Even the smallest creative endeavors, like writing a sentence or doodling in a notebook, need an impetus for their creation. The previous sentence, for example, was a result of my anxiously flicking a red Zoidberg lighter that my girlfriend Jessica bought me for my birthday. And isn’t it grand that every written word has its own story that exists beyond its literal meaning?
This essay is about all the different routes that lead me to a finished sentence. The pipelines to written text we will explore are not necessarily representative of anyone but myself, but I hope that you, the reader, will find some of this information relatable if only tangentially.
Gnashing my teeth, biting my fingernails, rapidly tapping my big toe, adjusting my glasses, chewing my hair, counting backwards from nineteen: Welcome to my anxious episodes. As strange and uncomfortable as I find my expression of anxiety it works as one of my main motivators for writing and everything else.
Drinking hot coffee or tea triggers the create-zones of my brain.
Jessica once told me that her anxiety pills “eliminated her motivation for homework,” and damned if I didn’t flush mine for the very same reason. An anxious state of mind will prod me through physical and psychological discomfort to do anything that my subconscious considers essential to having a fulfilled day. While this usually has little effect on my writing it has an immense impact on my ability to accomplish things that my subconscious finds essential like brushing my teeth or showering. So I wake up late and would rather just put on some jeans and go to work as is? Too bad, because three different anxious ticks are gonna drive me bonkers till I capitulate and soap up like a good boy.
But I found the secret to harnessing the power of anxiety. I realized that if I could just find a way to sincerely convince myself that writing was essential to having a good day, I’d be set. And lo and behold I found it in my 100-days-of-essays experiment. If I tell myself that for the next 100 days having a good day means writing an essay, then toe-tapping and nail-biting will become triggers to remind me to write. And it almost works as well as:
For the most part treadmills are horrible creations. They drain absurd amounts of energy, are incredibly expensive (especially compared to its competition—running outside), and sound like angry stomping rhinos made out of aluminum. But the exercise bike—I can get behind that. Here’s a clip from the first thing an exercise bike ever triggered me to write:
‘Twas the robin doth this emerald thread
I know, not very good, but at least I wrote it. At least I created that imaginary world that, until a couple moments ago, no one else had ever read. And I owe it all to an exercise bike. I’ve always tried to be healthy, but until my early 20s I had no idea that meant sweating or raising my heart rate for 30 minutes a day. Once I started to exercise, I noticed that the evenings I put pen to paper followed the mornings that I worked out. Two summers ago I took the concept to its inevitable conclusion. If working out makes me want to write I should certainly try writing while I’m working out.
FYI to all of you in Albuquerque; there is a walking desk at the UNM health library and boy is it fun. I find that I write a bit slower while I’m walking as I keep getting distracted by my typing and slow down to a point where I have to refocus and catch up with the treadmill. I don’t try to write while I’m walking anymore but I still hit that exercise bike almost every day.
Okay, this one is weird. I love heat. Like, I know, that sounds pretty human. After all, everybody likes to be cozy. Yeah, no, I like heat in a way that’s super dangerous. If it’s less than 80 degrees outside I live next to my space heater because I can’t stand the concept being in an atmosphere more than 10 degrees different from my body temperature. For this same reason I’m really into air conditioning during July and August. But AC does not make me want to write; space heaters are my number one motivation.
Somehow, being as hot as the outside of a freshly nuked hot pocket makes my fingers and brain cells loosen up enough to create. Hell if I know why this works so well, but at this very moment I have a space heater sitting on my left foot tilted up towards the rest of me. I actually have to jump back from my space heater once every five minutes to avoid getting second-degree burns but hey, the little prices we pay for creativity and comfort. On the downside, I accidentally burn myself every once in a while, but I’ve gotten 25 days into my 100-days-of-essays project.
Oh, I forgot to mention drinking hot coffee or tea triggers the create-zones of my brain because, you know, core temperature increasing and all.
It feels weird to read the last three paragraphs and know that I was anxious and hot when I wrote them. This paragraph is the result of an exercise bike and a cup of coffee. Oh God, I just can’t do this anymore. This article is boring. It’s literally going to bore me to death figuratively. Okay, sorry, the anxiety just took over for a few sentences.
I’m curious what motivates you to write. Discuss in the comments.