Dolphins are pretty damn swell, and I’m pretty sure they can also save reluctant writers from getting their faces eaten off by self-doubt.
It’s scary to start stuff.
It’s terrifying really, which is why it’s easier to not start anything at all. It’s easier to remain on a “safe island,” insulated from that fear and surrounded by things that just “are.” You don’t have to start them, or end them, or plan them, or anything. They just “are.” And everything stays the same, and you’re okay with that because that’s what you know. Maybe, sometimes, you want something different or something new, but you laugh that off. You are crazy to want change. CRAZY!
Fact is, Safe Island is boring. There’s nothing going on. You win at everything because you’re not doing anything. One day is the same as another. Static. Stale. After a while, it may even smell a little musty.
So one day you think, “I want to start this or that,” but there’s always tomorrow. Right? Tomorrow will come, and it will be a whole new day. Twenty-four hours to start whatever it is that you want to start. So you’ll just kick back for today. Walk the dog. Have a beer. Watch Anderson Cooper. Go to work. Whatever it is you do on Safe Island. You will see the same people, and they will say the same things. Maybe they too are marooned on Safe Island. It will be comforting. Comfortable.
Tomorrow will turn into the day after that. The day after that will turn into next week. Next month. Next year, even.
People say that it’s easy to procrastinate. I think not. It takes effort to ignore the inevitable. It’s stressful. Every day you wallow in a state of “what if?” and “no, I don’t need to do that today.” It’s almost a full-time mental job. People think procrastinators are lazy, unmotivated, stupid, etc etc. Truth is, they are exhausted.
It is anxiety. It’s indecision and uncertainty. It’s your mind whirling out of control, going in four directions at once. How can you start something if you’re not sure you can finish it? What will people think of you if you cannot finish it? How can you start something if you’re not sure what you’re even doing? Will you fail or will you succeed? What is failure, what is success? Isn’t simply doing something a kind of success?
You don’t know, because you’re too busy freaking out. Starting stuff is scary, but Safe Island is not scary. So you stay there. Because it’s nice on Safe Island. The weather is beautiful. The people are friendly.
But sometimes scary is good and good is scary. One day, global warming will catch up to us and all of the polar ice caps will melt. Safe Island will sink into the ocean and become a coral reef, and you will sink or swim or evolve a pair of gills.
Creative types are notorious procrastinators. Maybe it’s the thrill of a deadline or the fear of not being good enough.
And the difference between being personally successful or unsuccessful is whether or not you make the effort to escape from Safe Island. You may need to hijack a dingy. You may even sink into shark-infested waters, but hey, that’s a lot more interesting than being a hermit and watching infomercials all day.
Believe it or not, I was terrified to even begin this puny little blog entry. This is the extent of my creative paralysis and my perfectionism. I was afraid to fail at writing a blog that no one even knows about.
So, against the wishes of Safe Island, I’m starting on a journey. Well, I’ve been on the starting stage for a few months now, just thinking about it and writing snippets here and there, because starting stuff for real is super scary.
I’m writing a novel. Yes, like everybody is doing these days. But damnit, I want to do it. I love to write, and I love to tell stories. I might capsize my kayak and get eaten by a shark or stung by a stingray or whatever, but there are also dolphins in this god forsaken ocean. Dolphins are pretty damn swell, and I’m pretty sure they can also save reluctant writers from getting their faces eaten off by self-doubt.
I will also stick with my short stories because that is the domain of commitment-phobic writers. Which reminds me that I have a story I’ve been terrified to send off. It’s my baby, but again there’s always that doubt:
It may not be good enough.
“Well, hell!” I say. Nothing is ever good enough, so get over it and do something.
And if I never mention this novel again, then you’ll know what happened. Send the US Coast Guard.