A few weeks ago a comical illustration came up in my Facebook newsfeed about procrastination that really made me laugh out loud (you would have had to be there).
As a writer who spends more time faffing around than actually writing, the image, which listed writers’ favourite procrastination strategies (e.g. sharpening pencils, arranging desk, finding the perfect font!), really resonated with me. After all, I know that my dilly-dallying tactics are just my way of postponing the ever-nearing (yet never here) day when I must finally put pen to paper (or fingertips to keypad) and get that never-ending, forever-evolving monologue from my mind and into some kind of reasonable structure that will eventually (of course) be tarted up to become the next number one bestseller-come-movie release (oh, I can dream).
The thing is, the more serious implications of the post actually started to dawn on me. I am a real procrastinator and that’s fine in certain areas of my life (who ever really needs to get around to de-cluttering that ribbon drawer?) But when I put off doing the one thing that I really want to do, it is just a little bit very frustrating.
My love of writing probably stemmed from my first love – that of reading. As a child I was awestruck by stories set in faraway lands, from which the main characters (now deemed to be racially inappropriate – naughty Enid) would get up to fantastic, mystical adventures that would transport them into a world of pure imagination.
Although that childhood love of storytelling has never left me, my enthusiasm to actually share my tales in adulthood has steadily diminished. I tend to keep my creative ‘babies’ inside me for much, MUCH, longer than the necessary gestation period and if I do eventually ‘birth’ them I keep them hidden away from the eyes of anyone that may have something to say about them (whether complimentary or otherwise).
To my literary offspring, I am that overbearing mother that any unfortunate child would dread – you know the type who swathes her kids up in figurative cotton wool to the Nth degree. Also, by not fully letting my words out into the world, I can continue to be someone who wants to achieve my dream rather than someone living it, because then things would be pretty darn interesting and off the charts, to say the least. And, funnily enough, that SCARES the ever-loving innards out of me.
I’m not that protective with all of my creative outpourings. Recently I discovered an ability and a passion for drawing that had not so much laid dormant in me for years, but rather quite literally developed overnight. I had never shown any passion or ability in art at school or as an adult, so it took me by complete surprise when one day I had a strange urge to dig out my daughter’s colouring pencils and get doodling. It was fun and liberating and pride-inducing all rolled into one.
I was so excited to show my illustrations off to my friends and family. Not in a showy way, of course, but in the same innocent way that a four-year old (unburdened by the constraints of fear and self-doubt) will thrust her finger-painted, still-soggy masterpiece into your lap with an ear to ear grin that translates to “I’m AMAZING at this! I ROCK this art schizzle!”
For me, presenting my art came with a slightly more modest (and terribly British) “I’m quite okay-ish at this (ooh, I hope that doesn’t sound too big-headed)” approach. Admittedly though, I was chuffed to bits with myself and I was so full of confidence that after each illustration I couldn’t wait to share my creativity. My babies were well and truly out there doing mama proud.
Again, the thought of doing this with my writing terrifies me somewhat. “Surely, it’s writer’s block,” I’ll try to convince myself during one of many daily internal dialogues between myself and myself, whilst trying to justify another day’s inactivity. Deep down I know that’s not the case, however. I know that it’s because I’m just not ready to lay myself bare, put myself out there and let the thing that I dare to dream of MOST be up for scrutiny and judgement.
Approval and the need for validation is (as is probably true of many of us) at the forefront of my mind when conception phase gets underway. Yet I didn’t have that need for approval with my drawings, and it has started to dawn on me as to why. I had no expectations to become a drawer/artist/doodler. I just went with the flow and let this newly nurtured yet natural inclination to express myself in Crayola techno-colour take over me, ramming any budding fears out of the way in the process.
There was no time for the fear and the self-doubt, which plagues my writing ability, to take root. I also had no ‘history’ with drawing; no emotional baggage to speak of.
No years and years and years of going into libraries pouring over the shelves of beautiful, papery fragranced (if you like that kinda thing) dusty, split-spined books and romanticising all the while that someday my name would adorn the front of a hard-cover.
No months and months of researching and designing twists and turns in subplots that are so detailed and fabulous that they would surely be worthy of a three-dimensional airing on a gargantuan cinema screen somewhere.
No days and days of seeking out and then, finally, falling upon the perfect metaphor to describe the protagonist’s relationship with his distant, emotionally devoid father.
No hours and minutes and seconds of imagining how truly life-changing and gratifying it would be to know that my inner ramblings have encouraged or inspired or educated or simply entertained someone, anyone, in the way little me was all those years ago.
But the biggest factor is the untold time spent silently questioning:
“Am I really worth all that? Am I really *fill in the blank* enough?”
All of that history and expectation sure has a lot to live up to in the reality stakes, wouldn’t you say?
So, I’ve come to the conclusion that when it comes to following our dreams and living a life of pure passion and purpose, it all boils down to one simple and unavoidable truth. It’s all about self-acceptance: self-love: self-praise and such sheer and utter self-validation that your inner four year old can proclaim with magnificence, “I AM AMAZING AT THIS! I got this schizzle.”
Low self-efficacy and meek modesty have no place in this realm. If one must hide their light under a bushel hoping that someone will entice them out and tentatively urge them to showcase their talents then, come on, it’s really not worthy of true fire-fuelled passion, is it? After all, it doesn’t matter how many 5* ratings you receive on Amazon or the like: unless you are rating yourself off the charts you will never, EVER, feel validated enough.
There we are. I know that until I can realise my own worthiness and my own genius and be proud to shout it from the rafters, I will remain at a creative impasse in terms of my writing. And what a shame that would be, because I have my eye on a gargantuan cinema screen that may come in rather handy when I finally make-it…