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Dear Caibby, how do kick in pants and JUST MAKE SHIT
Assuming you’re asking ‘How do I give myself a kick in the pants and get down to actually doing something with my ideas?’ it’s not exactly a nuanced process. It’s also not a process you’re gonna be too excited to hear about, since it’s repetitive and drudgerous (word?) and almost entirely without glory.
For that initial kick (which I think is what you’re after), I recommend lying to yourself. Well, not lying to yourself, but performing any mental magic tricks necessary to make yourself believe that this isn’t important and it isn’t serious. We tend to get real precious with our ideas and what we do with them, and that doesn’t translate into a prolific lifestyle. It translates into a whole lot of holding on to ideas and never doing anything with them because everything feels so weighty and serious that we get downright paralyzed.
True Life Example: Last summer, I experienced a teeny, insignificant, fleeting, meaningless… uh.
Utter creative breakdown.
When we think of any breakdown, we imagine a lot of gnashing of teeth, a lot of crying, a lot of tantrums, maybe long showers with clothes on. They’re usually quieter, and this one was real quiet. It manifested entirely in lengthy sessions picking at my keyboard, thinking, “Holy, holy rollers, I am utterly bonezoned. I’m incapable of doing this or anything else, ever, forever. This is impossible.”
In retrospect, it makes sense. I was going through a rough time juggling trying to finish my book with trying to edit my book (don’t do that!), tying the end off on a long-term gig that finally failed, and dragging myself bodily through an emergency job search. Everything felt so miserably serious. Even though, looking back, it kinda really wasn’t. Nevertheless, I stopped doing anything remotely productive beyond answering emails and begging people to hire me so I could fill the void left by my old gig. It was a thoroughly unfulfilling three weeks.
Then, about two and a half weeks in, I got an idea. A persuasive, persistent idea that was new and fun and not tied up in money or prestige. An idea I wanted to pursue. I just needed a way to make it entirely un-serious long enough to get started.
Enter the composition notebook.
Maybe it’s an enduring association with enforced journaling assignments in elementary school, but there’s something about a composition notebook that makes it impossible to give a fresh fuck about anything written in it. I grabbed it on a whim at the grocery store, paid a little over a dollar, and set to work fucking it up with any stickers and torn out pages and tape and markers I could. I carpet bombed this thing with color and settled in to dump my brain into it with dollar store gel pens.
And it worked. It was the initial push I needed to get some momentum absent the terror of seriousness, and several months later I’ve got something that’s almost 200 pages long and nearly over. I’ve made real progress on my book since then, too, because doing all this has made me less terrified to just do shit.
So I guess a good initial step toward completing a project is, “Find a way to stop giving so much of a fuck for a second.”
This sounds like a shitty bait-and-switch deal when you get to the second and final step of kicking yourself in the pants and getting shit done, which is, “Remind yourself early and often to give a fuck.”
Let me be straight with you: Making stuff with a goal in mind is really, really frustrating. Like, it’s soooo frustrating, you guys. If it wasn’t, everyone would do it all the time because the times when it’s not frustrating are transcendent. But it’s mostly a lot of frustration which at peak moments feels like The Most Egregious Bullshit. It’s real easy to just not wanna deal with it for long, long periods of time.
Especially when you factor in the reality of the feedback you’re likely to receive. It’s beyond rare to go through an entire self-directed project with even one person hanging around expecting you to finish it. It can get dispiriting, and that’s not because you’re an attention whore or a showoff or whatever else Internet People who’ve never made anything try to tell you for wanting acknowledgment: It’s because we create to put things outside our heads and show them to other people to make them feel stuff. Doing that in isolation is suffocating. It’s no fun. It’s no fun in such a way that you’ll find any reason to passively avoid its no-funness. To combat this urge, you need to do at least one but preferably both of these two things:
-Reach out to other people until you find someone or a few someone’s who will keep up with you out of genuine interest.
-Keep flailing yourself in the ass cheeks over and over, every single time you have to work on the thing, forever and ever amen.
That’s right, monsterlovers, it’s not just one kick. It’s a constant process of kicking yourself, reinvigorating yourself, and forcing yourself to do stuff that’s very scary and often not very fun. That first kick won’t get you far when your mission takes you on an uphill climb fraught with the perils of inertia and self-doubt. It’s a long-term game, and persistence will get you further than any quick fix I could try to give.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some lying on the floor and feeling accomplished about having bludgeoned myself into finishing a chapter today to do.