#13. How To Avoid Writing
Welcome (back) to issue #13 of my letters! (You can read the others here.)
I don't know if I've been avoiding writing, or if writing has been avoiding me, but I do know that, somewhere around 6pm on Thursday, as I go for a late afternoon run, the old men in the neighborhood take out the garbage for trash day. Slowly they move, in their dress shirts and slacks--casual house wear of older days when they were younger--checking the placement of the garbage can, tilting their heads to the right and to the left to ensure its evenness. They move with a smile and, more admirably, without any sense of urgency. Whether out of age or deliberation, who can say? Maybe it's false, my idea that the closer we move to the natural end of our lives, the more hurried we are to fill the space that's left. I find myself rushing through my day and my work and my regular to-do's to get to it, whatever it is - well, I suppose it is the thing that breathes life into us, but only if we first breathe life into it. And I'm reminded that I'm missing it completely. (I'm also missing it.) I could be wrong, but from where I stand or, rather, as I run past, the old men seem to have found it. It's the slow and purposeful trip from the door to the bottom of the driveway. It is the savoring of each moment, as if it were an end unto itself. The space that's left, not meant to be filled.
The first, and perhaps the most crucial, step of avoiding any creative (or non-creative) act is to vow to yourself that you will get all of it done, today. This will ensure that the disparity between what you said you will do and what you actually did is that much more impressive and disappointing.
The rest is all downhill (or uphill, depending on what state of being you're in):
Worry about everything that is both in your control and not in your control. Examples of the former include what to do with your life, how to spend the rest of this evening, whether or not to hold on to that thing you did earlier that you felt was unkind but deserved, whether or not to hold on to that thing someone said to you that was unkind and definitely not deserved. Examples of the latter include when your loved ones will die and whether you will hear about it at an appropriate time (whatever "an appropriate time" means) or happen upon the scene of the accident while you're out walking the dog.
One good thing about avoiding writing is the opportunity to get into "better" shape. You can go for a run to "clear your head" even though that's the last thing your head wants and even though you sometimes really dislike running and it misaligns a lot of your joints.
Watch tv and keep reminding yourself that you deserve this, to lie down lopsided on the couch, because watching television is "relaxing."
Play, for a shameful amount of time, a game on your phone that you tell others is helping you prevent dementia but is probably contributing to however many undiagnosed mental disorders you've collected and have been cycling through.
Stare at something, anything other than what is required to write--the wall, the calendar, the mess on your desk, your dog to see if he's still breathing, your worried reflection in the mirror.
Speaking of mirrors, now's as good a time as any to pluck out all the gray hairs you can find until your vision becomes distorted from your eyeballs getting stuck upwards and sideways.
Consider, for not too much time, the implications of the fact that my clients and I regularly stare at our screens in order to "see" each other.
Worry about having spent money.
Think about making art and writing.
Change the channel.
Work out again.
Check your email.
Paint your toenails.
Mindlessly scroll social media, alternating rapidly between laughter and self-loathing.
Scroll Zillow. This works best (worst) if the houses you're looking at are at least a few million dollars outside of your price range.
Think of all the magical things you are capable of doing and then throw that out the window.
Think of how living a truly full life means accepting and surrendering to all of it, the good and the bad, because that's what we signed up for when we came to earth, and then throw the part about surrendering to and accepting the bad out the window, too.
Go to the bathroom even if you don't need or want to, because you need a change of scenery but are too lazy to walk outside, and the bathroom will do because it's quiet and familiar and no one tries to enter the bathroom unless they think you've had a stroke because you've been in there for longer than makes sense.
Go for a walk since you've overcome your laziness and because you're glad you didn't have a stroke in the bathroom.
Worry about what other people think.
Imagine every single person that reads anything you may write with a look of disapproval and concern on their face.
Think about how, if you'd kept to a regular writing schedule, this may be letter #53 instead of #13.
Think about how there's simply too much to say and too little time, or too little to say, and too much time.
Get into a bad mood and stay there for a while.
Sigh and get into a different mood.
Read a paragraph of a book.
Put the book down.
Pick the book back up, read another paragraph, and marvel that the person who wrote what you're reading was able to actually finish writing a book.
Think of the state of the world and use hopelessness as an acceptable excuse to not write.
Eat a snack.
Think of all the phantom lives you didn't live.
Write a list of ways to avoid writing, to avoid writing what you're avoiding writing.
Accept that you're not going to write anything and go to sleep.
Because there's always tomorrow to avoid writing.
Until next time-