As both noun and verb.
An unsettling new side effect of my nerve-shredding querying stress has presented prominently over the last month. The only way I can concentrate on anything, it seems, is to turn it into a project.
True, I possess a proclivity towards…involved…creative endeavors. My obsessive deep-dive researching for day trips is legend, and my weekends usually include an artistic undertaking that makes its way into an Instagram Reel.
But this feels different—more like I’m arming myself with assignments to do battle with my angst. Like if I can’t control the trajectory of my manuscript, then at least I can intricately program my schedule. I’ve tackled consuming endeavors as if scaling slippery stones wedged into an increasingly steep slope.
It began when I decided to watch my first K-Drama, the lauded Crash Landing on You. The deliciously soapy, swoony show requires a certain level of commitment from its audience—not only is it subtitled (gasp no phone-scrolling!) but each of its 16 episodes is movie-length. And because a simple Netflix binge wasn’t quite enough, I decided to alternate episodes with Heaving Bosoms podcast recaps so it felt like I was viewing and dishing on it with friends.
Then a Nine Inch Nails song came up on my car mix and I thought, “Huh—have I ever listened to their entire discography?” And so each day I chose a new album, took a long drive, and texted my NIN superfan friend my feedback, ultimately creating a final album ranking and Spotify playlist of my favorites.
Finally, I decided that my Sunday Pastries With the Dead Instagram Story series could no longer be left to chance—I made a custom color-coded and annotated Google map of every cemetery visited and spent days researching new ones to add for future outings. I diligently update it every Sunday, now.
Who knows what I’ll project my mental disquietude onto next. Lazily scrolling Hulu last night, I paused on an X-Files episode and wondered, “Have I ever watched this show all the way through and in order?” When I opened the fridge this afternoon, the kitchen light glinted off the mason jar containing my sourdough starter Lorna and I thought, “Have I ever truly given sourdough bread baking its fair shot?” While incorporating a potential Irish folklore thread into my second book outline, I mused, “Shouldn’t I read at least five to ten books about the subject before I decide this is the right move?”
I was raised by parents who relentlessly put a practical spin on my fanciful career aspirations. Archaeologist? History teacher. Equestrian? Veterinarian. Naturalist? Scientist. Author? Journalist.
Maybe all of this is some bone-deep recalibrating reaction to that early programming—a need to justify this shift I’m finally taking onto an unpragmatic path I’ve diverged from time and time again.
The woods are dark and deep, it’s true—but lovely? I’ll take it on faith that the sentiment descends once I’m out of them.