There is cognitive dissonance which exists when a writer ceases to write. For any period of time, not participating in one’s passions can cause a myriad of reactions, one of which is the rationalization that “I don’t have anything worth saying”.
It devalues that which it once held as highest esteem – most cathartic and noble of efforts. It is a subversion of reality.
…and I do it all the time.
I have this problem with downplaying things which bother me, in an effort to have them not invoke negative feelings (i.e. being bothered by them). I have many examples of this.
One: I used to write every week. Or at least every other week.
I was inspired or at least in the head space of creative flow. It was easy. It wasn’t effort.
When the frequency took a major hit – months apart and even more than a year at a time – I would rationalize, internally, multiple “facts” that lessened the blow of losing such a core thread in my human fabric.
“I am too busy with more pressing matters.”
“I don’t have anything to write about, lately.”
“There are more important things that need my attention right now.”
“I wouldn’t have anything of value to say. I can’t express adequately, so it would be pointless.”
“It’s more leisure anyway. I’ll pick it up again when I have [free time; energy; inspiration; an assignment/guest post scheduled].”
Two: When I’m not immediately successful at trying something, I get frustrated.
I will admit that there is a very short list (on one hand) of things I can succeed at without much effort. Obviously, I enjoy those things because I don’t have to fret and it’s natural. Therefore, soothing. Contrarily, there are a great, great many more in which I am not adept. Some just not right away, but I later get better (because I press through). Some, not at all so I’ve abandoned all participation whenever possible.
An example of the latter – MATH. That four-letter word that haunts me always. Anything remotely more complicated that basic high school math (okay, maybe middle-school) and my pulse legitimately quickens. My heart rate increases and my stomach turns sour. These are actual bodily reactions to a trigger-memory of the mind when equations are poised and I’m expected to answer like a secure adult. I know I’m not a stupid person, but I can get grossly insecure when faced with Math. I didn’t have the privilege of amazing Math teachers that awakened the power in me to conquer that subject. I wish I did, but therein lies the truth.
An example of the first type – the ‘not right away’ happened yesterday.
Since moving into my new home – I knew one of the first things a person needs to do is change the locks. It’s just basic security. I had dreams of becoming an AirBnB host once I got a house. Some good income paired with my continuing desire to host and be hospitable meant a valid goal.
One of the easiest ways to help with the multiple guests is having a keyless entry lock so security is a strong component and convenience can still be maintained. Even if I didn’t “host” (which I’ve still not signed up – due to some discouragement from my boyfriend for safety reasons and the wisdom of those who are hosts, but who are married – not doing it alone), having a keyless system is a huge help when I need family or friends to come check on Sadie in my absence. Or when I misplace the one (and only) key that came with the property, or am not in my own vehicle with the garage door opener.
The reasons could continue. Yesterday, though, I bought and installed the new locks. By myself! (Insert woman-empowerment music and a Rosie-the-Riveter fist pump.)
It was not all smooth sailing though. To spare a palaverous story, I’ll summarize to explain that there were stripped 4-inch screws, shoddy initial construction in the door frame, shaving wood to fit pieces, and a delay of roughly 30 minutes to yank the dickens out of that last stubborn screw that was fully encased and to which no power drill or screw driver could extract – drill bit notwithstanding.
I was frustrated. I wanted to quit. I was close to cancelling the plans to drive out to boyfriend’s town, as planned, because I couldn’t leave with a hole in the door. Then I swirled with the guilt that I couldn’t beat the screw. Something so trite and common.
I have little (if any) patience with my own ineptitude. If you know me, you may sweetly call me a nice person – one who encourages and roots for others. Doing so for others is one of those things that is effortless and comes naturally. But if I’m supposed to direct that grace and kindness inward – oh then we have a problem.
That’s another story for another day, though.
The result of this one is thankfully, conquering.
I got the screw extracted. I finished the rest of the deadbolt installation, the wire connection, the second handle installation, and all before I had to leave to head to boyfriend’s apartment. Okay, I left about 8 minutes late, but that’s a win!
The result is that I stopped feeling agitated and I stopped the rationalization that this task wasn’t worth my energy simply because my energy wasn’t showing it was good enough. The definition of cognitive dissonance. The ‘sour grapes’, just like the ol’ fox.
Losing a friend because they left willingly? They weren’t a good influence anyway.
Not fitting into those clothes I loved and once felt so confident in? I never looked good in them, they weren’t flattering. I’ll just buy things that hide better.
Being rejected when I was vulnerable and open? It’s my own fault anyway. Shouldn’t be that way/say that thing/be that ‘fill-in-the-blank’ personality.
To be subjected to the above view is the practicing of “sour grapes” or reducing dissonance (“to reduce cognitive dissonance by change with, justification against, or indifference to the contradiction inducing the mental stress”°.
Instead, I should examine the situation – the emotions it caused – process it and either adapt if needed or let it go as that which doesn’t warrant more dedicated energy (not in apathy, but after processing and consideration and to allow the ‘effect’, to affect).
I don’t want to live my days in the state of mind that if it’s hard – even something I love – that it really isn’t that important after all. That’s the behavior of quitters. Harsh, but true. I can say that because I’ve been that. I’m not proud to admit – but it’s there nonetheless.
What I can’t pretend is that this – writing – isn’t as important to me as air. Without breathing adequately, my chest constricts and I wheeze in pain. It hurts! Has happened quite a bit in my asthmatic lifetime. Likewise, my spirit constricts, constrains – I hurt when I’m not examining life or processing something or expressing through writing. Even if just on a blank page in a journal or a spare piece of paper – doing this allows me to be. To be healthy and free.
It’s difficult to adequately describe, but those to partake in any creative expression, or regular exercise, or routine that brings them steadiness and calm – you can understand a bit of what I’m trying to quantify in a sentence.
The effect is already present. Here at my kitchen counter. With music shuffling in the background and my dog asleep on the chair. This Sunday morning gave me permission to stumble back to keys and syllables and attempts at reason.
Is this relate-able at all? If yes and you feel so inclined, I would love to hear your own unpacking of mind. You can contact me anytime (I mean that). Scroll to the bottom to connect, after clicking the link ^^. Or you can comment here.
Even if this isn’t one of those “interactive” times, know that you aren’t alone in your experiences. Just as I know I’m not alone in mine. We are subject to being flesh and imperfect bone. Yet we are constant works of beauty from ashes. Always with the ability to grow and learn and be refined.
° Festinger, L. (1957). A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. California: Stanford University Press.