There was nary a child in the 90s who didn’t love Goosebumps, the horror-lite book series by R.L. Stine. Some of them were just ridiculous (such as the evil sponge in It Came From Beneath the Sink!) and others were downright creepy. I like to think of Goosebumps as a gateway drug to darker and scarier things, which maybe explains why I started reading Stephen King at the age of 10.
Writers have a knack for procrastination. We’re pros–or at least, I am. I’ll sit down with the intention to write and be suddenly aware of the looming piles of laundry that need washing. “I’ll just start a quick load and then write while it washes–no biggie,” I tell myself. Along the way, I notice that I somehow let my house fall into a state of deterioration and uncleanliness that would make it worthy of an episode of Hoarders.
“I’ll just pick up a few things,” I’ll tell myself. “I’m clearing out the clutter to open my mind for writing.”
Six hour later, I’ve scrubbed my house from top to bottom and am folding my third load of laundry while watching a Toddlers and Tiaras marathon.
At this point I realize that while my house is sparkling, I have done absolutely nothing in terms of writing. I’m about to start when my stomach growls and I’m reminded that it’s time for dinner. After cooking, eating, and cleaning the kitchen, I’m exhausted from scouring the house (and slightly high from inhaling all the fumes from the cleaning products) and I don’t have the energy to write. All I seem to be able to manage is to minimize the blank document and zone out as I stare zombie-like at the Internet.
Is my behavior atypical? I don’t think so. But why is it that I have such a strong desire to do anything but when it comes to writing? I’ve thought about it and for me, I think it comes down to fear. Sure there are days that I just feel lazy but I love the feeling I get from writing, the feeling that I’ve created something unique. But the fear sets in because of self doubt–what if what I create isn’t good enough? What if I spend all this time writing something that’s just terrible and I fail? Not that everything I write has to be brilliant but there’s a pathetic kind of safety net that I create for myself that says, “if I don’t try, I can’t fail.”
However, inaction is another form of failure. So what do I do now? How do I motivate myself to push forward?
To start, I have to ignore the mess. My house won’t blow up if I leave the mess for an hour so I can write and the same goes for the laundry. Next, I need to drown out that insecure voice in my head which is often easier said than done. But I think the key is to remember that I write for me. Writing makes me happy and I shouldn’t stress myself out. If I enjoy writing, I should write. If I don’t, I should stop and find something else to do. Procrastinating is a failure to do something I love and I think that later in life I’ll look back and I won’t say, “Man, I’m glad my house was spotless,” but I might say, “Wow, I remember how much fun I had writing that story.”
If you love it, do it. Don’t make up excuses to keep yourself from doing something you enjoy. If you let a fear of failure keep you from doing something, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because you’ve already failed by not trying.
This post originally appeared on The Next Great American Writer.
*Note* This post might contain spoilers about Inside Llewyn Davis. Sorry.
Several weeks ago, I saw the movie Inside Llewyn Davis. I was really impressed by the film and I was fairly surprised since I’m not usually a big Coen brothers fan.
|That’s right, I didn’t like The Big Lebowski.|
I think the reason why I found this movie so compelling has to do with how much I identified with the main character, Llewyn Davis. Unfortunately, I found this kind of bothersome because Llewyn Davis is kind of a jackass. He’s a folk singer in New York in 1961 and he’s very talented but he’s also rude, abrasive, a freeloader, he sleeps with his friend’s wife and gets her pregnant, he’s disconnected from his sister, nephew, and father, he finds out he has a child and doesn’t make any attempt to contact the mother, and he abandons a really cute orange kitty in a car with a coked out John Goodman.
|What a dick.|
I’m not running around abandoning cats or impregnating other people’s wives, but I admired Llewyn Davis’s dedication to his craft. He has sacrificed everything else in his life in order to continue to write and perform music and I think that at some point, everyone who pursues a creative passion has to ask themselves the question:
how far am I willing to go and what am I willing to sacrifice in order to pursue my passion?
This is ultimately what determines how large of a role your creative endeavors will play in your life. If you’re not willing to sacrifice much, it will probably be little more than a hobby. If you’re willing to sacrifice more, your life will ultimately become about your craft, whether it be writing, music, painting, sculpting, or whatever else you enjoy doing.
|Whatever floats your boat, dude.|
Neither level of dedication or any of the areas in between are right or wrong, it’s about finding what the right balance is for you as an individual. And total sacrifice in dedication of your passion doesn’t guarantee success either. But creatively-inclined people need to ultimately make that decision about whether they’re willing to sacrifice everything in order to feel like they are living their truth or if they’re only comfortable with giving up little more than a Chopped marathon.
|Oh my god I love Chopped.|
While thinking about the premise for this article, I’ve been asking myself how much I’m willing to sacrifice for writing. I’ve loved books since I could read and I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was six years old and after giving it some thought, I’ve found the balance that currently works for me. I am willing to give up getting a higher paying job and continue working in service industry jobs I hate because they don’t require me to take my work home with me so I can dedicate my free time towards writing. I am willing to deal with the judgement of other people who think I should give up on writing and get my shit together already and move on to something more financially promising or stable. I’m willing to tell people I write and endure their preconceived notions and the obnoxious statements and questions that, nine times out of ten, inevitably follow.
What I’m not willing to sacrifice, however, is time away from my family, especially my husband and son. If given the choice, I will always choose them. Does this mean that I will or won’t have success as a writer? I have no idea. But I think it’s important to set up your own parameters and boundaries to figure out exactly how much of your life that you’re willing to give to your passion. Llewyn Davis gave everything and although I wouldn’t make the same choices, I admire the dedication.
