The Doldrums

I started my writing challenge in June 2015. Since then, every single day I have written and published a new blog post. It’s been both tough and easy, depending on the day. I’ve had times when the words just flew across the page, where I was done before I had even started. I liked those days. I also had times where it was an incredible struggle, where I had to use more discipline than I knew I had to finish my day’s quota.

I’ve had good days and bad days. I’ve just never had so many bad days in a row like this session.

I try to write in the morning, to get it out of the way so to speak. I mean, that expression has a negative connotation, which doesn’t really fit here. You eat your vegetables first to get them out of the way, so you have ample room for dessert. This isn’t like that. Rather, I try to write in the morning because I know I’ll have time and energy. At night, after work, it’s far too easy to take the easy way out, to just go to sleep and leave my writing streak stranded.

Over the last five days, I haven’t written in the morning, and I’ve barely kept my streak alive.

Tonight, for instance, is after midnight. I finished work several hours ago, but I had no desire to write. I tried to, but it didn’t happen. I tried earlier in the day, but that was even worse. I couldn’t force it. Even the idea of putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard just filled me with revulsion. ‘Later,’ I said, and I kept saying it until I had no later to turn to.

I should point out here that I haven’t lost my streak, even though it’s after midnight and thus technically tomorrow. I don’t view time that way. My day starts when I wake up and ends when I go to sleep. If I go into a coma and sleep away a week, I wouldn’t count that as missing days. Sure, technically I did, but not in spirit. How could I prevent it? Similarly, if I have insomnia and stay awake for 50+ hours, and then I mercifully fall asleep and wake up at 12:05am the next day, should that break my streak? Is this really something I could control?

No, my day is not defined by the arbitrary boundaries of the clock. My day starts when I wake up and ends when I fall asleep. That’s it. Somewhere in between those two events I need to write something. If I do that, my streak lives on. I haven’t fallen asleep yet, and unless I do so while at the keyboard, my streak will still live on. Yea, I guess.

Before, this streak, this 400+ day streak, was all the motivation I needed to write. Write, add another check mark, extend the streak, repeat tomorrow. Knowing I’ve done something every single day for more than a year was so fulfilling. Heck, I don’t even know if I’ve brushed my teeth every single day for the last year. Hey, sometimes you run out of toothpaste, okay? To do something as difficult as writing, that’s worth something. It pushed me to go forward.

Over the last month or so, the whole idea of this writing challenge has really plunged. I almost no longer care. I used to check my updated writing stats every day, but now I’ve stopped bothering. I didn’t even know how long I had done this. Today is Day 449. Wow. I’ve come so far, and yet right now, it seems like nothing.

This isn’t true, of course. It is much more than nothing, and my current indifference is simply a passing phase. We all have good days and days days in everything we do; it’s just that the bad days stand out far more. We sail through the good and have to struggle with the bad, and humans remember the struggle far more than sailing.

In a few weeks this will pass and I’ll be back to normal, still plugging away, writing every day. My current indifference will seem like a passing dream, more phantasm than reality. I’ll be fine, my writing will flow and I won’t have to force myself well past my bedtime to get something done. Right now, though, all of that is false, and only discipline and supreme willpower is keeping me going.

I’m aided by one thing, my knowledge that this too will pass. This current melancholy won’t last. I don’t know the source, whether it’s just random fluxuations in motivation something deeper rooted in my day-to-day experience, but I know it will past. That’s just the way life works. It’s always darkest before the dawn and all that. I know, and it lets me move forward … but it’s the only thing keeping me going.

I wish I could explain it better. Back in May, I had a few rough patches, a few days where I barely got myself to write, but they were never back to back to back. It was the opposite in fact. After a bad day, I made sure to write early and often the next day, to make up for my near transgression. This time, the bad days are coming like battalioins, one after the other, and I’m not sure how to break free.

It already looks like a losing struggle. Here I am, after midnight, trying to write. Tomorrow I need to wake up early. Yeah, that will be fun. Then I need to conquer my day at work, which is longer because two people are away for vacation. I get extra hours, nice I guess, but those come at the expense of something else, likely my writing. I’ll be arriving home later and more tired, and I’ll need to summon the strength to write past midnight again. How long can I keep this up?

I don’t know, but for now, I’m not questioning it, and I’m not worrying about it. Worry won’t help. No, I’ll just write, and if it takes another midnight writing session, then I’ll deal with it when the time comes.

It’s funny, because I’m sure a few months from now, when I look back at this, I’ll have no idea what’s going on. Right now, this feeling is incredibly oppressive. I don’t want to write. I don’t know what I want to do, but I definitely know what I don’t want to do. It weighs me down, threatens to crush me, and yet I know in a few months, if not a few weeks, it will just be a random memory.

I’m reminded of one of my favourite sayings. “When you don’t feel like doing something, that’s when it counts double.” Right now, I’m definitely doubling my writing. Hopefully not for long. I need to get out of these doldrums, and I will. Maybe tomorrow. We’ll see.

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