I like being busy.
It pleases me to get up in the morning, brew a pot of coffee, and make a prep (read: to-do) list on my white board and cross things out as the day progresses.
As I've mentioned in these pages before, it sometimes happens that productivity becomes a very cunning form of procrastination. When things are done less for their own sake and more to keep from doing other things. This happens to me often. The little things might have been worthwhile, but it's still symptomatic of a larger issue, and I'm old enough to know better. At least, I know myself well enough that I know I shouldn't be doing that shit anymore.
My bad habits are strong. I've spent much of my life being more concerned with appearances than actually living, and it's a hard mindset to break. Maybe that's why I so often feel as if the string's gone out of my back once I set foot inside my apartment. No one for whom I must be better than I am. No one to keep me on task. When I am among people, I become confident and clear. There is no doubt of the way. I move.
It's not an act. I feel these things. But it goes away when I get home.
Perhaps I'm focusing on the wrong thing. There's more to it, I know, than the fact of people (or absence thereof). There's this here computer with its speedy internet access. There's the fact that my apartment still doesn't feel like a home, or, more importantly, like a workspace. It feels like every bedroom I've lived in since I was a boy. That's the truth. So it could be reasoned that, as I never really had to lift a finger to get by in my life (especially growing up), being in that familiar environment might foster the same comfortable laziness. And yet, I cannot discount entirely the theory that I fall into action far more effortlessly when there is someone around to see it.
Which is kind of fucked.
All vanity aside, what matters is that it's been nearly a month since my birthday, and I haven't got a lot to show for it. I've done plenty of the usual self-indulgent journaling, and some highly illegible freewrites in an attempt to get back into the swing of things. The summer mix is nearly done. But somehow none of it feels substantial. All of the Big Things are still untouched.
I realized a few days ago (as I've no doubt realized and subsequently forgotten many times in my life), that the nature of my problem is that I am overly precious about everything I do. Attaching too much significance to every line. Never writing in my books. Never going crazy in my sketchbook. Never goofing off with my guitar (well, that's not entirely true - I wrote an old timey song the other day about the joys of friend-stalking your favorite bands on Myspace), but in general it remains indisputable that I'm holding back, afraid to get my hands dirty and make anything that might be rough or unfinished.
This must change.
I'm sick to death of how controlling I can be. It broke over me the other night, when, frustrated with the summer mix, I sat down with my iPod and just clicked on Shuffle. The fact of songs coming on without any knowledge - artist, title, etc. - was a revelation. I'd forgotten what it was like just to listen to music without any preconceptions; just hearing the sounds and words for their own sake. Much as I like giving my mixes to people, making them has largely poisoned me against having such experiences anymore: the ear is always tuned towards using songs for my own ends.
But the experience with the iPod reminded me that it's really quite simple to break these habits that are making me so ill. It's no different with songwriting or fiction: you just stop being so fucking precious and do it. Not only that: you have to do it over and over. No back patting! No pride! Write another song. Write another chapter in that goddamn novel of yours.
Yeah, I know the spiel. Hell, I wrote it.
But there are other things to write. I have a friend who is keeping after me to do some work. I owe her.
This one's for you.
Here are a couple of tunes in honor of the Shuffle experience. Because I would never have thought of following "Round the Bend" with "Sweet Child O' Mine," but damn if it wasn't a beautiful change.
Beck - Round the Bend
Guns 'n' Roses - Sweet Child O' Mine
Elliott Smith - Either/Or
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
I like being busy.