So now, all you creative people, you need to ask yourself the same question: how much am I willing to sacrifice for my art?
The movie that took “talking out of your ass” to a whole new level.
2. Blank Check
The movie that taught 90s kids that it’s incredibly easy to cash a million dollar check without anyone asking too many questions. Also, giant, castle-style mansions go for well under a million dollars so you can still have enough money left over for a huge birthday party.
Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s most dignified acting role to date, perhaps rivaled only by Jingle All the Way.
This movie, although 20 years old, is still completely relevant in capturing the feelings of recent college graduates. Yes, there are some people that seem to figure their shit out right away but for the rest of us, this movie makes us feel like maybe there’s still hope.
The Coen brothers‘ hilarious and fictitious take on the invention of the hula hoop. I’m not usually a big fan of the Coen brothers’ comedy films (I know, I know–please don’t lynch me in the comments) but this one is pretty funny.
“WEEEEE ARE THE CHAMPIIIIIIIIONS, MY FRIIIIIEEEEEENNNNNNND!”
8. The Crow
This iconic cult classic is unfortunately tinged with sadness as it was Brandon Lee’s final movie and he died during filming due to accidental gunfire in one of the movie scenes. But the movie lives on as his legacy and it’s dedicated to Lee and his fiancee.
I remember seeing this movie for a friend’s birthday party/sleepover. All of us girls put up our hair like Pebbles and then the birthday girl’s mom took us all to the theater. We looked AMAZING.
Fun fact, this was Elizabeth Taylor’s last theatrical release film.
Drama! Love triangles! Brad Pitt! Prohibition! Montana!
11. The Lion King
This Disney take on Shakespeare’s Hamlet has certainly remained a classic standard for Disney movies and musicals. It’s also inspired an incredibly successful Broadway show as well as one of my favorite TV moments of all time:
12. Forrest Gump
This iconic film chronicling one man’s journey through several significant moments in 20th century American history won several Academy Awards and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being historically, aesthetically, and culturally significant.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character doesn’t understand the sarcasm when his deadbeat dad tells him that JGL can live with him when the Angels win the pennant. Instead, he wishes for real angels to come help his baseball team which includes players like Tony Danza, Adrien Brody, and Matthew McConaughey.
|This . . . might be from a different movie.|
The movie where two very nice people win the lottery after lifetimes of racking up good karma and it turns out they’re surrounded by assholes.
15. The Mask
Jim Carrey’s second huge movie of 1994. I remember having the soundtrack to this movie on cassette and listening to it on my Walkman until my ears bled.
|We’re just going to pretend like this never happened.|
That’s right, folks, one of the most controversial films of all time turns 20 this year. Although, as messed up as this movie is, it kind of pales in comparison to some of the twisted movies that have been released since.
Jean-Claude Van Damme travels through time to save Ferris Bueller’s girlfriend. Also, lots of stuff blows up.
18. Pulp Fiction
“Does he look like a bitch?”
Based on Stephen King’s novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, it is considered one of the best movies of all time and is listed in the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 best films of all time (fun fact: it outranks both Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction).
20. Dumb and Dumber
Apparently the movie powers that be are working on a sequel, Dumb and Dumber To, that is set to be released in November. I’m not sure if I should be excited or saddened.
|I made it 11 hours into a 3 day cleanse.
Willpower is not one of my strong suits.
This year, however, my resolutions look a little different. I have always been a Type A personality kind of gal (which is a polite way of saying I’m a control freak). I like lists and plans and schedules and organization because it makes me feel like I’m in control of my life and my surroundings.
|This store’s catalogue is like porn for me.|
Lately, however, I’ve had to face the fact that I cannot control everything. My husband and I are expecting our first child, a son, in early February and while babies are world shakers all on their own, our son was diagnosed with an extremely rare and randomly occurring heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). For you non-medical types (like me), that’s basically a fancy title that means that the left side of his heart isn’t developing the way it’s supposed to and with our case, he’s more than likely going to need a heart transplant.
No one knows what causes HLHS and the doctors have repeatedly stressed to me that there was nothing I did that caused our son to have this heart condition; it’s completely out of anyone’s control. It just happened.
As could be expected, something of this magnitude being out of my control does not sit well with me. Everything that I had planned for and expected to happen about having a baby has gone completely about the window. I had expected this . . .
. . . instead of what has happened so far. In order to be closer to a better hospital, surgeons, and resources to help our son, my husband and I uprooted our lives and moved on very short notice. We’re working with an amazing team to try and create a treatment plan for our son but there’s so much variation within HLHS that it’s hard to plan for much which means that we just have to wait and see.
|As you may have figured out, I am not a “wait and see” kind of person.|
I have come to the conclusion that this year’s resolutions for me need to be about giving up control rather than trying to take control. There’s only so much that I can do and what’s going to be best for my mental well-being is to let go of my need to be in control.
I think this might be a good attitude to have in general, not just for my particular situation with our son. There’s only so much that we as people can control about our circumstances and sometimes, it might be the healthier option to just let it all go.
This might not be a popular line of thinking, especially in a day and age when we as people are constantly told to “grab control of our destinies” and “take charge of our lives” and “seize the day.”
|Sometimes Christian Bale insists we do this through song and dance.|
And I’m not saying we shouldn’t still try and set goals for ourselves and work hard to achieve them because we should. But there are times when I think we need to realize the importance of letting go and realizing we’re not as in charge of everything as we’d like to be. It’s kind of a freeing feeling, to admit that I don’t know what’s going to happen and what’s more, I can’t plan for it.
But if we’re being honest, there’s a good chance I’m going to channel all of my need to control into reorganizing my pantry again and again and again.