from scratch. There’s always something good out there waiting for my attention and I’ll never be stuck staring at the wall, wondering what to do next.
Of course, all of these are ridiculous for the same reason: I will never reach a point where I have absolutely nothing to look forward to, or where I have no good projects on the back burner. Ideas come to me all the time. Great new books are released every month. There are always going to be plenty of things that excite me. Getting one idea or book off of my plate does not diminish the thrill of the next one. As it is, all I’m doing is cheating myself out of all the awesomeness I could be experiencing today. There will plenty of awesomeness tomorrow.
I’m getting better, but it requires constant conscious thought. I have to remind myself to enjoy the thing today. To read and enjoy that book. To work on that idea right now. To write that novel today. Obviously, these things can’t be finished in one day, but I try to use momentum to my benefit. If I can just get started, it’s easier to carry on. It’s easier to move that book idea from notes, to outline, to rough draft, to finished product. It’s easier to finish that library book once I’m a third of the way through. Once I’m involved in the awesome thing, I don’t want to stop.
It’s a matter of focusing my efforts on ripping off that wrapping paper. Once the paper’s off, it’s fun to play with the toy and all the fear goes away. And the really great things is that, unlike a kid waiting for Christmas, I don’t have to wait a whole year to do it again. I can do it tomorrow.
(Photo courtesy of RainbowhART)