Thursday, 3 May 2018

A new plan, again

I've been in free-fall again. I have this thing where I periodically make plans to sort my life out, I write a big blog post explaining why I am the way I am, what I need to do to change, the obstacles I'll face, how to avoid them, it all sounds very wise and perspicacious... and then I go and do the complete opposite of what I've said.

Roughly six-million times I've written on here about how I need to post more regularly, not worry so much about each post being perfect, learn to place less of my sense of self-worth in the writing -- allow myself to make bad art, to enjoy the process rather than the result, smile, have fun, move on.

And then three months have gone by and I haven't posted in a month and a half, I'm in the middle of some huge sprawling piece that just isn't good enough, I can't finish it, I can't let it go, when I sit down to write I can't stop worrying what people are thinking of me -- it's like there's an audience staring up as I stand on stage wiggling my limbs making weird mewling birdlike noises, squawking, completely naked, obviously, wanting to be some kind of artist, to create art, but all I'm doing is making a fool of myself, everyone is staring up with these sad embarrassed eyes, and I'm aware of the embarrassment, I'm blushing, sweaty, but I can't stop squawking, I want the stage to bury me but I'm squawking, and what I'm squawking is, "look at me, look at me," and it's all weird and confusing and icky, and it makes me want to die.

And then I start imagining what this already imaginary audience might want to see, up on stage, what would impress them, and I attempt to reverse engineer my writing to provide this for them. I don't want to make a fool of myself, I don't want everyone to laugh at me, so I start crafting my writing to be what I think people will want. And I know that's all backwards, makes for bad writing, but I don't know what else to do. I get filled with self-loathing, black, dripping hatred, it's always there in the background, but now whenever I try to write it all comes spurting out, and it becomes impossible to finish even a sentence without becoming submerged in gunk.

So I run away instead, for months, for half a year, for years. I get drunk and smoke weed and work in jobs that don't challenge or nourish or excite me at all. I stop trying at anything and drift wherever the winds take me, which is nowhere, and it's like I'm frozen, in stasis, barely alive.

- - -

What makes this all harder is that I am an addict. Quietly, and functionally, yes, with myriad drugs of choice, but an addict nonetheless. Turning away from responsibility I allow myself to be taken in by instant gratification, distraction, anything that requires zero effort and promises to take up my attention when it is too painful to hold onto myself.

I'm addicted to booze, for sure, and weed, which I rarely get in but when I do I suddenly can't do anything but smoke it, and when I smoke it I can't do anything at all -- like literally I stare at the wall or climb into bed and sit with the covers over me trying not to fall into a pit inside myself -- it used to be fun but now every time it's hellish, and yet if it's around I can't stop myself from smoking it.

I'm addicted to watching shitty clickbaity Youtube videos that are the equivalent of junk food for the audiovisual senses. All of the worth and nutrition of interviews, documentaries, video essays stripped out, replaced with bullshit top ten fan theory let's play teaser preview pablum that jangles your dopamine receptors and lulls you into a daze from which your only conceivable action is to scroll for more videos like this, and more, and more.

Ditto all social media.

I'm addicted to internet porn, which I despise -- there's not one thing that makes me happy about watching suicidal men on Cialis fuck abused women on Xanax -- and plus I know how much it messes with your brain -- but if I'm drunk or stoned and I come home and it's late and I feel miserable I'll end up watching it anyway, and then feeling irreparably lonely and hollow and broken inside.

I'm addicted to staying up till 4am for no reason, accomplishing nothing, and then sleeping through half of the next day.

I'm addicted to playing the beginnings to all videogames, then casting them aside when they become a chore. To watching the first episode of formulaic TV shows on Netflix. To eating takeaway pizzas. To cocaine when someone offers it me, despite it spiralling me into an aching despair for weeks afterwards.

I run to these addictions because writing, otherwise dealing with my life, brings me face to face with aspects of myself that are painful. Writing may be where I feel most like myself, most like I'm home, but it always awakens my demons, and I end up running from it. But also the addictions are addicting -- that is: they change the structure of the brain, and the changed brain is then predisposed to greater addiction. Writing dredges up self-loathing so I get drunk instead -- but alcohol abuse damages the motivation and executive-function systems of the brain, strengthens pathways of reward leading up to having a drink, and it eventually becomes self-perpetuating. The more often I drink the harder it becomes to do anything but drink.

- - -

So here's the plan. And, yes, I know that I began this post by saying that I'm great at making high-minded plans for sorting out my life and terrible at doing the hard work to follow through with those plans -- and, yes, this itself is another high-minded plan, and I'm using all these words here to disarm you, to tacitly acknowledge the similarities to previous pieces -- and this right here is tacit acknowledgement of that tacit acknowledgement, because I'm terrified I'm on stage squawking like an idiot and I want you to understand that I know I am on stage squawking like an idiot and I see that and there are reasons for that.

And so on.

But I think you've got to get to a point where you either get off stage for good, or you make a decision to stop putting your energy into worrying what you look like. What you look like is for everyone else to determine. What you get to determine is why you're squawking, what it's for, and whether you can have any fun with it. Caw-caw!

The plan, then:

  • No booze for a month. Not a drop. Nothing.
  • No weed for a month.
  • No Youtube for a month.
  • No porn hopefully ever again, I really hate it.
  • No staying up later than 2am, which covers the latest shift at work.
  • No sleeping in later than 10am.
  • Writing here every day for a month, to check in, note progress. No polished pieces, no expectation, no stress, just a few words to stretch my writing muscles, begin to get them back in shape.
Basically I want to stop doing the easy things I hate, immediately, and slowly start doing the difficult things I love.

In truth I am four days into this already, but I wasn't ready to say anything right away. You know how it is. I'll post my check-ins of those four days in a bit.

And I've just realised, trying and failing at the same thing over and over is exactly how I learned to walk. There's no failure unless you give up. Otherwise it's all learning.

See you in a bit x

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