A Creative Process

(1 minute read):

It’s 4am in Harlem. I stand up from my desk, toss my bathrobe on the bed, and begin pacing the room, naked, like a hunted beast. For the past three hours I’ve been taking fifteen minute naps on my desk in hopes of feeling a second wind, but to no avail. I have to move or else I’ll wake up in the morning with trembling regret. The only way I’ll be able to cope with tomorrow’s exhaustion is if I finish this now. Hank, my faithful and flatulent bulldog, wakes up and follows me throughout the room thinking we’re about to play. My face aches from the lying on the wood.

For hours, each time the alarm would go off, I would set it again and try to relax, feeling the gentle warmth from the lamplight, listening to my breath, hearing the building’s whirring heating system, and the distant voices and far-off knocks of the neighborhood. Fifteen more minutes, that’s it. As I would fall asleep I’d remember being sixteen years old in a high school parking lot at 6am and sitting against a lamppost thinking the same thing: fifteen more minutes before I run, before the labored breath, before eating pain. Then I’m twenty years old in a library passing out in a chair in the 24/7 room surrounded by coffee cups and candy wrappers: fifteen more minutes. Then I’m twenty-four lying beneath a desk in Virginia as the rain beats against the windows, watching the streaming droplets as my vision fades, surrounded by crumpled balls of paper and piles of books: fifteen more minutes. How much of my life has been spent in fatigue and yearning for respite? How long will my body, this finite machine, this pumping mechanism of cells, sweat, and blood, keep ticking with a pulse?

And I always think: is all the work worth the price? Is all the doubt and sacrifice and ruthless concentration carving something inside of me that will someday create success? For the sake of the path, I have to believe it will.

The honeymoon happiness of the previous month is gone. A month ago my room was a paradise and now it is a cage. I want more.

My greatest fear next to giant insects is that I’m not improving. I fear that my life is a pendulum where I swing back and forth between petty failures and self-indulgent successes, never rising. There are a thousand projects swirling in my agitated brain. I must limit myself or become lost.

Like so many times before, I pause while moving and ruminating and realize I’m now fully awake. My darting thoughts have settled. I look at my desk and at Hank snoring near the bookcase, the two anchors of my life, and the path becomes clear. I retrieve my bathrobe, put it on, and open a window. The cold air is refreshing. The night is still. I sit at my desk and begin.

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