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  • Writer's pictureNathan Foley

Dec. 29th, 2022

I wake up like I do most weekday mornings: groggy from staying up just a smidge too far past midnight and my body aching probably a little too much for my age. I reluctantly crawl out of bed 5 past 8 with no desire whatsoever to slog through the work day that started 5 minutes ago. Before I remove myself from the warmth beneath our blankets, I glance over at my sleeping wife, Julianne, now 6 months pregnant. I give her a little pat on the shoulder, shuffle from bed, and head for the stairs.

As I sleepily spill through the bedroom door, I’m greeted by an animated Arwen, our gray stalker of a cat, shamelessly begging for food the moment my toes touch the living room floor. She scatters as I close the door behind me, preferring to stick to the low places of the living room like underneath the couch and the christmas tree like the bush dweller that she is. I round the corner towards the kitchen and she sprints past my ankles to her favorite waiting-for-food spot: underneath the bird of paradise by the back slider. Penelope, our fluffy tabby with an impossibly adorable cleft lip, plops off her princess tower and trots after us, her bushy tail held high, swishing slightly with each step.


Arwen

Listlessly, I retrieve Penelope’s bowl of prescribed allergy food and Arwen’s can of beef and chicken pâté from the cupboard as they both let out what can only be described as a scream and a whine–Penelope the screamer, Arwen the whiner. Penelope at least has the grace to save her begging for when food is in direct eyesight, wailing a twisted and painfully sustained mockery of a meow. Arwen, on the other hand, sounds a bit more like your standard issue cat, albeit a little on the scratchy side, preferring to let loose one short whine after another.

I set Arwen’s food on the dining room floor and she ravenously pounces on it like the velociraptor that she is. I take Penelope’s bowl to the basement door, shaking its contents so she follows me down the stairs. I close the door behind us and place her bowl by our printer, Alfred. She lets out a bark as the bowl touches the ground and digs in.



Penelope


I decide to start this morning in the basement because I want to continue modeling the virtual donut I began the day before. I initially feel a sense of excitement about jumping back into this design but I feel increasingly off as I sink further into my desk chair.


Often, I have an inkling of a thought that whispers from the back of my mind, telling me that I need to do this or that in order to get comfortable before I immerse myself in an activity.



……I should stretch, kinda stiff……



You can stretch later! You have so many

things to do before you can call yourself

a remotely successful creative!



But unfortunately, as what happens with most of my well intentioned–yet not entirely capitalistic–thoughts, I stubbornly push it aside so I can focus on the more important work of 3 dimensional pastries.



Time is money!


Wake that ass up with some coffee and

get the fuck to work!



I throw on a pot of coffee and snatch my heat sensitive Nicolas Cage mug from the cupboard. It’s the one that, once hot, reveals his smiling face, his head crowned in a tiara of roses, encouragingly reporting to me: “YOU’RE MY National Treasure.” I watch the pot brew just long enough to steal a portion before it finishes. Once I fill Nic with hot coffee, his enthusiastic face quickly coming to life as the black curtain recedes to the brim, I climb back down the stairs to fire up Blender and pull up the Blender Guru YouTube tutorial I was following. Once everything loads, I examine the doughy digital donut crowned with shiny pink icing, giving it a few spins in the blank digital void.


Donut in Progress

I sit in silence–unmoving–with a hand resting on Nicolas’ handle and my eyes glued to the donut.



……I should probably stretch……



You should probably model some sprinkles,

or else you’ll never finish this thing.


If only you had talent, maybe this donut

would already be done.



My brain works in such a way that I have an ever-persistent checklist of comforts that I try to maintain, but those comforts are locked in an exhaustive battle with all the tasks that must first be completed. This dynamic checklist has a chance to become particularly frantic depending on my anxiety at any given moment. Examples of comforts include getting a glass of water for my parched lips, grabbing a snack to quiet the growls, or stretching the aches from my muscles and joints. And examples of tasks include vacuuming the basement, writing some pages on Ankora, or modeling a 3d donut. Some days I opt for the tasks first before the comforts, and others the comforts before the tasks. But so often, I’m locked in a state of paralysis where I want to get comfortable but am ashamed that I haven’t yet finished what is in front of me, so I stubbornly push through and brute force the work.

