Guilt and Taxes

Papercoach : Teach Yourself to Write Fiction

I've been on vacation for a week and just returned, and the first thing I feel on arrival? Guilt. It's not productive but there it is - guilt for not writing. Guilt for not writing the moment I returned and doing my taxes instead.

Taxes are one of those ugly things you must do, on a schedule but hate. I must do it. It's inescapable, like death -- the other side to the famous diad. So why the guilt?

It doesn't make any sense.

So my response is to barrel into my taxes like a madman, attempting to get them done as fast as humanly possible, so I can return to my writing. This is very stressful, and I don't think it's all that healthy, but I can't seem to stop myself.

Later, when I finally finish the [insert anything, but I'm talking taxes] I find myself staring at my writing, panting and feeling damn pressurized to finally WRITE.

Yikes. No stress.

All this garden style neurosis fails to help my writing. I know. Stress is bad for writing. I know.

But there you have it. Like taxes, my stress seems inescapable. Hell, if I didn't have these neurosis around my writing I would have finished learning and been writing for much longer, now wouldn't I?

So, great analysis Freud, but what do I do about it?

Someone I respect once told me that my biggest challenge (now is that a failing in disguise? or is it the other way around?), is something called time-slicing. Time slicing is when -- instead of focusing, gangbusters on one task -- you do a little bit of this, a little bit of that, some of that over there, some more of this here, each day. That way you make small, but measurable progress on many things at once with no stress (or reduced stress). Why no stress? Because everything is moving forward -- so goes the theory -- nothing ever reaches a crisis, and all is finished in its good time. I think my friend is right.

And I HATE working that way.

I despise it. I want to leap in and do, do, do, do, do. Totally immersed. Totally in the moment. Engaged and swallowed by writing (or anything, really). I feel this is the quintessential artist's mindset.

Which means, when I'm not swallowed in the writing -- when I'm doing something I have to do but don't wish to do (like taxes), I'm extremely anxious. I'm stressed about not 'doing' writing. Why? Because the vague term 'doing' is defined, for me, as total immersion. 'Doing' is not defined as 'made a little forward progress today.' And all this self-imposed pressure makes for poor writing and less productivity.


Here's my biggest challenge: become calm and sufficiently stress free that at anytime, at any moment, for any duration I can whip out a notepad and just write. Write in the cracks, the spaces, and -- sure -- the big long multi-hour sessions when I've got them. But most importantly, learn to immerse in seconds and for brief periods as well as slowly for long periods.

If I don't learn this, I fear I'm doomed to do nothing but my taxes, forever.


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