Monday, March 28, 2016

On Laziness & Guilt

I'm naturally a very lazy person.

I don't really know why this is. I've thought about it a lot and I haven't come up with much. I'm sure a psych major could give me some theories but I've come to think that people are just generally wired certain ways. There's lots of theories about nature vs. nurture, with variations going more towards one or the other. Basically, we're born a certain way or we get a certain way because of how we grew up.

Like many things in life, I think it's some of both, and in some situations, one more than the other.

In the case of my own laziness, I think I've just always been that way. If pressed, I guess I think that it stems from my fear of doing things, which finds its origins in my fear of failure. For as long as I can remember, I've been afraid of just generally doing things because it always seemed like failing to do it was SUCH a big deal. Even if it was something simple, like being asked to go get something from the other room.

I'm sure you know what it's like: You're eight and your mom or babysitter or whoever asks you to go find them something. You go and hunt feverishly for like 10 minutes, becoming more and more worried and feeling stupider and stupider because you can't find the damn thing. Then, either you go back or they call you and ask what the hell is taking so long and you have to report that you can't find it. And then they give a huff of irritation, get up, head into the room and, of course, find the fucking thing in like five seconds and declare, "It was RIGHT HERE!"

Maybe sixty seconds of annoyance for the adult, but it tended to ruin my mood for at least half the day.

So that's kind of where my laziness came from, at least, I think so. It evolved over the years.

It's left me with a big motivation problem. Most of the time, I'd rather just play games or watch House. Although, I've got to admit, the more I get to know people, the more I think this isn't exactly uncommon. A lot of people seem to have a motivation problem, though they have a much more valid excuse, I think: they have a job that they have go to put up with every day and I remember what it's like to feel just drained when you finally get home. You don't want to do fucking anything, you just want to sit down, relax and do something to turn your brain off.

I had always kind of assumed that eventually I would get into a situation where I could just focus on writing and I wouldn't have to work a shit job and then I would write like crazy.

Well, I'm in that situation now. I have been since 2012, in one form or another, and last year my 'real' job truly became writing books.

And yet...I still go through frequent periods where I just don't feel up to working on whatever it is I'm supposed to be working on. I thought that if the distractions of having to get up and go to a building I hate almost every day fell away, it would unleash an untold motivational power within me. But that's not how it worked out. Even when I'm happy and in a good mood, I'd say at least half the time I'd rather be doing something else, or I just keep getting distracted.

For a long time, I was convinced something was wrong with me, that maybe I wasn't cut out to be a writer. Because, obviously, if I was a good writer, I'd obviously want to write all of the time with no breaks, right?

Except that that's not how it works. The more I looked into it, the more I came to realize that fucking everyone puts up with this, and not just for writing. You can get sick of anything if you do it enough.

There's a quote I heard from Bob Mayer: 'Writing is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.'

And that's become very true for me. I think another big part of if it is just that I'm naturally a miserable person. I'm almost completely positive that I don't suffer from a chemical imbalance or any kind of disorder, I just think that some of my switches are flipped to 'sad' and no matter how good my situation in life is, I'll find something to feel bad about.

Which leads me to probably my number one motivation in life: Guilt.

I have a lot of reasons for doing what I do, for sitting down and writing every single day. Most of them are good reasons. But the reason that keeps me going when I'd rather just fuck off is probably the fact that I feel guilty.

Here's a frequent thought process I have: "I'm in good mental and physical health, I'm happily married, I have no major debt, I love where I live and I'm working my fucking dream job: writing books that pay the bills so I don't have to leave the house if I don't want to...AND I ONLY WROTE FUCKING THREE THOUSAND WORDS TODAY?! What's wrong with me!? There are people out there who write five thousand words every single day and they probably have to put up with more shit than I do!"

This is a good/bad kind of scenario. The good is that I'm slowly trending upwards in the amount of work I get done on a regular basis. The bad news is that I often feel like shit.

Another thought that bugs me is this: There are a lot of people out there that are more talented than I am. They are smarter and better writers than I am. And the only reason I am more successful than they are is because I'm more stubborn. I write more mediocre novels than they do brilliant novels that appeal to a wider audience, so I'm getting more money. That doesn't really seem fair to them at all.

On the other hand, there are a lot of writers out there who write fucking SHIT and are making like a hundred times what I'm making. Seriously, sometimes I cruise the Top 100 lists and check out what's at the top and some of it is so fucking terribly written.

So maybe it all balances out?

Ultimately, I've realized that guilt, like basically everything else in life, can be a utilized as a tool. I use it as motivation to keep me going because hey, I have bills to pay, I have to be doing something worthwhile with my life, otherwise, why the fuck am I living it?

So, if you're having trouble with getting yourself motivated, maybe try feeling guilty? Perhaps not the best advice, but it worked for me. Because if you want to succeed at whatever it is you're doing, you have to find something to keep you going even if, like Stephen King once said, "All you feel like you're doing is shoveling shit from a sitting position."


  1. "I'm more stubborn" That same statement explains all my own successes in life. I have no innate skill or prodigious gifts, I am simply stubborn as hell and keep at it till I succeed. I don't see why either of us should feel guilty for having the tenacity to keep on going.

    "...a lot of writers out there who write fucking SHIT and are making like a hundred times what I'm making. "
    See Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey.

    You use both guilt and stubbornness as tools for success. Weird tools, but they obviously work at getting the job done, so I agree, it seems to all balance right out.

    1. Yeah, it's been a long, weird road to get where I am, and I'm sure it's going to keep being long and weird if I'm lucky enough for it.