Holley Hyler is an IT consultant and published freelance writer living in New York.
Obligations and Procrastination
Life has been moving fast lately, too fast. I am seeking refuge from the noise of the TV in the living room and two cats who desperately want to be in the bedroom with me. The bedroom is the only place I can go to be alone when I am at my fiancé's house.
I thought about writing on my blessed day off, but I had other things I felt obligated to do. And that's the way it goes, doesn't it? Everyone wants to be a good employee, partner, parent, child, or insert relationship here. Everyone wants to keep their word when they say they will do something. I used to fight more for my creative time. I began to feel selfish for it.
I thought about writing after I got done with my errands and obligations, but I felt tired, and anyway, I had to start dinner soon. How easy it is to fall into the traps of "have to" and "must." They can make us feel so much better when we are procrastinating, especially when the procrastination involves something intimidating. Writing does intimidate me. Yet, as vulnerable and strange as I sometimes feel putting these thoughts out there for all you good people, I find that it usually helps someone. At the least, it can entertain someone for a while. That makes it all worth it to me.
It is just a matter of getting started. And sometimes, when we say we're creatively blocked, there is something else at the heart of the issue.
Balancing Self-Love and Relationships
This next bit is for anyone trying to juggle a committed relationship and full-time job with their creative time (or for anyone else wondering how the heck you do that). I feel your pain. I don't have kids. I imagine it would take a creative warrior to work through all that - if this describes you, kudos to you.
I have been pondering the irony of how I could not find the loving relationship I sought until I loved myself, and now that I am in the relationship, I have no idea how to maintain and balance that self-love with everything else going on.
What is self-love? To me, it is finding time to engage in things that make me think deeply and feel more alive - these are things like music, art, writing. Keeping up with what is important to me at a spiritual level. Talking to people who feel similarly. Reading books that make me feel better, even if only for a few minutes.
Yes, I know my fiancé values me and cares about what is important to me, even though we are very different in some ways. He cares about my writing. Maybe he doesn't understand all of it; maybe he does. What matters is that he understands when I say, "I need some quiet time so I can write a new article." I don't say this every day. Honestly, I say it one day per week, if that. I am sure he would understand if it were more often. The thing is, I just don't know how to say it sometimes. I feel guilty. I already look at a screen all day for my job. To propose that I want more time to go off and stare at my screen after dinner doesn't feel great. I know I would be staring at the screen for very different reasons. I feel like I should be spending time with him after work.
That feeling is not gone, even now, while I hang on to my brief respite from noise and people in the bedroom. I am working through it, and it is challenging.
Self-love may become an even tougher practice when you are in a relationship, especially if you are a giver. If you tend to think of how people will feel before anything else, that can be a sign that you have the gift of empathy. It is a great gift, but if we do not learn some balance, we can quickly become engulfed and lose that sense of self.
Responsibilities and Self-Love
One thing we can all underestimate at times is how much putting off a chore can impact us in other ways.
"Wow, I really do not feel excited about this dinner I am going to make," I thought to myself on the way home from Target. "For one thing, it has to marinate for an hour and I am already hungry. Anyway, Jim's Steakout is along the way and sounds so much better. Some of their fries would be awesome right now."
I stuck with the original menu plan for the evening, and I was glad I did. As with writing, it was just a matter of getting it started. I had to have a little bit of zucchini bread to tide me over while the pork chops marinated, but it was all good. It was better than the guilt I would have felt after pigging out at Jim's! And now, as I have a clear conscience and a stomach that is not overly full, I can write. (The pork chops turned out delicious too.)
What I am proposing with these few paragraphs is that sometimes, it is more self-loving to stick with your responsibilities. It might feel tempting to shrug them off - to throw the pork chops back in the freezer and order some delivery, to mow the lawn tomorrow, to put off that minor repair for another time. Sometimes, the thing we want to blow off has some other layer to it that might make us feel worse in the long run, or it could spiral.
Tomorrow, it rains, and it continues most of the week. The grass gets overgrown. The minor repair, when put off, becomes something bigger and more costly to fix. These are all what I call "vibe killers." They can make mental paralysis even worse if left unchecked.
Of course, there will be times when we need to give ourselves a rest. That is self-love too.
Unfortunately, self-love is very fluid.
Fortunately, self-love is very fluid.
You make it up as you go along, and you never stop learning.
Getting Started is the Hardest Part
I can see from reading back over my work that I have a lot to say on this subject. I feel as though I have barely scratched the surface.
Life pulls us in so many different directions. World events can get overwhelming. We want to be there for the people we love. We want to be good homeowners or have a sparkling clean living space. All of these reasons are valid, and no, they aren't just excuses. When we feel creatively blocked, it is for a reason. That is when it is necessary to do a self check-in... again, the hardest part is getting started.
The hardest part is telling your love, "I need to go be alone in the other room now," especially if you worry about hurting his or her feelings. The hardest part is remaining hopeful that you will have the energy to think after finishing up all the chores. The hardest part is to stop staring at the blinking cursor on the blank Word doc and start typing.
Getting started can only take a minute or two of your time, and then you are on a roll. This is true not just for writing and being creative, but for all the things seemingly keeping us from it. Another challenge is to stop seeing these things as roadblocks, to stop feeling bitter about them. Resentment is just another vibe killer, and it can throw a wrench into relationships too. There are a few times throughout each day when I have to mentally tell myself, "Let's not go there," in response to thoughts that can derail my mood.
As many responsibilities as there are to attend daily, it did not stop me from writing this. Did I enjoy it the whole time? I tried. Is this the best piece I have ever written? Maybe not, but it is my truth right now and writing about it helped me feel better.
That can be enough.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Holley Hyler
Holley Hyler (author) from Upstate New York on July 01, 2020:
Hello Grey Ghost, that is too bad that evidently I came across as thinking writing is burdensome. That was not my point at all. I suppose, if anything, it's the rest of life, the non-writing time, that feels a little that way. Thanks for letting me know. I'll take it into account the next time I tackle this subject in writing.
As to what a true writer could do, I don't think I necessarily agree, but that's okay. Thank you for taking the time to read and share your opinion.
Grey Ghost 24 on July 01, 2020:
You make writing sound so burdensome.
I would think a true writer could write in any situation. Limiting yourself to writing once a week seems to be idea lacking.
Your fiancé sounds like a very understanding person.
As a writer, it is who you are no matter what room you are in. Your ideas should be flowing all the time. Have a pad and pencil always available to jot down your thoughts.
I hope your writer’s block has a break through in some other place besides the bedroom. Block out the distractions and just write.
Anya Ali from Rabwah, Pakistan on June 07, 2020: