A Ramble About the Sense of Wasting Time

I’m so scared of wasting time. I’m trying to build so many things. I’m trying to reach my dreams. I’m trying to lay down a rock-solid foundation for my future – the kind where I’m not going to be locked in some boring (or even exciting) 9 to 5 while I work in the night to actually make my real dreams come true – on the nights where I’m not too exhausted to work substantially. There are too many of these stories. I want to leap off my foundation in 2020 and keep flying, not fall, and trust me, I know how unlikely it is that this will happen. I do not have the faith that I will achieve it, even as I try to tell myself I am working towards it, and I freely admit that now.

I don’t do the whole “resting” thing very well. I am starting to believe I have a problem, some form of workaholism. I have an overabundance of ideas, and they get extremely annoying when they stay unrealized for too long, even and especially if they are things as simple as blog posts. When they are unrealized, it is obvious because I put my ideas on color-coded post-it notes when I get them, then I tear them up and throw them away when I’ve manifested them. My near excess of post-it notes makes it clear that there are too many unrealized ideas. I’m going through some of them, but I’m doing so much slower than satisfactorily.

I have a problem with finishing things. Finishing is what brings me satisfaction, but I am, unfortunately, rarely satisfied. I’ve realized how comparatively easy it is to start work on any and every new idea. Following up, continuing work, seeing a project through to the end? These are entirely different stories. But because I don’t finish enough things, I decided to pick one project, at least, and make absolutely sure I finish that thing. Right now, this focus is a project called “On the Ceiling,” a modern twist on the legend of Kwaku Ananse. I’m also doing a bunch of other things like writing and composing another spoken word project, ideating upon a novella I intended to have finished by now, and several more secret things. But as for “On the Ceiling,” I have given myself goals and timelines, and I must see them all through from start to finish.

Listen: whoever said the beginning is the hardest part was a liar. The hardest part is everything after the beginning. Giving up and getting lazy is way, way easier than we realize.

I realize how precious the summer vacation is to me, and even though I’m interning basically from 8 to 5, I’m pouring so much effort, time and energy into these seemingly insignificant “pet projects.” I’m sure several of us are familiar with that sentiment of feeling like you’re doing so much and still not enough, all at once. I’m easily exhausted, but it’s hard for me to sleep when I get obsessive about manifesting an idea. There are too many things that don’t go right. I am capable of spending four to six hours straight working on recording a voice note demo for a spoken word poem or song. As for the hours I spend working and reworking a single short story, they are countless. The summer is precious because once school begins, I am no longer assured of my freedom, availability and mental health, at least to the extents that I have them now.

I feel like I’ve never, ever poured as much design as I’m pouring into “On the Ceiling” and Kuukua Annan (she’s the main character) into any other fiction project I’ve ever worked on in my life. The terrifying part is that I don’t know what the result of it will be. Results.

OTC Wall
This is my “On the Ceiling” wall in my room. (No, it’s not on the ceiling, ha-ha.) On this wall, I plan and brainstorm on ideas for the entire series in a visual format. I’ve found I work best when I can literally see the scope of what I’m working with.

As a consequence of my upbringing, I suspect I am far more fixated on results than even I think is healthy for anyone, especially not a creator. I’m talking about results as opposed to, like, process, personal gain, character building et cetera. It’s the same kind of mentality that makes you feel like you’re wasting your time sitting in a classroom while the lecturer is going on about some topic he has already told you that you won’t need for the exam. A huge part of you is not wondering, “Is this interesting? Is it useful for me?” Instead, it’s wondering, “What the bloody hell is the point, then, if I’m not going to need it for the exam?” Results.

And it’s not necessarily about the results either existing or not existing; it’s a matter of known results vs. unknown results. If the topic is coming in the exam, you know there are definite benefits to be gained from retaining the information. You know what the result of acquiring this information will be. On the other hand, you have no clue whether or when this information will benefit you outside the context of an examination, and so even if it’s potentially useful in the future, you don’t know where or how, and it becomes a point of frustration. You don’t know what the result of knowing will be, and that can sometimes make you feel like it isn’t worth knowing at all.

In the same way, I don’t know what my results are, from all the work I do. It’s not like I have a book deal or even feel like I’m ready for one. I don’t know if after all my design work, my actual stories will still come out trash. I don’t know if people will read stories when I post them, or like them, or whether they will impress, inspire or invigorate people. I don’t know whether my life is heading in the direction of JK Rowling, or whether I’ll just finish the series for everyone to forget about it forevermore. And because of all this uncertainty, the feeling that I’m wasting my time arises because all that I dedicate myself to could possibly amount to nothing at all.

Sometimes, when I’m writing, designing, editing or recording, my heart starts beating abominably fast, I begin to quietly panic out of nowhere, because I’m just asking myself, “What are you doing with your life?” I wish I was nine years old again, and could engage in all of this seemingly frivolous madness without the guilt and panic that now accompanies my creation processes.

-Akotowaa

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9 thoughts on “A Ramble About the Sense of Wasting Time

  1. I feel you.

    Most hours, of most days, a restlessness that is difficult to understand or articulate tugs on my soul. I like to think of it as some sort of ‘calling’ – to strive for, and to create something that will outlive me.

    And to all of us who experience this perennial disquiet, I say, let’s embrace it, as frustrating as it might be. A life of idle ease or timid peace has never appealed to me. I want to leave a life the embodies victorious effort.

    Akotowaa, we are pilgrims, and we are looking for our eternal city, whatever that might be.

  2. I relate to much of what you say. Try reading “Play it Away” by Charlie Hoehn sometime; like you, he’s also a incredibly ambitious individual who wrote an entire book about many of the things you just described.

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