Lazy and Scared Stupid
It’s always easy to live up to our own expectations when no one is requiring anything of us.
We can happily sit for hours on end, dabbling away at whatever craft or hobby we choose and at the end of the day, as long as no one was hovering over our shoulders or thrusting deadlines at us over a cup of lukewarm coffee, we are pleased as punch at whatever we spewed out. Day complete, we move on to whatever activity was waiting for the evening, and the next day we start it all over again.
Occasionally, demand and requirement can produce some stellar work, mostly because of our inane desire to please everyone and impress people with our style, finesse and output. We want to make ourselves objects of interest, and we constantly seek approval from the people around us. In contrast, there is that person, and we all know at least one, who does whatever they choose without fear or thought as to repercussions, consequences, or an awareness of other human beings in the world they inhabit. Once and a while, they will part the swaths of greasy hair hanging over their eyes and acknowledge that ah, yes, someone is breathing the same air and, oh please, won’t you pay some attention to the quiet, brooding hell I’m raising? For the most part, however, they exist solely for themselves in a space too small for anyone else to occupy; an emotional washer/dryer box in which they can sit and imagine and have their own club with no grown-ups allowed.
Between these people and our generally individual nature, in the end we are creatures of self. We have grand ambitions and hopes and goals and lofty expectations. If we divert even a little energy to focus and become brooding and speak in internal monologues all the time, we will produce work that we will read at parties or set as our desktop wallpaper or give as gifts with the attitude of blessing the world with our brilliance.
If we were smart or clever enough to stumble across humility, then maybe we’d just keep it to ourselves.
Chances are, if we’re honest, we can admit that this detached work for no-one-but-us is perhaps not the masterpiece we envisioned. When placed side by side with those who are making millions of dollars doing professionally what we’re doing in our parents’ basements and corner coffee shops, our grand endeavor s will probably seem a bit like a child’s finger painting of a dog or a horse or whatever that blob with legs could be. We’ll put it on our fridge, swelling with pride, oblivious to the fact that it’s only there to make us feel good about ourselves. People may comment on the colors or the design or express “how sweet it was that you did this all by yourself”. In reality, no one will take us seriously.
The root of the problem lies in the face that we are lazy and scared stupid.
Our first taste of laziness can be easily confused with creativity. Usually sometime in early childhood, age five for example, we discover the joy of doing what we want, conveniently when we should be doing something we’ve been asked to do. We start having homework assigned and our parents ask us to clean up our toys or make our bed. In those times, we are suddenly overwhelmed with creative overload – we want to go outside and do somersaults in the grass or color a picture or invent some new language to speak with our best friend. We vanish for hours on end, causing panic and angry parents and dinner growing cold. Once they find us and scold us and see what we’ve been up to, they are generally still sore but they praise our ingenuity and ask where we got that idea. From this occurrence, a spark ignites in our tiny brains and we see the full spread of potential before us. We call it “creativity”, but that’s just a convenient cover. In actuality, it is laziness and lack of desire to do mandatory tasks that creates a path for diversion. Eventually, when we’re old enough to have gotten tired of the charade, we usually just give up our artistic creative streaks and admit we just don’t like to work.
Laziness is easy to understand, but scared stupid? That’s a pretty harsh assessment of our situation, don’t you think? To illustrate this point, I’d like to bring up the Biblical parable of the talents (bags of gold). There are a bunch of guys who are servants. One day, the head of the house comes to them and gives them each an amount of money based on their skills. Then, the man leaves for a long business trip. Meanwhile, the first two servants invest their money and earn back double what they were given. Wall Street, here they come. The last guy gets cold feet and panics and buries his share in a hole in the ground. After a long time, the master returns and wants his cash back. The smart young men who made a profit turn over the goods and are rewarded for their quick thinking and wise actions. The last guy, knees quaking, wobbles up to the master’s table and shoves the dirty bag of gold towards him. He admits that in fear he did nothing with the money because he knew the guy was demanding and hard. For his foolishness, he was thrown out of the house and left with nothing.
The last servant could have taken some sort of action. Knowing that his master was demanding, you think that would have spurred him to action of some kind, even if that meant fleeing the scene and having some gold and the authorities on his tail. But because he succumbed to his fear of critique and demand, he was scared stupid. Numb to all action or initiative, he ended up looking like a complete idiot and babbling excuses rather than really take responsibility for his actions.
All of this is to say that we are afraid of criticism. We’re dead afraid of being told that our work isn’t worth anything; that people don’t like it; that we’ve wasted our time and energy and emotions for a useless end product. We would much rather live in childish ignorance without a concept of quality or alternative viewpoint than to strive to be better or risk growing from hearing less-than-perfect praise. When that fear shuts us down and meets the laziness we’ve been fighting, laziness takes both qualities and reduces us to passive layabouts who would much rather scramble to meet a deadline last minute than try and produce quality work now.
It’s easy to write when there’s no grade involved and when no one is peering over your shoulder to get a glimpse of your word count. It’s easy to be proud of your words when someone isn’t trying to look at them before they’re finalized and certain. It’s easy to tap out three-hundred pages of the fan fiction to the Twilight series, but when a professor asks for a semester of writing in a genre of your choice?
That’s a feat that seems nearly impossible.
But I didn’t come three and half years to get lazy and scared stupid now.
I’ve got writing to do.