Art is Work

Jun 14, 2020

If you have to find devices to coax yourself to stay focused on writing, perhaps you should not be writing what you’re writing. And if this lack of motivation is a constant problem, perhaps writing is not your forte. I mean, what is the problem? If writing bores you, that is pretty fatal. If that is not the case, but you find that it is hard going and it just doesn’t flow, well, what did you expect? It is work; art is work.

— Ursula K. Le Guin

I was browsing around Tumblr, looking through the Ursula K. Le Guin tag because she’s one of my favourite authors and I have nothing else better to do than browse the Internet. There I found this quote and at first, I was a little bit offended. However, the quote did get me thinking. Why did I stop writing?

Two years ago, I wrote quite a bit. Writing has never came easy to me but it was something I enjoyed and put a lot of time into. While I was reflecting on this, the cynical side of me thought that I had just met my muse who inspired me to write and inspired many of the things I wrote at the time. Upon further reflection, I don’t think that is the sole reason for my outburst of creativity during that year.

The more I read, the more I want to write. I find that this is true for many of my phases of writing. Slowly, I had been reading less and less. As the Internet trains my mind to crave those easy hits of dopamine, I can no longer concentrate on reading, let alone writing.

I think that Le Guin is part of a different generation. She did not experience the Internet like my generation currently does. Concentration all around is difficult for any task. Even the things that I enjoy doing, requires significant effort to do for a sustained amount of time without picking up my phone to check notifications. But is this just a case of passion? If I was truly passionate about writing or reading or knitting, wouldn’t I just do it?

Then there comes the factor of depression. I’m always wary saying “I have depression.” I think that it’s more accurate to say “I am depressed.” Either way, it is debilitating. I spent three hours sleeping in the middle of the day today because of it. My already terrible concentration is reduced even further. The things I enjoy doing no longer bring me joy. I question if it’s even worth it.

Depression also just saps so much energy out of me. I stay in bed until five minutes until I have to sign into work because of it. I can only scroll through Instagram or Reddit or Tumblr because it’s the easiest thing to do to keep anxieties at bay. It keeps my mind occupied with catastrophizing everything, dwelling on past mistakes, and worrying about the future.

Something that depression says to me often is that “I am not good enough.” It permeates almost every facet of my life: friendships, work, hobbies, romantic relationships, physical relationships, my ability to survive… I am a total perfectionist because of it and because I am a perfectionist, it is incredibly hard for me to just get started on something. I am paralyzed by the fact that nothing I do will be perfect, even though nothing ever is perfect. So I just don’t do it. Writing included.

Which is why I take offense to what Le Guin says when she says “if this lack of motivation is a constant problem, perhaps writing is not your forte.” Before I spent too much time on the Internet and before I learned what depression was, I wrote a lot. Motivation was not a problem back then.

Thankfully, I can never say that writing bores me. Maybe that’s where Le Guin is making a false assumption for her argument. To me, writing is never a chore. It requires effort, yes, but it’s never a chore. Once I actually sit down to write (as I am now), I feel in my element. Maybe saying that writing is my forte is a bit much (there goes the “I’m not good enough” rearing its ugly head again), but I still enjoy it.

For example, writing comes a lot easier to me than drawing does. I used to be an avid artist as a child. I stopped in junior high school and although I sometimes regret stopping it, when I try to go back to it, it’s a chore. Flow doesn’t come to me. Flow does come to me when I write.

Maybe it’s because I have an urge to reinvent myself every six months as the days come and go faster and faster but after an extremely turbulent year and a half, I’m trying to sift through the rubble and find myself again. Writing is the first and obvious thing that comes to mind. I want to write again. More importantly, I want to feel like me again. I’m willing to put in the work for it.

Category: writing
Tags: #ursula k le guin