Finding the Middle Way and unlearning anxiety.
It’s a balmy Saturday afternoon, the hottest it’s been in Calgary so far this year.
My 20th birthday is only eleven days away. I don’t know if this is a milestone or not — but I do know that I want something to show for it. I find myself constantly recalibrating, trying to create an amount of meaningful work.
Hopefully, I’m pushing myself the right direction.
Looking back at what I’ve written so far on Medium, I honestly can’t say I like much of it. I’ve been writing like crazy — over a complete article per day — for around two weeks now.
Not because I’m good at it, but rather because these thoughts are ones I’ve been holding on to for a long time, sometimes years.
And sometimes it’s only when you write down your ideas in front of you that you’re able to see that they’re a bit silly.
Don’t get me wrong, though, the entire point of the publication is for silly ideas, a place where I can write without feeling the pressure of relevance or meaningfulness. A starting point — baby steps.
But even then I look at what I have with discontent. Too much navel-gazing and not enough doing. It’s easy to file these sort of self-doubts under that dreaded inner-critic, but I think it’s more important to push yourself to try harder instead. I have a few ideas so far of what I want to focus on.
Goals for Future Writing
- Authenticity. I want to be more authentic in what I say — I don’t want there to be a barrier between who I actually am as a person and who I come across as. But you can’t escape the existential nature of that goal — who am I really? Does anybody in their 20’s actually know?
- Vulnerability. By extension of authenticity, I want to allow myself to be more vulnerable as well. I want to write my own stories, not generic think pieces that are vague enough that anybody could write.
- Creativity. I’m starting to find my style a bit played out already, too. I think be weird would be a good motto. Experimentation with cadence and flow, as well as even breaking fundamental rules of writing. Here’s a great example.
- Patience. Essentially, I’ll be slowing down my pace. I also want to write in a more long-form format. I’ll need to do a lot more research and I have a ‘plan’ for a new structured outline method. If it actually works, I’ll write more about it in the future.
To add, in the future, I might write up a formal code of conduct for the publication in general. But for now, being actively mindful of these things is good enough.
Dichotomy of Ideas
When I find myself in a creative — or rather, manic — state, I usually end up doing one of two things:
- Idealistically come up with bold, long-term plans of creative endeavor. Meticulously planning and scheduling every detail. This usually involves talking to a group of friends in a group chat about creating some sort of brave new project until 5 o’clock in the morning — thinking we’re geniuses. This is then followed by nobody following through with any of it. I usually find myself too invested in research and get analysis paralysis.
- Writing something by the seat of my pants. Creating new things without any forethought or planning. For some reason, this is the only way I actually find myself getting things done — this is how I started Everyday Essays. However, as soon as I find that I’ve started to build-up a legitimate body of work, my anxiety takes over and I usually halt the project on an indefinite hiatus and mindlessly move on to something else.
I want to stop needlessly forcing myself into these two extremes — an important concept in Guatama Buddhism is the Middle Way — and I also want to stop myself from seizing up with fear of failure (or success?) and finish projects I start.
Rainy Night Inspiration
After a long day of housekeeping work, when I’m walking home at night, I find myself most inspired.
When I’m listening to Sufjan Stevens and smelling the aftermath of rain — the petrichor — is when I find myself balling my fists as my head fills with a cacophony of ideas and projects I want to begin or resume.
How badly do I want to start composing another album, or start a photography website or watch lectures on the intricacies of Java libraries.
As soon as I get into my house — a rugged bedroom — and lie down or open up my laptop to read a few Medium posts, that surge is gone. Too quickly do I find myself planning tomorrow, or balancing household budgets, or mindlessly browsing the daily stories of the internet. The mind becomes bloated with the information and complexity of our everyday life.
We are obliged to our adult responsibilities, we cannot squander our rent and groceries for our arts.
At the same time, I recognize that I’m not really an adult, yet. And that I’ll have the most have free time now to be able to pursue what I really want to. I cannot squander it, I have to be grateful for it.
Not all of us have the ability to do what we actually want — which is exactly why it’s so infuriating to see those who do have the ability flounder and ignore it.
I can try my best to create preventive measures and actively attempt to keep myself on track — I can announce that I’ll be working more on the projects I’ve abandoned , or new ones — but none of that matters. Silently doing hard work does.
I’m running out of alibis to explain my situation. Seems like I’ve said it all before. I can’t escape the paradigm, so I sign my resignation and say goodbye to something more.