I’ve been reading more this month. I decided to read a novel for thirty minutes uninterrupted at least once every day. I had to dig around to find the motivation to do that because I’d fallen out of love with reading (again). I wanted to break the cycle. I wondered (again) if reading was a waste of time. This is a terrible trap for a writer to find himself in. My head was already full of coding, podcasts, films, and catastrophising (of course). Eventually I decided (this took quite a bit of thought!) that reading was something that lifted my whole experience of living, and luxuriating in literature gave me far more felt experiences than I could have in my physical life, so why wouldn’t I drink deeply from the well, as long as it was balanced with being active in the external world?
Today I was asking myself why I kept struggling with sticking to the habits that keep me physically healthy. My right glute flared up at the end of last week, and I struggled walking for an hour on Saturday. I’ve gained weight because I’m emotional eating again. Looking for ways to eat more healthily, I wrote:
… It needs organisation and discipline. Like writing. Like making anything with complexity that’s of worth. Worth. Work. Worth work worthwork wrthwrk
The worth lifts the work. Knowing the reason makes the task more than just an item on a list. Understanding the purpose, feeling the importance of it, makes me engage creatively, and forgetting the reasons why I read led me to stop reading. The same with writing, eating healthily, and exercise.
I can be aggressive in asking why I’m doing something. I talk myself out of all sorts of potentially valuable things. Creative engagement is an elusive mindset. I’m terrible at taking orders, especially from myself, and after one too many compromises, or if I lack clarity of purpose, my unconscious swiftly calls on the gods of mutiny and self-sabotage.
All I can do to find my way through these defences is to keep doing the slow, thorough work of bringing the defences into the light, and as the saying goes, to ‘give them a good listening to’, with kindness and respect. The forces at play deep under the surface of my conscious mind are powerful and can work for me as well as against. The trick is to realise when I’m using ‘the work’ to avoid action. I want to change, but I have to bring my shadows with me, because they are the ones who will make the changed life worth living.