Creativity in the Trenches

I’ll give it to you straight.

As I write this, it’s a Sunday afternoon and I’m sitting in my friend’s apartment (where there’s air conditioning, which my house lacks, and it’s 95F outside) trying to wrap up the third version of Evernote Essentials. I’ve been here since 8:15 this morning. I spent 8 hours here yesterday doing the same thing: writing, compiling, editing.

Yesterday went well. I wrote a lot of good stuff and I felt like the end was in sight.

Today, not so much.

I’ve read plenty of books on creativity and working and pushing yourself and treating the work like the almost-insurmountable beast that it is. And, man, I felt like I could turn over a Jeep with my bare mitts when I read them.

Right now, though, I’m sitting at this table in front of my computer. I’ve been trying to write for the last 5 hours and I’ve produced a grand total of about 400 usable words. Yesterday, I wrote over 3000 usable words and felt like a machine. For some reason, today, the words aren’t coming.

I could blame any number of possible mitigators for this unfortunate state: the heat, the lack of a break or maybe something to do with sleeping/eating/pooping or whatever. But, according to the books, these are the trials that cripple the “regulars”; the people that rely on inspiration and ideal conditions to create their best work. Not wanting to count myself among the ordinary, I instead sit here and wish and hope and will myself into the mode where I can actually write things that people will find valuable and want to read and that I don’t think is utter shit.

But, I can’t. Not now.

I don’t know if that makes me weak or if I don’t have “what it takes” or some other similar symptom of “ordinary”, but it just ain’t happening.

What it’s Like

When I was a younger kid, a pass through a doorway in my house always meant I would try to jump up and reach the door jamb. I would jump as high and as hard as I could and I longed to feel the tips of my fingers brush up against the wood that held our doors up. Sometimes my Dad would lift me up so I could feel the sensation. And, for much of my life, I couldn’t do it unassisted.

Sure, I could have spent my afternoons conditioning my leg muscles and juicing up and all of that, but as an unmodified 8-year-old, I wasn’t capable of it.

It’s not a problem for me these days. I don’t even need to jump unless I’m in a castle or something.

Right now, I feel like I’m reaching for the door jamb and I can’t quite get to it. And the shit part of it is that I’ve touched this very door jamb before. Lots of times, actually. But not today.

Giving Up

I’m giving up for today. Maybe not even for the whole day. It’s the early afternoon, after all, and perhaps there’s a chance that I’ll find my creativity or muse or whatever goofy name du jour it’s got later today. If I do, it will probably be at the bottom of a modest pour of whisky. Anyway.

I don’t see this as defeat. It’s maddening, certainly, but I’m not going to hang it up forever or anything. I know I have at least a passable talent for this and one off-day isn’t going to derail it.

But, in terms of being a professional (as Steven Pressfield calls it), I believe there are definitely times when creative people bump up against some nameless barrier that stops them from making. Call it what you want (Pressfield’s moniker of choice is “Resistance”, which I actually quite like), but there’s some fat, mostly-immovable thing sitting between me and what I want to do today. And, as I sit here, I don’t have the strength to dislodge it.

And I’m okay with that. Sort of.

Actually, no, I’m not.

Truthfully, I’m brimming over with frustration and anger and self-doubt. This shit needs to get done for a variety of reasons and I don’t have oodles of discretionary time to do it. I borrowed heavily from my “time away from the family” account to get this done and now I’m sitting here having produced what somebody from southern Italy would call “Jack Shit” and I’m ready to snap this computer in half because I can’t make myself do what needs to be done.

Standing Up

Tomorrow will be better. Maybe the temperature will drop a few degrees and maybe I won’t feel like such a f*cking dunce and maybe it will be better. The words may come and the work may get done. Or maybe not.

Either way, I decided a long time ago to not stop trying. Acquiescence in the face of difficulty is a hallmark of “regular” and like hell I’m going to go out like that.

Sorry for the self-indulgent pity party. I love you all. See you tomorrow.