In post #2 of 100 Days of Blogging I wrote —
“Am I really going to spend half the time I have left grousing about my day-to-day existence [i.e. my job]? That sounds miserable.
“So, what am I going to do? Well, I’m not sure. I’m in the process of figuring that out.
“And that’s one reason to do 100 Days of Blogging.”
In the course of these 100 Days of Blogging I feel I’ve learned some things about myself.
First, I’m starting to disentangle the joy I get from writing from my deep-seated desire for autonomy. I have, since at least the age of nine, carried a deep resentment of institutions that want to control my time. I started faking sickness to get out of school in third grade. (Yes. I was a malingerer.) By the time I got to high school I was a straight-up truant. So much so that I failed to meet the minimum required days for my junior year. Instead of taking junior year of high school again I dropped out and got my GED.
What I did instead of going to class was read. I read widely and obsessively. And, starting at the age of 12, I wrote. The teenage me believed this was a way out. This was a way to regain control of my time. And so, at the age of really-poor-reasoning-ability I entered the bohemian phase of my life.
That bohemia phase never translated into control over my own time the way I imagined it might. It was tremendous fun, but came with a stressful amount of economic precarity. Eventually I drifted away from that life and into the life of a middle-class, middle-aged professional, and somewhat more economic stability.
The resentment about losing my autonomy waned in that transition phase between bohemia and profession because being a student felt very much like the autonomy I desired. (I went to university as an adult and got multiple degrees. It turns out I had a much higher tolerance for being a university student than I did for being a student in the Texas public school system.)
But in the last few years that resentment about lost autonomy crept back.
Only recently have I realized that my desire to write and my desire for autonomy are separate, and only tangled up because I am still holding onto that teenage belief that writing is path to autonomy.
I think I’ve been able to start disentangling those two desires over the last few months. The equation I held in my head (writing=money=autonomy) is wrong, and caused great anxiety about writing. If I wasn’t writing to escape the timecard life, I believed, I was frivolous and unserious.
Caitlin Scarano really captures this struggle in the following comment:
“Scarano: I go back and forth on this in my writing and my relationship to my writing. I think the main burden on my writing is capitalism; it’s the main thing that keeps me from writing as much as I’d like or being a more prolific writer. I struggle w/ depression and anxiety—as many people do in our current climate—and I feel like a large percentage of it would not exist if I didn’t have to deal with capitalism, if we weren’t in that system. So much of what we need is just time to do what is important to us, and time is what is taken from us because we have no choice but to work to continue to survive. 40 hours a week plus something else sucks mentally, like it literally sucks energy from you. The challenge of sitting down and thinking, “I’m going to sit down on and do an hour or two of writing this morning,” when I just want to lie on the couch and eat a cupcake.
“So where does that leave me? Do I just beat up or criticize myself for not waking up at 4/5 am and working on my poems? Or do I have some patience and grace for myself within this very inhumane system? There are so many reasons I already feel shame and blame that I don’t want to add to it because I’m not writing as much as I think I should. The main reason I would want to make money as a writer would be so that I could quit my job and have more time to write. I’ve never been very interested in being rich or famous. Money is an access to time, which is the actual, valuable thing.”
What I’m referring to as autonomy is what she refers to as time. I want wealth only in that it provides an opportunity for time. I want time. And, yes, I want time to write, but I also want time to read and study, to work in the garden, to hang with friends, to take road trips, to watch movies, to wash dishes, and to nap in hammocks.
Because of the faulty equation in my head I felt stress when I had free time and didn’t write. I must practice my craft, because that’s the way to greater control of my own time. And when I didn’t write I felt shame and blame.
And this made me suffer. It made my writing suffer and it made my ‘free’ time suffer.
I’m going to stop doing that to myself. I’m going to disentangle my desire for autonomy from my desire to do creative work.
I’ll unpack this a little more as I wind down 100 Days of Blogging.
Well I’m working on it
Holy shit I ignore so many problems
Holy shit this isn’t it
No one told me I was just an onion
I’m just a kid, oh so I thought
Please doc, make it stop, let me go home
I’ll keep working on it
But I’ll be gone before I peel this old onion
(100 Days of Blogging: Post 087 of 100)
2 thoughts on “What I Learned: 01”
This is awesome insight. I can’t wait to see where this leads for you.
Thanks, John. Me either!