Many things sit on a metaphorical shelf in my mind. Those things are my interests. The activities I’d like to take part in, the stories I’d like to read, the shows I’d like to watch, the skills I’d like to learn… Unfortunately, it seems that of late that shelf appears to be collecting dust. Too often I find myself forgoing all these other interests for other things.
As we all are aware (or at least most of us should be aware), there are only 24 hours within a day to get things done. Within that time, we sleep, eat, take care of our bodily functions, maybe work on those days we are scheduled, spend time with the family, and end up left with a few hours of time for ourselves — if we’re lucky.
Days in the past went on where I had less than no time for myself for one reason or another, even losing time to eat and sleep because of things going on. Some have more days like that than others. I remember a time in my life when I worked two full-time jobs. (At least twice during that stint I fell asleep at the wheel, being fortunate to wake before anything happened. Talk about scary.) I traded my time to sleep with the prospect of earning money. One can argue that it was a terrible choice. Maybe I would agree. I didn’t need that extra money of having 2 full time jobs; I would’ve been OK working a full-time and a part-time job, which I ended up doing. Still, at the time I did need that money. Everything else took a back seat.
It seems that it is happening again. At least this time it is for a different reason. And there are different things that I am trading.
This last decade has been an entertaining exploration of my desire to be a writer. Before that — since before my 20’s — it was a hobby I enjoyed on occasion when the mood struck. A lot of writers operate like that. We each wait until the Venn diagram of time and inspiration overlap to produce actual writing. Seldom to we force ourselves to treat it like a profession. It’s art after all!
That’s how I treat my drawing and painting now. Unfortunately, the time portion of that Venn diagram tends to avoid any contact with the motivation side. Because I don’t force the issue. It’s not treated in the same way I treat my writing now — or rather, how I am trying to treat my writing.
A lot of it is priority, or making sure that I am spending at least some time on the tasks I wish to spend that time on. Instead of mindlessly participating in the day’s activities, such as clicking on the television or scrolling through social media, it takes the clarity to make a conscious choice in what that time is going to be spent doing. I’d go so far as to assert that I, along with most people, have more than enough time to do much more than we all think, the only problem being that we don’t put in the effort to choose what those things are.
Now granted, I do have to admit that even though I have and am trying to make these choices, I am not even close to perfect (or even good) at my execution. I still struggle with distraction. But that is another topic.
Going through the days of writing, I am finding that to get anything actually accomplished I have to forcibly pull the two circles in the Venn diagram to overlap in full. They don’t overlap on their own most of the time if I leave things as they are. Most often I would go about my day and forget about writing otherwise because one or the other circles is off somewhere getting a drink.
That’s what it really means to be a professional artist. And in this world of consumerist entertainment, it is a unique challenge to be a creative type. There is an ease to access all-consuming forms of entertainment and distraction that didn’t exist in decades and centuries and millennium past. Being professional means ignoring all those things, forcing yourself to sit down at the fucking desk and do the work.
Assuredly, it sucks sometimes. Well, it sucks a lot. It’s a choice, though.
And it’s not always about simply banning the distractions.
This is where the real pain of this all starts. To commit to one thing means that there is less time to do another project. Making time for writing means less time for say, painting and drawing. Or watching shows and movies I’d enjoy. Or some other form of entertainment. After all, it’s all about trade-offs.
We often like to think of choices as one or the other. Black or white. Good or evil. If we make a choice, it is all for the good. Somehow, no matter how many times life shows us otherwise, we continue to operate in that fashion.
Or we might really see how things are a trade-off, afraid that when we make a decision, no matter which it is, that we are always going to lose. That whatever decision we make is going to be the wrong one.
Both are accurate; both are wrong. Trade-offs mean exactly that. Choice is integral here. Because we choose one thing, another thing is not going to get the attention we’d like it to have. My writing vs drawing continues to be an example here. I’d like to be able to do both. Though I don’t do it very often, I love to draw. Compared to writing though, it will always take a backseat. I use this example because they are both creative endeavors. Going for one over the other does mean that I am doing something creative. In that case, it is a win. Conversely, as the sketch pad and pencils sit there, unused, a creeping feeling of regret builds up on occasion.
The fact that I don’t watch much TV isn’t as big a deal to me when compared to the lack of drawing. Even that lack hits. Stranger Things season 4 is a fantastic example of something that I have knowingly missed out on in favor of writing. Granted, I haven’t “missed out” per se, given that it’s always there so long as there is a Netflix, but all the hype and social fervor that accompanied it, I did miss out on. All the discussions, the conversations… everything… gone. I might get the excitement of watching it, but all the people I know will effectively respond with a shrug.
It was writing that kept me from watching it. I might not have been actively writing, but the activities I took part in were all about building up that energy to yank those two sides of the Venn diagram together. Those choices culminated in new habits and a return to daily writing streaks that I haven’t seen in a long time. My choices have started to return on the investment — on the sacrifices I gave.
Proceeding with this writing thing means that I have to make a choice. How do I spend my time? Write or do something else? With those limited hours in the day, that choice isn’t always easy. Lately though, it has gotten easier. Maybe as time goes on and I get better at it, I might be able to incorporate some of those other activities I’ve traded my time for in favor of writing, but until that time — that is the choice I make.
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