Have to

I love writing.

I also love myself.

That second one has been a difficult conclusion to come to and actually feel true, thanks to a lovely personal history of social anxiety and, I think anyway, depression – but regardless, it is true now and that’s what matters.

What I don’t love are these dry spells in my schedule. This schedule is all full of those things I should be doing; I should be revising Tallulah, I should be drafting that YA novel I was all but consumed with excitement for merely days ago, I should be catching up on those recorded lectures so that I don’t fail one of my papers, I should be waking up early so that I can accomplish, well, any of these things because it has been proven that I do actually work better and more enthusiastically in the morning, when the sun is pale and bright and the air is lighter.

And yet I don’t do them. The day comes up and I just … don’t feel like doing it. And that’s what I go with. If I don’t want to, well, why do it? I don’t want to.

I’ve heard established authors talk about writing being work, and that being a very hard reality to accept. Well, you know, you don’t actually have to accept it. You can just do things when you want to and not do them when you don’t want to; that’s a thing you can do. There is nobody forcing you to do otherwise. I mean no, that’s not true, especially once you’re an established author and you’re doing this not just because you want to but also because you have due dates and bills to pay and what not, but for somebody like me – for get writing, my entire life has basically revolved around the mantra of ‘I don’t have to’.

I’ve had this dilemma before. I came to … well, different conclusions each time. Which is fine. Both commitment and the ability to change your mind are the two most important life-skills, as far as I’m concerned. Gotta have both.

This time, I want to think a bit harder about this whole ‘have to’ issue.

Why does anybody ‘have’ to do anything?

I’m a fairly literal person. I think it has to do with being half Irish. Even if we understand that something isn’t literal, we tend to act as though we do, just to annoy people. Without really thinking about it. That’s the impression I get anyway, and it’s certainly a habit of mine. But stopping to think about it, the ‘have to’ I fall back on – and rebel against – is divide into two forms: ‘having to’ because somebody wants you to or because it’s ‘the rules’, and ‘having to’ because otherwise it won’t get done.

I never rebelled much as a teenager, and I often wonder if that’s why I’m always so quick to turn any ‘have to’ situation into a circular argument that relies on literalness. Have to? Will the world end if I don’t? Will you, person who wants me to do this thing, drop dead if I don’t do it? Will I drop dead if I don’t? If the answer is no – and thankfully the answer has always been no for me – then no, I don’t actually have to. And really, even if the answer is yes, I still don’t have to. I can choose for myself, somebody else, or the world, to die instead. I can do that. That’s an option that I can make.

And once I stop feeling smug and actually think about that, it’s not even about having to – it’s about wanting to.

And here enters the circular logic.

If it’s just about whether or not I want something to happen, then I’m right back at square one. Yeah, I can elect to not do X because I don’t have to, I can just eat consequence Y instead.

But do I really want to?

It’s easier, maybe? Like it was easier today to take a trip into town that lasted about an hour where I got nothing done other than a little bit of spontaneous tree-climbing (well, tree-walking, which was part of the appeal because who doesn’t want to be an Elf at some point in their life) and consumed two trips on my bus pass, and then come home and watch Web Therapy, which is pretty hilarious, and some YouTube, and make some notes on books I want to write at some point in the future, by which I mean I like the idea of me being the person who writes them without actually being motivated to write them right now, instead of actually working on any of the things I feel that I should.

That ‘should’ becomes a ‘have to’, and as we’ve established, I don’t have to do anything. Nobody does.

And thus, by following this circular train-ride, I completely forget why that was a ‘should’ to begin with.

I should be writing this stuff because I want it to be done. And this is not an emotional want anymore; this is a utilitarian directive kind of wanting. I ‘want’ this stuff done because, overall, I do enjoy working on it, and feel that it will benefit me to do so on a personal level. Tallulah in particular I ‘want’ to get done as quickly as possible because the main reason I came back to study is so that I could expand my horizons and not get a full-time job, so that I’d have some time to actually write my novel, so if I’m not writing my novel then I’m not taking advantage of this situation I’ve intentionally put myself into in order to make it easier for me to focus on writing my damn novel, instead of doing the other thing that would, as far as I could tell, have made it harder.

I could have been wrong; the full-time job – assuming that I could even get one – may have been the way to go. But the fact remains that my plan is not coming to fruition if I’m not writing. And, again, commit and change your mind – some plans just turn out to not be feasible. This one is feasible, so long as I’m keeping on top of everything. The only reason I keep not being on top of everything is because I keep not feeling like it. It’s long-term versus short-term; this is not some kind of unique problem that I’m facing as a human being. This is the daily struggle we all face. Why do it now when I can do it later? The world won’t end.

No, it won’t, but nothing will change, either.

It’s not just the writing; I had health and fitness goals for this year and, as I predicted, going back to university has pretty much been the perfect excuse to give up on all of that and just ‘get by’. I was going to make my own personal shopping-list and make my own meals so that I could be sure that they were healthy; and I can still do that. I can still get back into doing my walks or even join the gym or something. There is still time.

It’s just that there was always still time. It didn’t get used. It’s not getting used now. I can do it tomorrow. Obviously, as it’s 1:41am, I’m not going to get up and go for a jog around the block or make myself a healthy sandwich or start listening to those recorded lectures; that wouldn’t help anything. There’s a time and a place for everything.

Which makes it even more important that I do these things that I’ve determined that I should be doing at the times and places that I’ve determined I should do them, having determined them thus because that’s what’s seemed the most doable, as opposed to just winging it.

I just need self-discipline.

I’m just really … I get really worked up about this stuff because I keep feeling like I should be doing better, and that I could be doing better. But I never really want to. There was a time, at the beginning of the semester especially, when I really, really did want to, and you know what, I followed through. For about two or three weeks. So obviously I have it in me. I just need stamina and commitment.

But then … I mean, if I don’t want to, then who am I hurting by not doing it? Just myself. I mean yeah sure people will probably worry about me if I flunk all of my papers and that’s fine, that’s what people do when they care, but it’s still my life, not theirs.

And I don’t care what my life is.

Yes. Yes I do. I care a lot. I am so close to breaking through to the other side of this apathetic, stagnant slump that has consumed over half of my life, to wrecking this habit that keeps me coming back to the comfort of my attitude of smug, self-important rebellion against the idea of requirement, overlooking the fact that it’s not requirement, it’s just understanding that actions – and inaction – has consequences. I am so close to finding out what it’s like to not be like this.

That’s why I have to do this.

Let’s see how long I can stay at this point in the circle, shall we?


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