T.A. Barnhart

carpe bucko

mush brain & avoidance

2018-07-24 mush.png

“Writers write” said Harlan Ellison, but that’s not very useful when my brain is the functional equivalent of a bowl of oatmeal after twenty minutes on the table. And my brain seems to always be in that condition when I want to write.

Of course, when I’m unable to write – for example, out riding my bike or swimming laps – all kinds of great ideas fill my mind, suddenly awake and alert, the functional equivalent of a bowl of fragrant, steaming-hot ramen.

This is a major reason I am in therapy.

Then I think about the steps to take to be able to write regularly and freely, and the word “discipline” comes to mind: discipline to meditate regularly and help clear out my mind; discipline to not waste time; discipline to set and keep regular writing times. I do not care for discipline, but not in an exciting James Dean kind of way. 

I just like doing what comes easiest.

Not “like”; that’s not the case. Often I am unhappy or lethargic or self-hating when I do what comes easiest, but I have fifty years or so of following the path of least resistance. When I was young, that was easy. My folks were divorced, I was smart enough to skate along in school, and I had no reason to be disciplined. Hell, I doubt I even understood such a thing was necessary. As I got into adulthood, I always seemed to get help in following the easy paths. By the time I needed to be self-disciplined and to find ways to take not the easy but the productive path, it was too late.

All my mental muscle memory was trained to take it easy. And my depression was getting worse.

Just to add to that, my years as a Christian had taught me that my failures were not only my fault but existential failures: I was a sinner and I was going to hell. Nothing I could do about it; that’s just what I was born to. I stopped believing in the salvation thing, but I kept my faith in my own unworthiness.

I own it to this very day.

I know, of course, that I am not dealing with moral failure but mental illness. However, since it is mental illness, my mind continues to hold leech-like to the moral failure belief. Again: this is why I’m in therapy. My hope is that I will get to a place where I do the things I want to do – primarily, of course, writing regularly – and that that will gradually erode the hold of “I am a failure” on my mind.

Check back with me in December to see how that’s gone.

T.A. Barnhart