The days when I achieve the comforts first tend to be better days than vice versa because they typically bestow upon me greater sense of calm and comfort within my own body, which then makes me more receptive and enthusiastic about undertaking a task, allowing my creativity to flourish. Though, those days seem to be in the minority.


I have a taskmaster within my head who slams me if I’m not completing these tasks, shunning my desire for comfort. Sometimes I’m grateful for the taskmaster because they keep my goals in sight. But more often than not, this taskmaster berates me for not doing enough, even as I am actively working towards something.

I am trying my best and constantly attempting to build upon yesterday, but will tomorrow’s fruits of today’s efforts ever be enough for the taskmaster?


They bark in my ear:



If you don’t finish this thing right now and make

it absolutely perfect, you’ll forever be known

as a failure, you know that right?


If you don’t spend every waking hour building

towards something GREAT, what will Julianne

think of you?


Will she be disappointed in you?


Is she already disappointed in you?


You seemingly can live with disappointment in

yourself… but from her?


I dunno, man.


Seriously, if you don’t finish this donut’s sprinkles

by 10 AM, you might as well quit because you’ll

never be good at this.



There’s a constant push and pull between the aggressive taskmaster and the easily overpowered voice of comfort. I always feel stuck between two warring sides who both want better for me.


But they should be working in tandem, not at odds.


In one ear is the insatiable need to achieve at all costs and in the other a quiet desire to stay grounded and comfortable. The need to achieve is an important one, I always remind myself.

But I often get lost in that pursuit, grinding myself into a cantankerous mimicry of Nate Foley, contorting at my desk in an attempt to drown out the pleas in my muscles to stand up and stretch, shunning the growls from my empty stomach, and ignoring the parchedness of my lips and throat.



How will you ever finish this video edit if you get

up every five minutes for water?


Stop thinking of excuses to get up from your work.



The thing is though, on the occasions I heed the good-intentioned pleas from within, I emerge a happier and more comfortable version of myself, which then in turn fuels my creativity–because I actually feel GOOD–thereby satisfying the demands of the taskmaster.


Sounds like an easy solution right?


But for whatever counterintuitive reason, I too often choose to instead brute force my way into projects and shut out that soft spoken voice that only wants to help me–spiritually, physically, mentally–in favor of the harsh taskmaster because shit needs to get done. But I quickly grow irritable. That irritability tends to fester into self loathing entirely too fast because the only voice I hear is that of the taskmaster, hellbent on beating me into shape.



Yeah, your donut may look good to some people,

but is it really thaaat good? I mean, just look at it…


How many times are you going to pick up

a program like this and dick around before

you actually make something?


Look at all these people who are better than you.


By the way, your donut could use more splotches

of brown in the dough, how’d you manage to let

that slip through?



……I should really stretch……



After a time of staring in turns at my donut, Penelope stretched out on her scratching pad, and the light glowing through the egress window at the other end of the basement, I think once again to myself that I have got to find a better working space. A dark room, despite the dozen or so light bulbs spread out among the beams a foot above my head, is no place to happily start a day. Especially while I know that the sunshine is busy right outside, bouncing off the melting December snows, as the neighborhood birds and chipmunks dance and chatter across our yard.


How can you be a successful creative if you don’t

hunker down in your basement at 8 AM and

get the fuck to work?



…..You don’t have to start your day in a dungeon……




Who needs sunlight and physical activity when

you have all the tools you need to be a creative

genius?!



I give one last look at Nicolas Cage, the bottom half of his face smiling back at me, his contents neglected and tepid, the black curtain seeping back down the sides of the mug as the heat withers away. I first muse that perhaps I didn’t want coffee after all since I didn’t even take a sip, then I realize that I must have been locked here in a trance for some time if even Nicolas Cage, too, is slipping into the void–his steaming hot lifeforce once a rich black, now deteriorated into a sad, brown excuse for liquid.

I give the donut a few twirls and hit play on the YouTube tutorial. But before the video even gets past the opening sponsorship plug, I stop it in its tracks. I don’t really know why at the moment, but it somehow feels right.

The taskmaster is eerily silent, even if it’s just for a moment.



……Maybe I should stretch–my body aches a little……



I quickly gather my phone and laptop and rush upstairs before the taskmaster has a chance to protest. I position the laptop on the chaise extension of our couch, overlooking the rug that stretches across our living room floor and I roll out our purple yoga mat over the rug. Before I settle down onto the ground, I realize that I have a short list of comforts I need to take care of first in order to get the most out of this session.



