I know better by now, than to think I am just no good at this. I know better by now than to to think I’m a talentless hack, with nothing to say, and nothing now desirable or attractive way to say it. I know better by now than to just give up, and smoke a fat bowl and binge watch Law and Order. I know that now is the time. The time for the woodshed is now. The time to be who I already Know I am is now. The time to keep going is now. The time to come out and expose myself, my raw talent, my raw heart, my aching empathy: Is Now.
There is no time to waste.
I think back to when I was in fifth grade and I earned my first ever, and well my only, essay contest. I won first prize, actually. I stood on a stage and read my essay aloud to an auditorium of kids and their parents. I was proud, and I felt promise, and most of all, I Believed in my talent. I Believed in me. The topic of the essay was birthed in part from the dysfunctional people-pleasing co-dependency that was already growing well-worn grooves in my inner emotional landscape. Nevertheless, I was able to feel that sense of accomplishment in my own ability, a feeling that has been a chronic inner battle.
It is the same for so many creatives.
They say we are our own worse critics. Whoever they are, they seem to be know-it-alls. And for me, it’s not so much that I am critical of myself, it is more that I over-analyze every little thing, every possible motivation, every word choice, every choice of intonation in recitation, every choice of phrasing when singing, every curve of every line in every brush stroke on the canvas, or pencil line on the paper. Seriously, it is exhausting. Ok, maybe that is self-criticism. But it feels specific. I can’t even speak on self-criticism, without analyzing the way in which I am speaking on it. I exhaust myself. It’s something about the how, and not the what, that I fixate on. It’s something about perfecting the process, instead of the outcome, that I have prioritized. I think my own twisted logic reasons that if I perfect the process, that the outcome will be perfect.
But nothing is every perfect.
Except that everything already is.
So the medicine I add to that particular illness, the only one that seems to make any sense to me at this point, is Effort. As long as I Do something creative, as long as I am Doing something creative, as long as I Did something creative… than I am doing it ‘Right’.
So much of the time, the energy of the creative effort gets directed towards mere survival. Getting to the job to make the dollars, to pay the bills, to avoid another bout of homelessness, to keep food in the fridge , to feed my pets who give me so much comfort, to not let the lights get shut off again, to buy toilet paper before I run out.
But also, I have avoided that effort a lot. I have squandered that effort in drinking and doing drugs, in pursuing women who weren’t interested in me, in staying in unhealthy relationships and friendships, in avoiding being alone at all costs. Or when alone, simply not using the effort to focus on creative endeavors or expression at all. Not sitting down at the computer or the blank page to write. Not sitting down with the paints and pencils and the empty page to create a vision. Not singing that song over and over until I know all the words and most emotive phrasing. Not committing my performative poems to memory.
Now is the time for the Effort. There is no more time to waste.
The sudden end of an unhealthy relationship, followed by a major health crisis is the wake up call I’m facing now. It’s not the first time the Universe has knocked my ass down and told me to have a damn seat and hold up. Well, I am listening. I am listening hard. And I am responding by saying, Yes Ma’am, I will apply myself. I will make the effort. I will not let the gifts entrusted to me in this lifetime go to waste. I will heed the call. I am present and accounted for. Let’ do this.