Please enjoy the irony of how long it took for me to finally just finish writing this post.
It was the past couple of weeks that helped me do it – not borne out of some desperate New Years resolution but actually, a mix of travelling that saw me at my grandmother’s funeral and flying in planes (which I’m quite dreadful with) and being stranded in Ottawa because of a blizzard that kept me from returning home for 5 extra days.
By the time I got home here in Nunavut, I was so flipping pleased just to be finally back. The return journey was awful but that was not what I was focusing on (maybe because I had gotten just really desperate?), and now I am already appreciating how much I need to transfer this perspective to my writing and my life as a whole.
Thinking about death and waiting and delays and everything, it occurred to me how we all leave a legacy behind, and that the scariest thing about that is not leaving a flawed reputation or something but instead leaving this life without ever coming close to finishing (or beginning?) something you fully wish to accomplish – like writing a book.
Like, stay with me a moment when I introduce a slightly morbid notion that you, reader, are going to die unexpectedly on the precise date of:
ONE YEAR, 3 MONTHS, 5 DAYS from TODAY.
Since I’m not a life insurance salesperson, I’m not going to talk to you about getting your affairs and stuff in order, but instead I am going to encourage you to really imagine what you wish to do, say, visit, overcome, leave behind, or accomplish before that date comes to pass and your time here is history.
Think of this not as some death sentence but instead as that big moment in every story when the character’s life-as-they-know-it changes because they cannot ever go back to the ignorance that they held at the story’s very beginning. Feels better already, right?
Okay, allow that news above to really register in your subconscious before continuing…
I came across a quote recently – remarking how the road to failure and the road to success are often almost identical – that really captured the reason why I so often defer and neglect things that I want to do in my life:
How does one ever know if we are failing or succeeding?
Take me for example – I want to write, to write daily, to write meaningful things, to inspire, even strangers if only through the chance of someone passing through online here and stopping just for a moment to reflect on some of the words I have written.
Now intellectually, I understand that I can only control so much (like writing X amount every day), and if I set goals beyond my control (like catalyzing a random person’s life change as result of my wordplay ramblings) then I am doomed to fail.
But emotionally, I tend to always feel mildly frustrated with myself both as a writer and as a general person. Whether that is just a habit of thought, where after two decades of living it is nearly instinctive to bully and put me down via monologues inside my head, or perhaps my long-term depression making its presence felt, this sort of prolonged self-doubt is not really ideal for anyone, artist or not.
As an artist, I can sometimes channel my lingering dissatisfaction into fuel for trying my best to make something even grander than it would have been had I been content to just stop and finish earlier in the creative process. And in many ways, I have done just that, using my well-acquainted relationship with discomfort as some familiar company instead of a thing that scares me off right away.
Those are the good days, though.
Most other days of the week, when I am feeling worse or am just swamped with life responsibilities, I find this recurring dissatisfaction will reveal itself as the villain in my story, telling me everything I am afraid might be true, that all my accomplishments were actually mistakes or flukes or pitiful, and that what the things I am excited by in life cannot possibly ever happen to me because I don’t have the skills or stamina deserving of such success. In the past, I have tried to view this invisible nemesis of mine as Doubt, plain and simple: a character in my head, unpleasant to live with but an essential voice nevertheless, helping me reconsider assumptions and [hopefully] helping me to become my best. Other days, when I’m too tired to entertain Doubt’s obnoxious commentary, I just flat out ignore it and try to keep my attention on a song in my head or something.
With that said, these are three takeaways that I have come to really treasure when I’m feeling flustered with doubts that I am failing more than succeeding:
- This shit will pass – understand that when you are feeling especially terrible and when the voice of Doubt seems to be the only one in your head at the moment, this feeling will leave. You will come back from this shitty all-is-lost FUBAR perspective about yourself, about your relationships, about writing, about your life generally.
- Stop faking heroism – understand that even though your inner self is feeling like it needs a super-heroine to come rescue it from the asshole villain terrorizing you for no reason whatsoever, there is really no good to come from pretending to be something that you are not. So slow down, admit that you are having a bad day, week or month, accept your need to adapt for the time-being, to re-adjust your goals and priorities, and then just focus on getting through it like all us humans are trying to do each and every day too.
- Facts and feelings, similar but different – understand that you feeling like the world is fucked up beyond saving, or that your latest novel draft is the literal worst thing to come outta 21st century Earth, or that you will always hate your job/boss/commute/etc., this feeling can be both true, important and real to you and yet still not reflect factual reality, and not because you are wrong but because you don’t get to ever be an objective perspective on reality. This is not a job demotion but a relief of responsibility.
So here I am, here you are, trying to make peace with a version of ourselves that simultaneously expects us to be far better than who we are right now and also somehow tells us that we are far worse than who we want to become.
I thought that this divide was often the source of procrastination in my life, especially with anything artistic or even remotely vulnerable. Like vlogging on Youtube – I am extremely soft-spoken, less shy than I have been but still a bona-fide introvert hermit. So talking to a camera is repulsive to me, yet I do it because I value the skill of trying to communicate in varying mediums. Blogging is less intimidating because I can take time choosing my words a little more carefully. Still though, I think a major impediment to these two platforms, for someone like me to express myself, is that I am afraid of saying something that is wrong, that will sound foolish, that will be false to who I might become later in life, that I would be embarrassed by me as I am now, kind of like looking back at school pictures to see how dorky or weird you looked then.
But that is fucked up, right?
To be so discouraged to say something, anything, on the chance that a future version of yourself might not agree or feel the same way?
Obviously, you won’t!
We change all the time.
And that’s probably the best gift in Life even though we all often fail to notice it.
It is the same thing at work when people react to all my tattoos, saying how I am going to regret that later on in life when I’m older and supposedly wiser.
But what kind of life mantra is that really, to be chasing after some abstract standard of approval set by your phantom future self?
Why not work less on pleasing this future you and work on making your current self somehow less of a judgmental and insecure human being?
So instead I am saying “Nah, done with that”, and will try to embrace the limited perspectives we all share, try to stop running away from uncertainty and doubt, to stop pretending that by not trying I am somehow wiser or cooler than those who do try to be seen and see others, whatever their method.
The point is not to strive for perfection of the human experience, to become flawless before you feel comfortable enough to share something of yourself, to somehow capture exactly everything without any imperfection (as if perfection has anything to do with humanity, right?).
No, the point here is to just fucking try to capture something, anything, with words (or music or paintings or dance or whatever floats your boat) and do it while holding the intention that this was my best attempt to reflect what it felt like to be me at this point in time, right here and right now.
No one can tell you that you did “being you” wrong, so you can never fail at it, or succeed for that matter!
With all that said on worrying less about being perfect before you can begin, I am going to make an active commitment to posting on this blog – both for your enjoyment and my own sake of accepting my inevitable life legacy in all its shortcomings, spelling errors and long-winded blog posts.
Oh and be sure to check out the RESOURCES page on here because I will be continually updating it with sites and whatnot that I have used lots and enjoyed 🙂
As always, thanks for reading!