There’s this quote that I see repeated, often, on Twitter and Pinterest, which is taken from Amy Poehler’s excellent book Yes Please.
“I believe great people do things before they are ready.”
And this one:
“You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing.”
I could actually happily post most of the text here. Yes Please is that sort of book that makes you want to try harder and do more. It also sort of makes you want to throw yourself at Amy Poehler’s feet and do the full Wayne’s World ‘We’re not worthy’ thing.
Growing up, I was really bad at the doing of it. ‘It’ being everything from the washing up to my homework to my A-level coursework. I could spend hours worrying about not having done the work, while I played solitaire on the computer in my room. I was great at the talking and the worrying and the thinking. I made myself sick worrying about looming deadlines without lifting a finger to really help myself until the last possible minute. At university, I tried to break the worrying and thinking and talking habit, but I spent a lot of time still faffing (‘thinking’) and writing the actual projects in the final 12 hours before they were due. And that was the work. That wasn’t even everyday life. In everyday life it was and is really easy to make anything – even washing up a cup – an overwhelming job if you spend too long thinking about doing it instead of just getting off your ass and doing it. And that was me on a good day, without depression wrapping in a cold fug of no-energy-don’t-care-fuck-off.
I’m a lot better at the doing of it these days. Probably three days of the week, I can be on top form of doing it – which is good because I’d like to keep my job. Three days a week I struggle with the doing of it and have to give myself pep talks, reminding myself that once an item is off the day’s to do list, I no longer have to struggle with it for at least 24 hours. Or ever again, in the case of some things (roll on the day I’m ready to take my driving test). One day a week, like clockwork, I pretty much don’t manage anything. (Usually a Sunday, though this week it was a Saturday but Daredevil is out on Netflix and I’m not sorry. I, for one, welcome our new Marvel overlords.)
I used to talk myself out of doing shit all the time when I was young. Just the thought of the thinking and worrying to come was so overwhelming that I wouldn’t even bother trying. If I could shut down the part where I had to be involved, I’d do it. And still, sometimes, when I’ve signed up for something, I wish that my apathetic, worrying self had pulled the ‘back out now’ alarm cord earlier. And then I go ahead and do the thing anyway and it’s great and I feel like an idiot for wasting so much pre-doing-it headspace on it. I envy the people who go straight for the doing without the worrying. I wish it hadn’t taken me nearly 33 years to get even halfway there. I wish over-thinking shit hadn’t started to take on the connotations of being a Special Flower that it has, as being an introvert has. Over-thinking can be paralysing. It’s boring and a pain in the ass.
This is on my mind because of a combination of things.
One) in some ways, over-thinking is a bitch when I’m driving, and I had a driving lesson this morning. When I go to turn the car, I think about turning without actually doing it. Not to a dangerous level, just enough of a lag that it’s not as smooth as would be ideal. I’m improving, but the matching of movement to thought without a pause is … practically against my character (and yet how often do I not apply this little pause for thought when I’m speaking? All the time).
Two) I went for my first proper run in a long time this morning. I’m doing the Great North Run this year and I need to build back up to being able to do any kind of distance. But I sat on the sofa doing nothing for 20 minutes while I thought about going for a run. Eventually I decided I’d think about going for a run as I got my stuff together and actually started running. (And it hurt and was raining horribly and I hated every step until I was about 7/8ths done, and then suddenly I loved it. Always the way.)
Three) I sent five poems out to a mag yesterday and crossed my fingers while sending as you do, and I realised that when it comes to writing I find it so much easier to throw caution to the wind and just write. I wrote a 35,000 ‘book’ when I was 16 (it was terrible) but I sat down and did it with way less hesitation than I did any homework or revision. And I suppose that’s because I am writing the creative stuff for me (see last week’s whimpering about how writing for you was difficult). I enter competitions (and never win) but also never really write just for competitions. And then I saw the Bare Fiction Debut Poetry Collection competition and thought, oh hey, I wonder… and then almost immediately talked myself out of even trying because I started worrying about having enough poems, about picking the order of the poems, about a squillion little irrelevant things as excuses not to enter. I talked myself out of it so quickly and smoothly that I didn’t even realise I’d done it until a few hours later. And then I looked up and realised I should just go ahead and do it anyway, as with everything. It’s not death defying. It’s not walking on fire. It’s just… a little thing. It’s just a competition with more than one poem and I’m used to sinking into the ether of comps and vanishing, but it might be a little step on a big mountain.
“Great people do things before they’re ready. They do things before they know they can do it. Doing what you’re afraid of, getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that- that’s what life is. You might be really good. You might find out something about yourself that’s really special and if you’re not good, who cares? You tried something. Now you know something about yourself.”