Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Home (Un)Working



I'm obsessed with the idea of productivity. Almost every conversation I have with everyone I know becomes a diatribe about artistic potency and how time is spent. Motivation is the manifestation of curiosity and, if you lack that, then, quite frankly, I deem you dull. As such, I judge the value of my day based on what I creatively accomplish. This is only exasperated since I work from home and don't have a boss looking over my shoulders. Save for deadlines -- some given by editors, most deigned by me -- I am at the whim of my artistic expression, but I have no patience for inspiration. Production is far more important.

No matter one's specific profession, there is a work-construct surrounding the daytime hours. This is when most people tend to their nine-to-fives. Even though I hypothetically could relish in the middle-of-the-night, whiskey-loaded writer cliche, I still feel the need to join the masses in the daytime hunched-over-computer solidarity -- if only for the "reward" that then accompanies nighttime sloth. Perhaps this is the allure of alcohol consumption: it numbs the time spent waiting for something to happen. It's compulsive. So, instead of dealing and/or dwelling in the boring, we drink to it. However, in order to justify social interaction, I have to cling to the polysyllabic for as long as I can muster (which is, on a bad day, only a few hours). This is easier said than done and focus, quite frankly, requires a healthy dose of cultivation.

Before settling into my Brooklyn life, I was easily distracted by lunches and coffees and midday shopping sprees. Pause. That's a lie. Considering I've never had a traditional job, I have always been easily distracted by any kind of daytime social engagement. While it initially seems fabulous, I end up resenting these people who have nothing to do in their days or, rather, who re-construe their cultural apathy as an excuse to linger in leisure. Instead of getting shit done (no matter the specificity of the "shit"), they manufacture tasks and chores and activities to occupy hours so that their lives becomes a travelogue of the asinine. I'm fervently fighting against this tendency if only because it lies dormant in me. Their lack of artistic stimulation isn't their faults; it's my fault for being so easily seduced into laziness. If you are who you hang out with, I know that these type of people are not who I want to mirror. Because, in only a few day's time, I inevitably will. Mirror them. And, as it goes, the things we don't like in others are the things we fear in ourselves. Thus, I am overwhelmed by my own complacency that I end up vehemently judging it in others even though that should have nothing to do with me.

I have to contend with my own guilt. Instead of relishing this moment of my life when I can write and explore and create on my terms, I get pissed at myself for not doing more. There is, after all, always more to do. I suppose my dormant guilt is a good thing: it shows me that I am someone who expects grand things out of my existence. But, when I'm in this guilt malaise, I can't see the good of my abundant free time. Instead, I envy people with office jobs. They have a specific place to go and a thing to accomplish and then it's done. I'm never done. I could always be writing more and mucking around the apartment less.

Loneliness is another result of working from home. I often spend days without vocalizing a single word to a single soul; as an unfortunate result, I cling to social media. From text messages to Facebook statuses to Twitter feeds, I'm constantly checking. The need for interaction is visceral and, without those interludes, I can't accomplish anything. This constant checking makes me hardly ever present. No matter what I'm doing or who I'm with, I'm always thinking about what's next. This extends beyond "being in the moment" and all of those other awful self-help slogans that makes me feel guilty for my wandering -- and wondering -- mind: I pick at my toenails during forward folds in yoga; I consider dessert before finishing dinner; I can't wait to get home while on vacation. Try as I might, there's rarely a second when I'm truly immersed in what I'm doing. Even when I tell myself to focus and listen and engage, it's basically for naught. I'm still in my head, either mad at myself for wasting time or thrilled at myself for being so motivated.

My situation is enviable. I'm lucky. I know that. I don't want to spend my whole life waiting for the next thing to happen, all the while not appreciating the awesomeness of now. I guess what it comes down to is forgiving yourself of the time you spend not focusing on your goal. I guess knowing that you have drive should be enough to get you through the day. You're either an inherent wallower or you're not. Luckily I'm not. That should be enough. If the grass is always greener, I'd like to at least lay in it for a while before my life shifts into another duller pasture.

1 comment:

aaron said...

Welcome to the double-edge of the writer's life. The comfort and curse of solitude.

Whenever people tell me they want to write or ask me what being a writer is like, I always refer them to this brilliant exposition by Michael Venture, "The Talent of the Room."