Ready to go… nowhere?

Clean desk. A good start.
Clean desk. A good start.

Today is the last day of my week off work. I turned 26 last Sunday, and since that was a strange sort of milestone (one that deserves its own explanation) and I had been working my arse off at work for the last month, I figured I deserved a Break with a capital ‘b’.

It’s been an odd nine days: delightful most of the time, but more sobering towards the end. I spent Saturday through Thursday in Sydney, seeing bands and Men of Letters, going to a neurology appointment (not as dreadful as it sounds), hanging out with my wonderful mum, seeing friends I haven’t seen in ages and meeting new ones.

Friday and Saturday were spent almost entirely in bed, with a brief writing sprint on Saturday morning, before whiling away the late afternoons and evenings by binge listening to The Black Tapes Podcast or jumping between series on Netflix. It was these two days that marked the biggest shift in my mood; I had gone from blissfully plodding through my daily itinerary to flipping between being edgy and numb in the space of what felt like no time at all. Such are the perils of having a neurological condition, I guess.

Despite all the wonderful things I’ve felt and experienced over the last week, I have found myself frustrated. Part of the reason why I took this week off was to work on personal projects: writing blogs, recording audio for a new podcast I’m working on, finishing diaries and getting a new study space in order. This post means I’ve got the first one done (although I guess you could also count the two pieces I wrote for BMA), the second has gotten absolutely nowhere, and I’ve barely made a scratch on the diaries and writing space, even if I did finally manage to get hold of a desk (see above).

One of the projects I wanted to get done... More to come.
One of the projects I wanted to get done… More to come.

Now that I write all that down, I realise I’ve done a lot more in the last few days than I initially thought. It’s definitely far more than I have managed over the last few weeks and months, but I feel like that’s more of an indictment of my laziness, poor mood and terrible management of non-work time and energy rather than any great recent wave of progress.

This frustration has caused me to revisit the memories of the dark days of 2012/13, when I was living at home, depressed and disillusioned. Even though they were the worst ten months of my life, towards the end I was starting to work out how to manage my own time and energy to build personal projects. I was building Gigs Out West in a very slow but steady fashion, starting to do copywriting and voicing jobs for my dad, and I had enough confidence to start applying for jobs again. At the time, I knew that this ‘floating’ time was important, but now I’m stuck wondering what it might have turned into had I stuck with it rather than returning to the conventional workforce.

Until recently, I was sure that I probably would have got absolutely nowhere, but now I’m starting to wish I’d taken it a little bit further. I wish I had more time and far more energy and drive to develop freelancing skills and a resilience that could open new options outside the usual employer/employee working dynamic.

Coming to the end of this week away from the office, I feel like I am ready, just like I was as I came to the end of that ten month period in 2013, to start doing things off my own back. I’m refreshed enough that I have the energy to write my first blog in months, and I’m keen to start sitting down and making stuff at the times that suit me best, like late at night without the worry of having to get up in the morning. I’m ready to explore new ways of thinking and making content, reading and writing and trying to make myself into the person I want to be.

But all the optimism in the world won’t make the following facts go away:

  1. I have to go to work on Monday morning.
  2. I don’t have the money to make that leap into the unknown.
  3. Even if I did have the money to make that jump, would I really be able to afford to take the time I’d need to recalibrate and refresh beforehand?

That’s what has really bothered me for the last few days: just as I’m getting ready to start work on reaching for new horizons, the reality of employment obligations and my financial situation comes up and taps me on the shoulder to remind me that I don’t have the right or the ability to go forth and be an explorer.

The idea that this is how I’m going to spend the next 40+ years of my working life terrifies me even more than the concept of death.

For now, I’m refreshed and ready to get things done, even if it’s a feeling that only lasts for another 24 hours or so. It feels like a waste to use this new energy on housekeeping, but if I can do that, maybe I can get to the next stage?

So despite my misgivings, I am spending today cleaning my room, moving my new desk into place, doing washing and cleaning my bathroom. I have to learn to celebrate the little successes I have when I’m up and going, and then try to keep them rolling. Once I’ve got those sorted, then hopefully everything else will be that little bit easier.

Let's roll.
Let’s do this.

Creative Bravery – Blog Carnival 2014

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“Creative Block” by Elize Vossgatter

Back in August, I was invited by the wonderful Alexandra Neill to take part in her Blog Carnival project, along with a bunch of other writers who are much cleverer and more consistent with the whole writing thing than I am. That project was meant to last the whole month, and reach across five topics. I fell off the wagon after one, and now we’re in the back half of October and I’m writing the second one. Good work, me.

It wasn’t that I didn’t try to write it. I think I took four goes at it, knowing exactly what I wanted to talk about, but with no idea how to go about it. The topic was “Something That Scares Me”, and this thing left me so scared (and more importantly, ashamed) that I couldn’t bring myself to confess it.

