I have a habit of waiting. It is as if I am expecting some sort of decisive moment to come, where I am suddenly willing and able to accomplish whatever it is that I am hoping to do. Even though I consciously know this to not be the case, I find myself able to subconsciously put things off until I do something else, or until tomorrow, or worst of all, until next Monday.
There’s something satisfying about events that have a clear start and end. We’re trained to look for it in narrative structure, groomed through hearing and seeing and experiencing thousands of stories. I think it’s an innate part of the human experience, or the logging of that experience, to try and tell something from beginning to end.
As a writer, I’m particularly aware of this circumstance. In writing for the screen, we’re often taught to “get in late and leave early”, meaning to showcase only the most essential core of your narrative. However, this isn’t how life works, at least not in the moment we’re living it.
I keep a daily journal, where I write about how my day went just before I go to bed. This is sort of the reflective part of my meditation practice. It’s amazing to try and put the experiences you had in a day on paper, and naturally slotting them into a narrative framework.
However, I’ve been bad about it lately. Often a few times a week I’ll skip the entry for that day to fill in later. While both approaches lead to me having filled in pages, there’s some serious drawbacks to writing them after the fact.
For one, more is lost the farther you get from the moment. Almost always, the entries written after the fact are a shadow of what they could have been; little more than a simple “first this then this” summary of events. The entries I write the day-of are full of my thoughts and emotions on the day; the capture my sentiment and intention rather than just what I did.
This decreasing value is doubly true for the creative processes I do. Writing, especially, has a time and a place. Ideas drift to me, and I have a limited amount of time to get some form of them down before they slip off into the void. Further, there are times when I have a story come together wholesale, and for one reason or another I won’t get it on paper.
I don’t think I am a person driven by emotions, but there are times where I feel myself so swept away in some emotion or another, just thinking about an idea to write. This is a similar feeling I get when I see something particularly moving in nature, or an incredible piece of art. I know that I can use these emotions to help capture something fleeting I would otherwise miss. The fact that I’m not particularly emotional just means that these occurrences are all the more rare.
So why do I let myself skip some of these opportunities? Perhaps it’s just laziness. Motivation can be fickle, even when you have a passion for doing something.
Truth is, there’s never a best time to get things done. There might not even be a right time. You have to work at these passions, these goals. From writing to running, these skills need to be polished and honed, and continually refined. You can’t just walk away and have the same skill to return to.
For some reason or another, I am able to allow myself to put things off, as if the right moment will hit me like a lightning bolt. Unfortunately, that’s not how it goes. There is no perfect time to work. You can’t even always choose when to work. There is only now. There is only this moment.