Now is the time for excessively candid statements about my mental life!

I’m what might typically be referred to as “chronically lazy” or “a slacker.”

At any rate, depending on the work, like a lot of people I have a tendency to just sort of ignore things I absolutely have to do or even have just sort of decided I should do that have suddenly turned into work and not something I’m just doing for the hell of it.

There are at least two giant gaps in entries on this blog that demonstrate this.

One my favorite Life in Hell comics touches on what pop psychology has lead me to believe is the emotional root of my procrastination:

okay, when I said one of my favorites I meant everybodys favorite.

okay, when I said "one of my favorites" I meant "everybody's favorite."

Mainly the last two. Though the rest of the comic may explain my fear of guns, driving on overpasses, the sea, and clusters of holes respectively (yes, these are all real fears of mine).


So I’m terrified of failure, which is basically normal. I’m also terrified of success, which is debatably less normal, but again, pop psychology and watching hours and hours of carefully written fictional people work through their personal problems which all seem to be interconnected in some way have lead me to believe that these two fears are intrinsically linked somehow.

A lot of creative people on the internet have discussed the issues with procrastination relating to fear of failure. Hip-hop blogger Jay Smooth calls it “the little hater”

Everyone’s favorite, Ze Frank calls it “brain crack”

Ze poses a pretty good solution for most creative work that I like and try to use whenever possible–even if it’s really, really basic stuff, just start actually making something and then let someone who isn’t you look at it as quickly as you possibly can to get yourself over that initial hurdle (I think a LOT of my creative friends have issues with “brain crack” and talking about ways to improve upon what we’re convinced are “the greatest ideas in the world” and I find myself getting sucked into this more often than I’d like).

But I don’t find this translates to other areas of my life that easily. Certain aspects of creative work even fall prey to this fear of failure. In work-work, I find it hard to get things done if I feel like I don’t really know what I’m doing. Or even if I don’t know 100% of what I’m doing.

It becomes like literally every fun creative hobby I took on as an adolescent (and still today to a large extent). That old cliche: “I decided to start playing the guitar because I had these visions of myself being a rock god, but when I realized I wasn’t instantly good, I gave up.”

Except this tends to even be a preemptive strike against the possibility that I may not be instantly good at something. It becomes “I had visions of myself as a rock god but then I thought about it and realized I’d never played guitar before and even though I had some familiarity with the more technical aspects of music theory from high school orchestra or whatever I still thought I’d better just avoid the whole thing altogether as it was more likely to be humiliating than anything else.”

It’s actually worse if I’ve got partial knowledge and/or ability. Failure in the face of partial ability somehow seems worse.

Compounded with this is the considerably less easy to describe fear of success.

I personally think there are lots of very good reasons to fear success. My favorite reason being my constant awareness of my actual, objective level of ability in different areas of life. I’m not actually particularly good at doing a lot of things, even (especially) the things I like the most or do the most frequently–I sometimes seem comparatively better than some, largely because eventually my fear of failure takes over and I pour a lot of effort into gaining enough basic ability/knowledge that I can pass as competent.

Success basically guarantees to me that one day I’m going to be “found out” essentially. And certainly one of the things I’ve learned over the years is that a LOT of very successful people are basically incompetent  and are desperately trying to keep from being “found out.” But that doesn’t lessen the anxiety.

And I’ve got the standard “change is very difficult and success often = change.” Not for me right now, though. That will definitely become a big problem for me in a year or so when my attempts at success have more to do with what I do with my actual life as opposed to “I sure hope I do well on this pointless essay that I will have forgotten about in a week and no one will ever ask me about once I’ve left college.”

The biggest thing with me is I’m pretty convinced that I lack the momentum to continually succeed over time. Not that I think…if I do a bit of failing and only moderate success at this stage then I’ll have the energy to work hard to be Actually Successful later in life. More that I’m pretty sure the rest of my life is going to involve a lot of really, really hard work that is pretty likely to be mid-level fruitless (I love writing and I love film so naturally I’m going to spend the rest of my life bringing someone’s secretary’s secretary coffee after like two years minimum of working for free “just to get my name out there”) and if I succeed now it will just put pressure on me to be continually successful later in life so that I can move up and I don’t know how much emotional energy in general I have to dedicate to even ATTEMPTING to succeed.

It seems like I’m not being overly-successful at actually explaining my fear of success. So I guess that’s one less thing I have to worry about.

Anyway, this is a problem that’s on my mind right now because it’s finals week and I’ve got essays to be writing and things to be obsessively studying.

And I hate having to wait for that sudden rush of productivity when my fear of failure overpowers my fear of success and I have to frantically do everything at the last minute. Which is obviously compounded by my premature “whatever I’m done here anyway it’s almost my last semester so I’m in the clear” mindset.

Obviously I don’t have a solution for this. I was sort of hoping talking through the issue would help somehow. But so far it just looks like another crafty means of talking around and issue rather than actually facing it.

Well, damn.

Play me out, Jay Smooth: