Back to work


I freak out a little most Sundays.

Because while I generally work over the weekends, it's a low-stakes, puttery, solo kind of working, with few interruptions from or demands by the outside world. What I do, I'm choosing to do; what I engage with, I'm choosing to engage with.

Yes, it's always a choice. But you know what I mean: while emails can drift into your inbox on any day of the week and the phone can ring at any time (especially, these days, if it's a telemarketer), provided you've established firm boundaries, the expectations that you will leap to respond over the holy days of Saturday and Sunday are even more minimal than the trickle itself.

So while on the surface my freakout is about the quiet ending and the noise beginning, and under that, the freakout is about my being unable to manage things, under it all is my fear that this time, I will not be able to pull it off: this time, I will suck. Or more specifically, that this week, Monday's essay will suck.

This is the eternal problem of making anything good, at least for those of us into measurement: it will always either be the best thing you've done yet or it will fall short (or, I suppose, it could tie with the best thing, but that's just forestalling doom). There are no other choices. And while there is that momentary high of having done better, once you are there, there is only up, or down. Up is a cocksucking boulder; down is unthinkable. Hence, freakout.

There are ways of mitigating this: producing more, for one, and dealing with your shit openly, for another. A big reason why I committed to writing five days a week on the blog is because the more I do something, the less precious each individual instance of it is*. And the more I honestly explore what a crazy mess I am, the less I act out on my crazy mess-ness**. When I look back at the chronic creative constipation of my 20s and 30s, I can see very clearly where these two things intersected: I barely produced because I was afraid that everyone would see my hackity-hack idea for the hackity-hacksterness I knew it must be, ergo I had fewer and fewer ideas, which just drove the stakes ever higher. Ugh. The only things I want back from my youth are my screaming-fast metabolism and the money I spent on handbags and shoes worn once and joylessly.

Sundays don't just exist at the end of the week, of course. If the end/beginning of weeks is rough, the end/beginning of years and projects can be completely stultifying. And let's not forget the panic at the end of a project, job, vacation or any other substantial time sink. I was such a wreck by the time the night of my first Ignite experience rolled around, my bowels were near liquid; almost immediately afterward, when I found out over the phone with The BF that the video feed had gone down during my talk (and that, I mistakenly thought, there meant there would be no record at all of my effort), I started bawling so uncontrollably, I had to hang up and go walk it off. I write about change and fear so much because they figure so significantly in my life, I couldn't (and wouldn't) make this stuff up.

It's crazy hard to keep making stuff, but it's unthinkable to stop. While one part of my head always has the recurring smackdown-joke from Stardust Memories reverberating through it, the hero's fans wistfully recalling his "earlier, funnier movies" while at a film festival celebrating his oeuvre, the other revels not only in the sly, creative joy of making such a meta-joke but in knowing that Woody Allen went on to make a slew of other, equally-great-to-greater films that ran the gamut, genre-wise. You don't get to make a Match Point or Hannah and Her Sisters if you can't stomach the prospect of a few Shadows and Fogs.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the good sense of artists keeping bankers' hours, of having boring structure in one's exciting (haha) writer's life. The container makes the art possible, especially after the mad energy of youth passes. So, like Allen, you write out your two screenplays per year on yellow ruled pads, longhand, while lying on your bed, marking time in between with regular doses of tennis and clarinet. Or like Chaplin, you leave the French beach in the afternoon to head up to your room to write, because that's what you do. Or like Tharp, you mark up your fresh boxes with the launch of a new project, and start filling them up with stuff.

And it's not just the container aspect and the rigorous discipline that benefit creative output: it's the turning of creativity into the regular-usual, and avoiding the dread terror of this next blank page, this next fresh canvas, this next blue sky. It is one of many blank pages, canvases and skies.

One of many Mondays. The regular-usual.

Just another crazy worker, swinging another crazy hammer...


*Kind of like having a passel of kids against the almost-certainty of losing one or two to some epidemic or another, back in the olden days. Only not, because I hardly expect any of my blog posts to work the farm or support me in my old age.

**This has the double-edged advantage of facilitating productive output and beating people who would "out" you off at the pass.

Image by kasrak via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.