I need water.


I need a hairbrush.


And I need a hair tie.



The taskmaster is still nowhere to be found.



Bless.



The water is an easy fix, the kitchen is right around the corner. The hairbrush and hair tie, though, are less assured. My hair hasn’t been cut since March 2021, so if I don’t properly secure my long, glorious mane, it’ll work itself into a mess of tangles while I stretch, which doesn’t sound like a good time. So, I need to track down that confounded hairbrush and one of the few ties left in the house not yet torn to shreds by the goofy yet ferocious Penelope.



“Where oh, where oh, where is my hairbrush?”



From the yoga mat at the center of the room, I scan the various surfaces in the living room. No hairbrush to be found just yet, nor any ties. I decide my next best bet for each item is back down in the basement. I hurry down the stairs once more and slide across the vinyl covered floor, intent on solving this problem immediately. I scan the desks, the floor, the couch, and the shelves with an increasing fervor, searching as much for the brush and tie as for a purpose in life.


“AH! A hair tie!” I exclaim as I excitedly fire an enthusiastic index finger in its direction–an involuntary action I’ve learned is one of my ingrained trademarks.


It’s lying on the carpet in the corner among the scattered family photo albums and a basket of loose pictures, probably left there from Penelope’s last murderous urges, or maybe it just fell off my desk–both are equally plausible. As I bend down and pick up the tie, I see the brush on the desk directly above.



Perfect.



I put up my hair and return to my mat to get to stretching but I am stopped once more by the voice.



I need music.



I open up my laptop and pull up YouTube. First, I think I should put on my go-to ambience of World of Warcraft zones–Azuremyst Isles, Eastern Plaguelands, Arathi, or Ashenvale. But I decide that I need to stray from the tried & true and break out of the habit of just going through the motions. So I decide to change up my choice in ambience and put on Lofi Girl instead.


I take one last moment to search inside for the taskmaster and for any reason they might give for not doing this right now.



Calm.



All of the negativity fucks off for good once I ease into a butterfly stretch, with the gentle flow of Lofi Hiphop cascading over me. Arwen watches me with slow, blinking eyes from her perch of a throne–a folded pink plush blanket spread across the couch, right above the yoga mat.


Arwen and I vibe for what feels like hours, stretching our muscles, moving our joints about, attacking toy mice, and listening to music. I feel great and motivated. I’m no longer motivated because the punishing taskmaster is pushing me to feel so, but because I’m now feeling so much more comfortable in my own skin and want to take advantage of this great feeling.



I’m no yogi by any means, but goddamn,

do I feel zenned out right now.



Everything becomes clear in this state of comfort. I can clearly see each step and action I took in Blender yesterday, building a donut from nothing. I then visualize with absolute clarity the steps I need to take to expand upon it. I see the pink donut peppered with sprinkles and I watch as I procedurally generate them, just how Blender Guru showed me. I then see more donuts spring up out of nowhere: one drizzled in a zigzag of vanilla icing against a backdrop of chocolate, another glistening in its plain glazed glory, a long maple bar, and even an old fashioned chocolate. They are all in a woven basket, sitting atop a wood table with a plaid placemat underneath.

I also see what my other projects can become. I watch as scenes of the FLBA play out across my eyes, highlight videos and sports talk shows. I see Julianne, Ben, and myself sitting at a table, whiteboarding concepts for the game we want to start. I see character sheets pile up on one another, each outlining the details of the heroes, villains, and everything in-between of Ankora.



I see the routes I can take to accomplish my goals.


The way is clear and I am prepared.



I feel the urge to write. I don’t really know what I want to write, I just know that I want to put this weird flow of consciousness to words. Too often, I sit down to write and I allow the uncertainty to paralyze me. I sit and stare and berate myself for not knowing what the hell I’m doing, watching that fucking cursor blink at me saying, “Well? Get on with it, then!” That paralyzing uncertainty paired with the ever-burning desire to do something great traps me in an unfulfilled disappointment spiral, when all I need to do is just write.



How can you make something great

if you don’t even know what to write?



Shut up. I’m working.



I pull up Google Docs, create a brand spankin’ new document, and vomit my mind’s rambling journey through the morning onto the page.



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