What’s my motivation?

It’s that time of the month again. Not that time. No, the kind of time when I speak to friends and, instead of a hello or a hug, receive a curt inquiry as to why D For Dalrymple hasn’t been updated for days / weeks / months (if you don’t count copying and pasting a rejection letter as an update, which apparently some of you don’t).

I’m ashamed to note that this is becoming a fairly regular occurrence that plays out quite predictably. When confronted by aforementioned friends, I assume what I imagine to be a sort of apologetic, self-admonitory face, and mumble something about how I know I really need to update, it’s just that things have been getting in the way; and, while I do have a lot of ideas, I worry that they may be just too untopical and, ultimately, redundant by the time I finally get a chance to sit down at my laptop and commit them to teh internetz. Lol! I say, wryly.

Having thus exculpated myself, I spend a day or so umming and ahhing internally over whatever it is I’ll eventually talk about, and then at least two days faffing and writing about something completely different. I post the resulting gibberish around the beginning of the next working week so that you, my attractive and gainfully employed readership (having concluded your exciting, fulfilling and expensive weekends) can settle down comfortably at your well-paid jobs to read the bloody thing and be thus placated for a further three weeks.

This persistent hesitation ultimately comes down to motivation, but hardly lack thereof. In fact, a period of sustained navel-gazing has led me to the discovery that I am, if anything, too motivated. The same journey of self-discovery prompted the realisation that my primary motivation, for pretty much everything, is fear. Okay, we’re not talking the bowel-chilling, throat-constricting, sweating-like-a-bear-in-an-asbestos-suit kind of blind desperation that, say, jumping out of a plane might provoke. It’s more a kind of low-level anxiety that nevertheless informs my every waking moment.

I’m scared of being too cold. I worry about the possibility of becoming too hot. I’m nervy around condiments; specifically opaque, savoury, room-temperature sauces (with certain notable exceptions available in flyer format for convenience’ sake). I fear the gym and am suspicious of those who claim to enjoy it. I panic if I think I might be late, or too early. I spend wholly unreasonable periods of my day, every day, being vaguely worried about climate change, my friends, global conflict, my parents, religion, my weight, employment, unemployment, my calorie / caffeine / alcohol / media / bullshit intake, and the possibility that, though nearly every joint in my body now produces an audible click when flexed, I may never be in a financial position to be able to purchase Glucosamine in sufficient quantities as to make its consumption worthwhile. And, sometimes, I worry that that I might not very good at the thing I like most and which I’m supposed to be best at. Writing.

But Christina (you say): we know that you put the ‘e’ in ‘eccentric’. That’s why we’re so unfailingly nice about your blog. Thanks, team. Your support is valued, and I can write quite well. It even says that on my CV now (you know, the document that sells me as a writer). Yet in my nutty place, I contrive to make even praise a part of the problem. I want people to think I write well and so, logically, should be inspired to do just that. Sometimes it works, and I can’t imagine why I ever put myself through the torture of delay. If it’s this easy, I think to myself, why not do it more often? The process is often enjoyable; the satisfaction of a job well done certainly is. In the heady rush after posting, hope soars and I effervesce with ambition: inspired topics, unmissable content, a post every other day. Yet the greater my elation at actually completing a piece, the longer the gap between posts and the worse the anxiety that eventually wrings the next one out.

Why? Because according to Nutty HQ, my readers become frustrated when I don’t write, but may think badly of me if I DO. Overdue posts are ultimately produced when the fear of angering my readership is outstripped by the fear of losing them, and in the run-up to posting time I often find myself performing a succession of increasingly batty tasks. Let me tell you what I did today to avoid working on my fledgling post:

1. Set alarm to go off on snooze every six minutes…. for one hour, 36 minutes

2. Went to the gym (this in itself represented such hardship that I further delayed my workout by sitting down in the changing rooms and texting Kate and Kate. Then I ran out of Kates and had to do interval training)

3. Did three loads of laundry

4. Unstacked and reordered dirty dishwasher (very satisfying)

5. Read B3ta newsletter, clicking on all links (including this one)

6. Imported all Canticum e-mail contacts, one by one, to Gmail (I’m sure there must be an automatic way of doing this, but not only did I not find it, I didn’t look for it)

7. Watched finale of Sister Act Two: Back In The Habit twice. Edit: three times. (I maintain that this is, if not the best film of all time, certainly in the top five and all the better for being dubbed over in Italian)