It was such a stupid thing that I feel like a moron not being able to share it. It’s something I really struggle with, and I’m trying really hard to get over it, but things keep getting in the way: working full time, stress, exhaustion, procrastination, laziness, a total failing in terms of willpower, fear of the fear itself…

I am afraid of doing things, making things, being creative, having adventures. It’s such a stupid thing to be afraid of, especially when I consider the joy that comes from actually doing it, but the elements of the fear seem endless, and the excuses come in equal number. Yet at the same time, I am terrified of being ordinary, being boring, sacrificing my life to a day job and not doing and making the things my heart wants to. It’s a particularly uncomfortable position to be in.

A little over a week ago, I turned 25. For a number of reasons, that milestone held a lot of dread for me, especially as it crept closer and I realised just how few of the things I’d wanted to achieve had actually come to fruition. As I write, I realise that I’m even afraid to confess that they are things I want to do, but here are some of them:

I’ve never been published by a publication that will pay me for my work. I’ve left four novels unfinished, and never finished editing the only one that I did finish. I’ve never played in a band. I’m yet to live overseas. I’ve never made a short film that was any more than a glorified slideshow. I’ve not made any wonderful pottery,made a sculpture or fixed something mechanical, or learned how to ride a bike, or how to drive a car. I never got to be a radio announcer or program producer. I can’t do a handstand or a cartwheel or rock climb. I’ve never tried stand-up comedy. I’ve never learned how to swing dance or any of the Latin ballroom styles. I never learned to juggle. I’ve never acted in a role beyond the chorus, and I haven’t even done that since I was in high school. I’ve never organised a successful public event or gig. I’m painfully aware of all the things I want to do I haven’t done yet, and I feel like I am running out of time to do them.

Writer's Block II
“Writer’s Block II” by Drew Coffman

That’s what scares me: all those things left undone. As I get older, I feel like my potential is ebbing away; any talent I may have is disintegrating like muscles atrophying, and every day that ticks by makes me more anxious about what I’m missing out on. I’m surrounded by wonderful, clever, driven, creative, fantastic, unbelievable people (some of whom I am lucky enough to call friends, some of whom have just been rad enough to let me hang in their presence) who inspire and intimidate me in equal measure. They are musicians, writers, filmmakers, event-organising magicians, public relations wizards, actors, models, photographers, poets, circus performers, artists and so much more. I could ask them for help, but I’m paralysed by the thought of revealing that I want to do what they can do because I know that I’m never going to be as good at it as they are. I feel that I’ve left it too late.

I’ve missed plenty of opportunities by not being brave enough to take them, and it’s only been in the last 12 months that I’ve actually started acting on some of them, like writing for BMA, getting stupidly obsessed about a movie and doing insane and wonderful things as a result, putting together a murder mystery party for my friends, sorting out my medication regime and preparing to get clearance to go and get my L’s. But there are so many more things that I’m shoving down and hiding, so many more things that I want to do. It’s not that I don’t have the time or the energy; it’s that I am just too lazy and too afraid of making the changes to my life that I need to in order to do them.

So I find excuses: I don’t have the equipment, I don’t have the time, I don’t have the brains or the creativity, I don’t have the energy. Excuses are easy, but they don’t bring me the rewards and peace I’m looking for.

Often I find the core reason for my apprehension is incredibly simple. I don’t know where to start. It’s hard to get the ball rolling at the best of times, and it’s even harder to ask people how to start. It feels like there’s this implication that starting is easy. You just do the thing! Simple! Make like Nike and just do it!

But it’s terrifying to start. I’m not brave. A friend of mine has a tendency to call people cowards in a comedic fashion during his shows, but every time I hear him say it, it hurts because in my case I know it to be absolutely true. And once you start, where do you go then? When you have no known end to the process, how do you go about stepping through it? I try to think about it and my brain struggles to comprehend it. Where is the reward when there is no set end?

Maybe I’m not cut out to be a creative after all. Perhaps I peaked at sixteen, when I finally finished that shitty novel that now sits on my external hard drive, taunting me with its blatantly uninformed, teenaged angst-filled nonsense. Perhaps there was a catalyst that beat all the boldness out of me and made me so scared of what people think of me. Maybe I just got older and my brain stopped being malleable and free and I forgot how to just go with the flow. Maybe my brain never had the ability to process it in the first place.

Whatever it is, I need to shake it off. It’s not useful in any way. It’s just making me feel bad, and in the last few years I’ve come to be fed up with feeling bad. I want to feel good.

And that means that somehow I have to work out how to start. It means I need to figure out how to keep going.

I need to get to work.

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Postscript: after I wrote this, I realised that my tagline for this blog is, “Let’s do the things that scare us.” I’m not sure if this is irony, or just completely appropriate. Either way, it’s worth noting, don’t you think?

*****

The theme of “Something That Scares Me” was also covered by the following Blog Carnival writers:

If you want a refresher on how Blog Carnival works, or want to join in: this is where you need to click your mouse.