Why it's so tough for me to do what I love -- write
I have once again been afflicted by the "What I write is bullshit. No one likes/will want to read bullshit. Therefore, don't write unless you are 100% certain it's not gonna turn out shitty" syndrome.
Because I was -- and continue to be -- bogged by this, I realise I fall into a monthly pattern of:
1. Blogging at a sudden spurt of energy and enthusiasm
2. Admiring my work and patting myself on the back
3. Giving myself pressure to top that and produce better writing
4. Not having any ideas/brain juice used up by previous post
5. Feeling sorry for my lack of talent
6. Digging an imaginary hole to crawl into. "Let's hibernate here and hide my lack of talent from the world. No one will see, so no one will know (about my sorry state of "untalentedness")
7. Reads something inspiring and decides to pick myself up again. By then, 1 month has flown by.
So now, I'm back at the start of the cycle. Here's my stage 7 inspiration:
A friend sent it to me about 2 weeks ago. And I'm only picking up the pen today. That's how deep my imaginary mind cave of escapism was.
Here's what got me back to writing:
In the article, Dr Kelly Flanagan shared that he panicked after publishing a post:
...This time, the writing had flowed smoothly and was, I thought, pretty decent. And it wasn’t controversial at all. In fact, I’d written about the topic before. Several times. And the posts had always been pretty well received. So, what was I suddenly feeling so insecure about?
I’d written about the topic before.
For a week, my shame came to me in a new form: a question—when are folks going to get sick of me struggling with, and writing about, the same old stuff? I imagined thousands of people at home, thinking, “Kelly’s struggling with his ego and achievement issues again and, once again, finding a mindful way back to his soul. Been there, done that.”
I was afraid I’d worn out my welcome.
The exact same sentiment. Here I am, writing once again about emotions, insecurities, fears, doubts, afraid that readers will get bored and judge me for being someone who can't deal with her own shit. I am afraid of being judged for being real.
But yep. I'm stepping above this fear because Dr Flanagan gave me courage. Everyone's living the same old narratives over and over everyday. Narratives manifested in big life-changing events or in inconspicuous, subconscious habits and modes of living. I'm gonna write about my emotions again this time round. And yeah, I'm gonna write, once more, about what it means, when you feel shitty, to create that alignment within yourself and feel empowered again.
I left out some things at stage 6. I forgot to say that after I publish a post and thereafter feel good about myself before plunging into self-pity and being absorbed by a false perception of self-inadequacy, I turn to other means to derive happiness and attain a (fake) sense of accomplishment: sitcoms and reality TV shows.
The discomfort between deciding to write again and actually opening up a blank page to type in is real. I'm not exaggerating. It's painful because I'm in between a pat-myself-on-the-back-for-deciding-to-do-something-worthwhile and impending-proof-of-your-shitty-writing. So, I deal with this discomfort by watching hilarious comedies and TV programmes which make me laugh and temporarily forget this discomfort even existed. But being a passive receiver of these shows has not only made me feel extremely unproductive (therefore more regret for not doing productive work like blogging), but also dumber because I'm not working my brain and doing real stuff. I swear my brain has gotten slower and I forget more easily now. (Again, added regret for not blogging + more self-blame).
The ironic thing is, writing makes me happy. It makes me feel alive, excited, and eager to do more and be better. It's brain exercise yet emotional respite. So the logical thing would be: If it makes you feel good, you do more of it. True. But not when self-doubt and self-blame wedge themselves in between this equation unceremoniously.
I'm a suffering perfectionist. In my mind, everything has to be pristine and perfect before it can be considered "done". Yet with such a mindset I can never achieve perfection and this incurs a lot of disappointment in myself and doubt about my own ability to produce quality work. The same goes for doing what I love. Only barely do I refrain myself from polishing my blog posts and diving into the nitty-gritty details.
On the train home today, I read The Wall Street Journal's Steps to Turn Off the Nagging Self-Doubt in Your Head. It served as another reminder (and inspiration #2) of the deeply-ingrained habits of negative thinking I had:
Many of us—whether due to genetics, brain chemistry, our experiences or coping skills—tell ourselves way too many negative thoughts. We ruminate, thinking the same negative, unproductive thoughts over and over.
Each thought is made up of a complex pattern of activity between proteins and other chemicals, gene expressions and neural connections in our brain. The more we have a thought, the stronger this circuit grows.
And the more we think negatively, the stronger our neural networks get devoted to negative thoughts = a more unhappy brain. I keep thinking I suck, therefore I do.
Practising positive thinking, or cognitive reappraisal (reframing negative thoughts constructively to become positive ones that are based in reality), takes a hell lot of effort and discipline. But I see the parallel: Even doing what I love takes a lot of discipline (to prevent myself from indulging in bad habits of thinking and doing).
But we have to start somewhere, right? (I have no idea how to end this post but in the spirit of things, I decide not to act upon the urge to sit on this post, mull over it for a week before deciding to publish it).
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old but on building the new.”