The State of Mid-August
Sometimes, as creative people, we feel like we are not doing enough.
Before I go any further, let us take a moment to acknowledge those of us in this community who are doing more than enough during the days of the pandemic, even if it is not directed toward their creative projects, because new responsibilities have had to be taken on, or there is a level of exhaustion which you carry with you as if it were an extra job for which you receive no benefits or pay. Especially as we approach the beginning of the school year. You are doing as much as you can and that is enough and if I could give you anything it would be an extra two hours to yourself, once a day, in a beautiful, climate controlled, silent room, forever.
But, if your schedule and life are roughly the same as they always have been, we shall put that aside and talk about the feeling of falling behind. Because I have suffered this line of thinking off and on my entire writing career, this beating-myself-up-because-I’m-not-doing-enough feeling. I sit here quietly in New Orleans writing my novels, and even if I am proud of myself for publishing a novel every few years, I still, on occasion, look around at everyone else and wonder if I should be doing what they’re doing.
I look at the people who not only write books but also write scripts for television shows or screenplays for movies, or the people who write wickedly funny essays regularly for magazines, or the people who are going to artists residencies all over the world, or the people who can somehow manage to fill out actual applications year after year for grants and fellowships and then win that particular lottery, and I think why am I not doing that? What is wrong with me that I cannot accomplish all the things?
For all the daydreaming and all the ideas that pop in my head on a daily basis, so much of it falls by the wayside. And then, every so often, especially during these hazy summer days, I wake up too early in the morning and I thoroughly beat myself up inside. Because I should be doing more. I could always be doing more. And yet, I cannot.
It is the state of mid-August, this feeling. I am lazy, there is something wrong with me, but I can’t seem to get anything done except for these few things at the top of my list and really only one of those things, if we’re being honest here, which might be just pay the water bill, and even that is a challenge. And because I’m not getting all these different projects done, because doing work is so much a part of me, and how I validate myself so much of the time, if I am just sitting here existing (Good lord shouldn’t I just be grateful to be alive? I know.) that is not enough.
Do you know what I mean? Have most of us been there?
But if we wanted those things we would be trying to achieve them. If we really wanted them, if we felt deep in our souls that we cannot be a whole person unless we create these kinds of projects, we would be doing them.
If your biggest dream was to write for television, you wouldn’t say things like, “I should really write a television pilot.” Instead you would say, “I am writing a television pilot,” and you would get up an hour earlier every day to work and you would lock yourself in your house on the weekends, also to work, and you would read those television writing books and you would buy that impossible software program and you would join a writing group or make friends with someone else who wanted to write for television and you would swap scripts and give each other feedback and go out and get drunk one night and toast each other for being brilliant and maybe there would be some sort of awkward sexual chemistry between you but that’s your business and not mine and then you would try and find an agent and then who knows what happens next? But this would be you in fact doing enough to try and achieve this goal.
But what if you don’t do it? Are you the kind of person who lives your life mired in regrets or are you the kind of person who makes your decisions and moves on with them, on to the next? Can you see the fact that you are not doing these things as choices you are making, to make room for the things you can and want to do? The people doing all the things you want to be doing, for the most part, no one is doing the work for them, no one is handing it to them on a plate. Certainly some of them have generational wealth or connections or are over-achievers, but most of them are worker bees like the rest of us, buzzing about the giant hive of creativity. We cannot envy them for trying. We should look to them as role models, instead.
If you want something, do what it takes to get it. If you decide not to pursue a path, accept your choices. And if beating yourself up early in the morning makes you feel good, that’s between you and your (my) therapist.
As for actual mid-August: Well, it’s hot, and it’s tough out there. Probably it’s OK if we have a drink or an ice cream cone or take a nap. Soon enough it will be September. We will all shake off this feeling, even though it will return throughout our lives, and not even in just August, because there is December, and there is January, and there is even February, too, and sometimes it is even April or May, when mid-August strikes. We must try and give ourselves a break. Make a list of the things we’ll do in September. Look at what we can do now to prepare for it. Read a poem. Write a short paragraph just for fun. Check in with that brain of ours, wave to it quietly, while it snoozes on that sandbar. It will return to us soon enough.
Have a gorgeous week.
p.s. Here’s a treat: Two of my favorite people take a walk together.