It’s Monday. Which means it is almost Tuesday. Which means that I have writing class tomorrow. Which means it is time to beat myself up for not doing the homework assignment that I’ve known about since last Tuesday. Hmmmm, I really hate to break with tradition, but it turns out that I don’t have time to beat myself up about the silly homework assignment due tomorrow because I am way too busy beating myself up about not writing the freakin’ manuscript I’m supposed to turn in tomorrow for critique by the group. I’ve known about that little deadline since, ummm, late January.
In January, when the sign-up sheet was going around, it seemed like a good idea to give myself some time before volunteering to submit my writing for critique. You know, time to get myself in the habit of writing, to get a good idea of something to write about, to practice some of the skills we have been learning about….March seemed very comfortably far away. Now “March” is tomorrow and that means I’m fucked.
Apparently January-Kim grossly underestimated February-Kim’s procrastination skills. Big mistake.
February-Kim raised procrastination from it’s lowly position as a bad habit to “Procrastination!” – a form of Art. Mere avoidance of the unpleasant task of doing the thing I feel I should be doing is, apparently, not enough. The new strategy, as we discussed last week, is to acknowledge what needs to be done, specifically, and then to let my inner fuck you take over. This is an important distinction! A turning point, if you will. It is no longer enough to let my fear control me passively (“I’m scared so I’m going to pretend like I don’t know I’m avoiding doing the thing I need to do…”) now my fear gets to take affirmative action… (“Look, I KNOW I should be doing that thing and, listen up world, I’m deliberately choosing NOT to do it….”) So, my technique (with respect to this particular thing, i.e., writing) has changed, but the fear is still the motivator.
Heavy sigh…. I guess that means I have to figure out what the fear is about….explore the fear….reason with it….FUCK.
Me: “Hey, Wall-o-Fear, WTF?”
Wall-o-Fear: “Excuse me?”
Me: “You know exactly what I mean. I’m finally taking steps in the direction of my DREAM to be some kind of writer, like, for example, taking a class on writing. Well, it turns out I need to WRITE to participate in the class. Actually, I need to write no matter what, because that is how I’m going to figure out whether this is really something I want to do AND to explore all kinds of writing. But there is a problem, namely you, preventing me from actually writing. Why have you put your big ass down in the middle of the path to my DREAM?”
Wall-o-Fear: “Oh, sweet, silly Kim…. You don’t really want to write, you just want to not-practice-law and writing seems like a good alternative at the moment. I’m afraid that you’re going to find out that you SUCK at writing and/or that it is totally impractical to think you can write and support yourself and then where would you be? You simply should not be wasting your time writing, you should be looking for a new job and, I know you don’t want to hear this, the new job should probably be a legal one.”
Me: “Is that you, Kimberly?”*
Wall-o-Fear: “No, I’m not Kimberly….I’m even bigger and more powerful than Kimberly….Kimberly is really just the first line of risk management. She is supposed to prevent you from taking horrifying risks like not-studying-business-in-college, or not-practicing law. While Kimberly has, historically, been very effective, it appears she is now becoming a little soft, succombing to logic and reason, rather than staying focused on fear, so I had to step in. Oh, and my ass isn’t big. You, my dear, are projecting.”
Me: “Lovely. I now officially have Multiple Personality Disorder with paranoid characteristics and a skinny ass, can’t wait to tell my friends.”
Wall-o-Fear: “It’s called Dissociative Identity Disorder these days, and you don’t fit the clinical definition…yet. Anyway, here’s the deal: I’m practically a super-hero… I am made up of the fear of doing the Wrong Thing, which, by definition, includes the fear of being judged, the fear of missing out on another opportunity and, my favorite, the fear of ending up destitute and alone and living under a bridge. On top of those fears, we have the fear of going ahead (against everyone’s advice) and failing spectacularly, thereby negating everything you feel you know about yourself and leaving you to wonder who the hell you really are if you’re not a Lawyer and not a Writer.
Wall-o-Fear: “I know, right? I’m not even done yet — don’t forget that if you actually start writing, you will be putting more of yourself out into the world than ever before and 9 out of 10 experts agree that that is a super bad idea. Vulnerability is never ok, never. I think I even have some of that “fear of success” mixed in as well! Frankly, I am shocked and dismayed that little-old-you has even dared to confront me.”
Me: “Me too…I had no idea all of that was in you…! Listen, I feel sad that you have so much fear. I know you just want to protect me, and I’m grateful, I really am. It just seems like some of your fears are unrealistic and overblown. On top of that, you haven’t even considered that the “me” you’re trying to protect is a “me” who really, really, wants to write. Your fear doesn’t protect that “me” – if you get your way I am sentenced to a life of wondering what could have been and feeling like I’ve wasted the only talent I have. Is it worse to have “everyone else” judge me for taking a risk or to spend my life judging myself for not taking a risk? I don’t have to live with “everyone else”, I have to live with me. Besides, we are just talking about doing homework… not trying to write a book.”
Wall-o-Fear: “Interesting. It appears you have forgotten that, as a general rule, “everybody else” knows more about what you should be doing than, well, you. The consensus is that you don’t dare do your writing assignments or turn in anything for critique because, as we have discussed ad nauseum, that is a slippery slope that could lead to you deciding that you want a full-blown writing career and that could be a catastrophe. It is too risky.”
Me: “Fuck you and your “general rule” …. I understand there are risks, but I am just doing a homework assignment for a voluntary writing class, I’m not saying ‘yo, from now on I’m a writer and I’m never going to do anything else but write, even if my writing sucks and noone wants to read it and I find myself looking for a nice bridge to call home….’ Thus your “slippery slope” argument is nothing more than a red herring. I just want to try….”
Wall-o-Fear: “Do you think I don’t know that you, essentially, quit your job and have no immediate plans for preventing homelessness?”
Me: “Will you stop with the homeless thing already? You’re so dramatic. I’m not going to be homeless — the worst-case scenario is that I run completely out of money and live temporarily in someone else’s home, not under a bridge. You know that I could not keep doing child welfare law and you know that I’m just done practicing law altogether. This does not mean that I can’t have any job… Would you feel better if I had a good-enough-job that didn’t suck the life out of me while I’m trying to figure out this writing thing?”
Wall-o-Fear: “A little, but I still think the writing thing is frivolous.”
Me: “Yes, I’m totally clear on how you feel about the writing thing. Jesus. Bottom line is that I need you to be less scared so that you can ease the fuck up and let me get myself a little less “stuck” around this writing issue. So, I guess I’ll get a good-enough-job”.
Me: “Does this mean I can do my assignment and manuscript for writing class tomorrow?”
Wall-o-Fear: “Probably not.”
Me: “Of course it doesn’t.”
* if you are wondering who “Kimberly” is, you’re new here….welcome! Kimberly is the least-nice person in my head, learn more about her here and here, oh, and here. yes, i know there is probably a better way to identify things… give me a break.