8. Applied bright red lipstick

9. Removed lipstick and exfoliated lips, applied rejuvenating face mask, conducted brief research into home-made versions of same

10. Made multiple cups of tea

11. Sterilised Mooncups, but allowed pan to boil dry when distracted by

12. General webdickery

a) Researched potential medicine boxes for new house (I want this one, but it’s too expensive)

b) Reviewed latest offerings to the broadsheet Gaga debate (we’d heard from Caitlin Moran, Camille Paglia, and James Needham: now Kira Cochrane and Hadley Freeman weigh in)

c) Reread amusing and, as it happens, entirely appropriate piece by Charlie Brooker about the productivity-sapping qualities of Google Instant
i) Tried to find out if Charlie Brooker has married Konnie Huq yet (he has)
ii) Started to stalk Konnie Huq, in spirit of seeing what she’s got that I haven’t, and stumbled upon this really rather good skit she filmed for Screenwipe in 2008
iii) Noticed Sebastian Tellier’s La Ritournelle playing during one of the Screenwipe segments and started to try to find out just how many remixes there are. Grew bored after 15 seconds desultory Googling and moved on

d) Twatted uninterestingly (11 times on the day I started to write this post)

e) Conducted preliminary research into early-onset Parkinson’s after observing a slight yet persistent tremor in my right index finger – which, on reflection, is far more likely to be the result of early onset RSI in my mouse hand

All of the above diversionary tactics were blown out of the water by the discovery of a terrifying manchild singing Katy Perry. Even I know when enough is enough.

There can be no question that if I devoted as much energy to my life goals as I do to dicking about on the internet, I’d be a bestselling author and perhaps ruler of the free world by now. Yet crucially, it seems to be only in non-professional contexts that I’m tempted to indulge. Within the discipline of actual employment (Dr Dick’s excluded) I’m the model of hard-working focus. It’s clearly only my own time that I’m determined to waste with this, this, and this. Nevertheless, today’s activities have had the unnerving side-effect of posing some really rather pressing questions. Firstly, if I find it so terribly difficult to get down to writing, does this mean that ultimately I won’t go anywhere with it? And, if I will persist in posting embarrassingly confessional blog posts, might not my readers cease to think I’m witty and instead assume I’m just mental?

As regards the first point (concerning what constitutes a good writer), I’m reminded that Caitlin Moran (see point 12. b), above) churns out reams of brilliant content apparently effortlessly, and has done from an impossibly early age. Meanwhile Lady Gaga (see also point 12. b), above) famously has a Rilke quotation tattooed on her inner arm that reads: ‘In the deepest hour of the night, confess to yourself that you would die if you were forbidden to write’. (The second and rather less widely quoted part of the extract tallies more with my own experience: ‘And look deep into your heart, where it spreads its roots, the answer, and ask yourself, must I write?’). Even Whoopi Goldberg (see point 7. above) seems to be ganging up on me when she comes out with the same line to fix Lauryn Hill’s ‘tude. (Incidentally, I’m prepared to bet that Gaga got the inspiration for her tat directly from Sister Act. A lady with that many costume changes doesn’t have time to read.)

I’d always imagined that my difficulties had more to do with my being a tortured genius rather than someone whose heart isn’t in it. But I’ve taken the Gaga challenge, and, given the choice between not being allowed to write and dying, would elect to have my laptop confiscated every time. The idea of not being able to write does makes me feel quite panicky, but that’s true of most things. Does this make me Not A Real Writer? Does it? Really? Who is this Rilke character anyway? What possible justification can he have for thus agitating the young and highly strung? Was there a spate of suicides following the publication of his ultimatum? Did he really think this through? Balls to you, Rilke, Gaga, Whoopi. BALLS. And Caitlin Moran… well. There’s a work ethic to aspire to.

As for the question of whether or not I come across as insane, my go-to on the subject – Anita – says no. I say yes. But then Charlie Brooker (see points 12. c) and 12. c) i), above) was writing self-flagellatory pieces about how warped a human being he was right up until about a year ago, yet is still one of the funniest writers around – and, furthermore, appears to be happily married to a beautiful television personality.

But then Charlie, unlike me, has worked out how to effectively self-censor. This makes him not only a far better writer, but a whole lot more attractive than me. Pending this development in my growth as a writer, it’s clear that I must at least start to be more disciplined about this blog. So, next up: the results of the D for Dalrymple reader survey…

About Christina Kenny

Christina Kenny is a music journalist based in London.
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