Overcoming excuses

I’m sitting at my ‘desk’ (a TV table in front of my zebra-print folding chair in my childhood bedroom), while my kitten lays in my lap tugging on my hoodie strings, and I stare blankly at my empty Word document.

I’ve been sitting here for…45 minutes? An hour? I don’t actually know at this point, but what I do know is that it’s Thursday and I need to write a blog post to publish tomorrow. And yet I’m drawing a complete and utter blank. It’s not for lack of ideas – in fact, I have two different ideas for this particular week’s post, but despite how excited I felt about them initially, neither one feels particularly inspiring today.

And it’s not because those ideas are actually uninspiring anymore – on the contrary, I still think they’re both juicy topics for me.

It’s just that today is a very uninspired day for me.

For a little context, I’m recovering from being sick recently, and my energy has not returned to its usual levels. After delaying my new part-time nannying job for a week (because I was, ya know, sick when I was supposed to begin), I started this past Tuesday, and then had an equally busy day on Wednesday with other errands and commitments. Now it’s Thursday, and I am definitely feeling it, so despite getting more than enough sleep last night, I woke up exhausted and haven’t been able to shake it.

And when I’m tired, nothing sounds appealing, inspiring, or enjoyable. Nothing.

All I want to do is curl up in my bed and binge watch The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix – and honestly, I don’t think anyone would fault me for that. *I* wouldn’t even fault myself for that, knowing how important rest is when recovering from illness.

But I also know that the biggest reason I let this blog fall by the wayside last year is because I kept giving in to those excuses not to write: being too busy with my summer job, struggling with my depression under the weight of the pandemic, not wanting to force creativity when I wasn’t inspired to be creative.

And I know how disappointed I was in myself by the end of the year because I felt I had let myself down.

That’s why it was so important for me to recommit to my blog, and to set a schedule for posting that would help hold me accountable to stick with it.

And to be fair, all of those excuses I mentioned above are legitimate. It is important to prioritize work since I need to financially support myself. It is important to give myself grace when I’m struggling with my mental and emotional health. And it is important to not force creativity simply for the sake of it.

At the same time, there is a deeper complexity to each of those points.

While it is important to prioritize work, it is also important to find time to prioritize other ventures, such as social time with friends, time to work out or read a good book or do a puzzle, or time to engage in other passions – such as writing. Life isn’t one-dimensional, and I both want and need to make time for other facets of my life that keep me happy and healthy – physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.

While it is important that I give myself grace when struggling with depression, it is also important that I find the line between letting myself off the hook in those moments, and using it as an excuse to avoid doing things that are meaningful and important to me. If I love writing, why not use my emotional struggles as inspiration for it, in ways that help me process my feelings, rather than avoiding it? If I constantly let my depression convince me to give myself breaks in my artistic work (which has happened a lot over the past year), then I end up putting it off and losing opportunities to soothe myself through creativity; not to mention, I often feel more depressed when I’ve let my art fall by the wayside.

It is important not to force creativity for the sake of it, but it is also important to remember that ‘forcing’ creativity is not the same thing as holding myself accountable for engaging artistically. This point is the most nuanced and challenging for me to articulate.

I remember thinking on many occasions that I shouldn’t bother writing when I didn’t feel inspired because I didn’t want to ‘force’ it. But then I quickly ended up not writing at all, which left me dissatisfied and disappointed in myself. I was giving the power to make those decisions to my feelings, letting them tell me when I should and shouldn’t write – so if I didn’t feel like writing, I didn’t, because that would be ‘forcing’ it.

So I started to wonder what it actually means to 'force' creativity. Because I was letting that reasoning apply to any instance in which I wanted to write, regardless of what the topic or style or purpose was – and was therefore no longer holding myself accountable to engaging with my writing because at any point, my mind could convince me that I was 'forcing' myself to do it, so I'd stop.

I decided to define what ‘forcing’ creativity meant, and came to the conclusion that 'forcing' creativity is a little more nuanced than I had let my mind convince me that it was. There is a difference between holding myself accountable to write and gently pushing myself to climb over the mental hurdles of 'not feeling inspired', and making myself write about a topic simply because I had said I would.

The practical application of this new definition?

Well, I’m not going to force creativity by making myself write about one of the topics I had initially selected for this week for the sake of sticking with a plan; but I am going to push myself to still write something. Even if it’s shorter than my usual post, even if it’s not quite what I had in mind to write this week, and even if it’s not necessarily my best work because my brain is foggy and tired.

Writing something is better than nothing, because if I stop writing altogether, then it becomes very easy to keep putting it off again and again, day after day. The excuses will become louder with time, and I’ll find myself in the exact same situation I was in last year: with each week that passed without writing, it became that much harder to pick it back up, and the shame of quitting grew stronger than the will to start it again.

I don’t want that to happen this time.

I won’t let that happen this time.

So this post is what it is – the thoughts and musings of a very tired brain – but regardless of how it lands or compares to my other work, I’m proud of myself for doing it.

Because I didn’t let the excuses win this time.

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