Impatience of the Momentary

I don’t like work. I think it’s safe to say that most people feel the same way. Generally it’s not the work itself that I oppose, but rather the time spent on it. I’m impatient, especially when I picture the intent or idea so clearly in my mind. I don’t want to wait, and I don’t want to risk having it come out differently than I’ve imagined.

The thing is, I know my first efforts are weak. I understand that any attempt to shortcut or rush a project—whatever that may be—degrades the end results, and quite probably makes the outlay of the time I did put into it rather pointless.

Part of the problem is a lack of appreciation for the process itself. In gaming terms, leveling up a character in a roleplaying game is often considered grinding—as if efforts to strengthen the character is work, boring work, and it’s only done to get to the end levels. This is in a game, something that should be fun throughout.

Finding enjoyment in the activity makes a significant difference. Back in art school, my mindset evolved from trying to create a finished piece to simply doing—painting (or drawing, etc.) for the sake of painting. It was not a mindless activity, but the goal shifted from an end-thing to a momentary experience.

I’ve found it harder to fall into this mindset when it comes to writing, though every once in a while, when words just seem to flow, I edge nearer to it. It’s quite possible that my writing habits keep me from this sense of process—I edit while I write, trying to hone words and sentences as I write them. I feel the effort, the work, and while it’s not quite a slog it isn’t really a game, either.

Of course, it also depends on what I’m writing—blog posts (like this one here) are more work than play; stories that I can’t get out of my head come much closer to an enjoyable process.

But when I struggle more than flow, I still find ways to appreciate it—or at least the gains. I anticipate the end results, and see them after the fact. Repeat this often enough and I begin to train my mind, like a Pavlovian experiment, to equate this kind of work with finished pieces (and possibly even lubricate future efforts). Along the way, I’m more aware of what I’m doing (sometimes agonizingly so), and that awareness allows me to see the flaws more clearly. This awareness also sticks in my mind, helping me see patterns I fall into, and traps I can attempt to avoid.

Ultimately, though, I need to learn how to relish these moments, to find enjoyment in all acts of writing, and bring out the game of each effort. I’m confident the secret lies in the process. I should explore other ways of working on this craft, or other environments, maybe give myself different challenges, or push my writing style in various directions. Shaking it up is good. What it boils down to is that I—and you—should enjoy what we choose to do, or choose to do something else.