Bad Biology by Jamie L. Rotante

Jan 06, 2020

One Punk’s Look at Social Anxiety, Neuroticism and Other Fun Stuff

I’ve been staring at a blank screen for the past few days trying to summon up words on this piece. And each time, this blank Word Doc seems to wink at me, laughing at my pain and suffering. I’m no stranger to writer’s block—in fact, I’d argue that I encounter it more than I do creative waterfalls. I have ideas constantly. They flood my brain every second I’m consumed by the minutia of busy work or chores or everyday non-writerly life. But when the time comes to lift the floodgates, nothing happens.

Sometimes it’s especially difficult when it comes to writing about myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I can rattle on about myself for days, especially when it comes to the various neuroses I have and the weird things that make me tick. But sometimes honing it down to one aspect at a time can be a particularly daunting task. I often find myself re-checking my past pieces to make sure I’m not already discussing something I’ve mentioned before. Procrastination: check. Existential dread: check. Being a big ol’ crybaby: check. But, in truth, these usually come pretty easy to me when all is said and done—I just write about the most recent discovery about myself or the newest analysis of particular anxiety I’ve had for years.

This time, though, even those ideas have been alluding to me.

Over the past few months, I’ve been taking some steps to improve my mental well-being. It’s early enough that I’m still figuring out what’s 100% clicking and what still needs more time (expect those topics to come!), but it’s been a work in progress I’m eager to continue. Does that mean I completely understand myself now and all my “bad” or unique behaviors have gone away? Absolutely not. Will they ever? Unlikely. But it does mean that instead of just thinking about the way I react to things and how my brain behaves, I’m actually reflecting on them in a more proactive way; namely doing and talking instead of just pontificating.

That’s when it hit me: since I’m actively working on myself and not just reflecting on it, will that lead to me running out of ideas? And, moreover, what if finding happiness and stability completely stunts my creative endeavors overall?

You must suffer to create. We’ve romanticized the image and notion of the starving artist to a point where it seems less like a hindrance and more of a badge of honor. If you’re not massively depressed, are you even truly an artiste? The truth of the matter is that many artists lack the financial backing to get proper mental health care. It’s not that they choose to struggle; instead, it’s the unfortunate reality of the pressure to create in tandem with the lack of access to the resources necessary to maintain a healthy life.

Yes, all artists will suffer at some point, even if it’s only in passing. You’re not always going to have the will to create. Deadlines will haunt you. You’ll have every intention of completing a piece but the motivation just isn’t there. You’ll push and push and push but nothing will be birthed into existence, at least not at that time. You’ll think about it. You’ll overthink it. You’ll beat yourself up over it. It’s a ritual; it’s the constant curse of creative people—we spend so much time in our own heads that it becomes a disservice.

I’m forever fighting off listlessness. I’m extra hard on myself if I don’t find something that occupies my time creatively, and, in the same breath, I overwhelm myself by trying to do too much at once. When I’m at work, my mind is racing with all the ideas of new things I want to write, new subjects I want to learn, and new creative endeavors I wish to pursue. If I’m not creating—or at least thinking about creating—I’m not allowing myself to truly be happy. Yet once I get home, my mind is occupied with chores and the desire to just melt into my couch for hours. So the pursuits get pushed another day, and lethargy creeps upon me.

But what if I were to achieve a sense of stability and just let myself be? What if instead of beating myself up, I became truly okay with stillness? Comfortable with silence and a brain at rest. Would I still want to write, or would I be so satisfied I’d give up the urge to create? What if chasing the ideas is what keeps me coming up with new ones each time? And, moreover, if I ever feel perfectly fine with myself, what the hell am I going to write about when it comes to writing about myself?

Am I stopping myself from being content so I can continue to make content?

The answer, of course, is no. Because when I’m writing I’m feeling good. It doesn’t need to be born out of sadness and desperation and suffering; these honest discussions about my brain and my behaviors aren’t always about what’s wrong, they can just as much be about what’s going right. Sure, when things are particularly rough I’m drawn to write out my every inner thought or hot take on the political landscape, but once those words are out there, I can’t help but feel a sense of relief. I can never truly be suffering when art brings me so much peace.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still pretty fucked up. But that’s okay, too. I’m learning more and more about myself each and every day. And as long as I’m able to put what I learn—and sometimes, unfortunately, un-learn—into words and as long as there are people willing to give me that space to say my peace and others open to reading all the quirky things that are on my mind, I’ll still be here—brimming over with ideas at the most inopportune times, then struggling to write them when I should.

It’s a cycle. It’s a ritual. It’s one I’m learning to be okay with.