On the last day of November, I signed up to participate in #reverb10, a month-long challenge to blog every day of December based on prompts provided here. Here’s hoping it keeps me honest. Today's prompt: December 2 Writing. What do you do each day that doesn't contribute to your writing, and can you eliminate it? (Author: Leo Babauta)
How do I put this?
Everything I do takes away from my writing. All my life's tiny, interstitial moments add up to a pretty substantial chunk of time — hours and hours that I seem to choose to waste on other things. Things that are safe. Things that offer instant gratification.
I watch my Twitter stream refresh, two or three posts a second, sailing across my screen. I check my bank balance, half convinced some mysterious benefactor will have deposited a large sum of money since my last visit.
I rearrange my apartment. It's happened three times in as many months.
I zone out listening to NPR, even though I can't discern actual news half the time, beyond the Charlie Brown whomp-whomp-whomp of soothing radio voices, over the roar of my furnace.
I clean: fold clothes, wash dishes, consider dusting but never actually do. This place is so small that it's a disaster the second a stray sock finds its way to the floor. (I'm staring right now at a tote bag and a not-so-recent Staples purchase that have fallen from their rightful place in a bin next to my desk, and that third of my apartment now looks like a bomb dropped.)
I stare off into space, looking out the window at the grey sky over the grey concrete patio, tugging at the dry skin on my lips until they're so raw I have to force myself up to fetch my lip balm across the room.
I'll even go out and run before I'll sit down to write.
Because I fear writing. And often, that fear is paralyzing. Writing exhausts me, saps me creatively for the day. Or longer. Sometimes I'll sink two hours into writing a post without even realizing the time has passed. It's easy to spend 15 minutes stuck on one sentence, typing and deleting words until I find the supposedly perfect expression of some half-thought.
I'm a tough first read, my own harshest editor. I rarely publish a post without thinking, "Well, there goes another 800 words of shit out into the ether." Or something to that effect. Self deprecation rarely puts such a fine point on things.
Among my fears, expressed as simply (and rationally) as possible:
- Will anyone read it?
- Is there some grievous error I haven't spotted?
- Will there be angry backlash? (Ahem.)
- Will I stare at my e-mail all day without receiving a single comment?
- Is this little blog post taking away words and ideas from the book I'll eventually write?
Fear doesn't hold me back from much. But somehow, it often holds me back from doing what I love most in the world. That time I could be crafting a sentence with the potential to unlock pages of thought, or at least fleshing out some flash of inspiration that strikes me at an odd hour?
I fritter it away.
I can't eliminate these little things I do to keep myself from writing. It's not that they don't need to be done…eventually.
But if I gathered up all the time I waste in the course of a day, I'd have plenty of time to get those 800 words of shit out into the ether every day.