45 minutes

The baby is napping. I have approximately forty-five minutes of uninterrupted time ahead (probably). If I am ever going to complete a piece of writing ever again, I must learn to take advantage of these little windows.

But…

…someone else wants my attention…

Poor kitties are often neglected these days. How can I resist???

In other news, I got a Chapters gift card for Christmas. Can’t wait to buy more books for my to-be-read-when-my-child-is-seven pile. OK, it’s not that bad. Sometimes I manage to read a whole two pages of a book before I pass out at night.

We Can’t Compare

I should really stay off the internet until I’ve done my writing for the day. I think, I’ll just pop on and see if any of the blogs I follow have interesting updates, maybe browse the news quickly (usually not since that can be a less-than-inspiring way to start the day). Skimming the various blogs/pages I like to follow can take as little as five minutes.

Unless, I find something interesting. Like today…

Reading a post by A Writer’s Notepad, I came to Nina Mishkin’s The Getting Old Blog. Particularly, the following posts:

My Three Nazis

Hitler’s Lampshades

Continue reading

Quiet House = Perfect Procrastinating Environment.

Hubby is away this week. Not an unusual event, being apart is something we’re quite used to. A few days away is hardly a blip on the radar. In fact, part of me thought, hmm maybe I’ll get more done while he’s away. Quiet house, no distractions, perfect writing environment.

Not that Hubby does anything specific to impede my writing when he’s home, but like most couples (I hope) we like spending time together. I’m both more likely to stop working when he gets off work 4-5pm, and to stay up late watching a movie or something—leading to sleeping in and a less productive morning—when he’s home. Now that I don’t have a day job forcing my ass out of bed at 6 in the morning, that is. We also don’t have kids yet, as you may have guessed.

So here I am, in a quiet house with all the time in the world. Yep, just me, my computer, and the cats.20131107_124159[1]

Just me and, oh look the gingerbread latte is back at Starbucks! Better go get me one of those.

Me, my computer, my tasty coffee by my side…twitter…facebook…email…other people’s blogs to read. Hmm, haven’t played that piano in while. Maybe today’s the day I’ll learn page two of that song I bought last year.

Maybe not.

My procrastination expands to fill the space available. For all the times I try to blame any force outside of myself for my lack of productivity, how lucky I am to have these reminders that it all comes down to me.

Yay! An almost-300-word blog post. Maybe the day won’t be a total waste after all. As I categorize this post under ‘writing’, I consider adding one called ‘not writing’. I’m soooo clever.

What to do, What to do…Tug-of-War

I’ve got a few things on my writing to-do list right now: I’m working on a novel–aside from Dosterra, which is also a work in progress–I have a flash-fiction piece set aside for future editing before I decide where to submit it, and of course there’s Letter From Your Girl, which requires tweaking, but as I mentioned yesterday I’m giving it a few days, maybe longer, for my maturity and professional detachment to kick back in after the critique I received set off all of my defensive alarms.  There was a time when I didn’t take feedback personally…before I became a writer. 

Anyway, I decided I should work on my novel.  It’s been a few days since I’ve tackled it, and leaving it for too long can cause me to lose the flow. Problem, I’ve hit a little wall as far as what I think should happen next. There is no magic solution to this. Normally it’s just a matter of sitting down and starting, and eventually something comes even if it’s only a place holder until a better idea replaces it. This time when I sat down, I was overcome with a very persistent urge to go back to the beginning and edit what I’ve already written. My rationale being, by the time I finish doing that I’ll know what I want to have happen next.

Sounds logical. The thing is, any site where you can find writing tips advises against this. They say ‘write first, edit later’ for the very simple, and true, reason that the write-edit-write-edit cycle can become an endless, inescapable loop. I know this. Still, half of my brain wanted to progress the story, the other half wanted to edit.

The tug-of-war came out a tie. Result: neither story progression, nor editing occurred. I wondered over to youtube for a while, played my guitar a little–yes my life is very tough these days–made some lunch, played with the cats, and the curser on the page didn’t budge.      20131030_231920[1] 20131030_232020[1]

Finally, in danger of wasting the entire day, I gave up on the novel and abandoned the official to-do list all together. Instead, I went to my unfinished-stories folder and picked out another piece I had started a while ago, but abandoned, and managed to move that story forward by a few hundred words. Not much, and I have no plans for what I’ll do with it when it’s finished, but some writing got done and that makes for a good day.

 

 

Oh The Power of Indecision

I know I promised to provide more reviews on sites where I’ve published, or attempted to publish short stories online, and I will. First, however, I’m going to discuss my problem with indecision.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I like to have more than one project on the go at a time. When inspiration isn’t there for one, it might be there for the other. There is, unfortunately, a downside to this approach: Indecision regarding which story to work on at any given time.

At the moment I have two writing goals. One is working ahead on the next few chapters of Dosterra, such that I can actually go back and rethink/edit chapters before publishing them, while keeping up a publishing schedule of one chapter every couple of weeks. The other is writing a short story for a contest on a site called On The Premises.

Generally speaking, Dosterra is the priority — so I should work on that first…but the On The Premises contest does have a deadline (a real one, not a self-imposed one), and I would like to spend enough time on it that I not only finish the story, but actually feel it’s worth submitting at all — so I should work on that first…and so, days go by and I don’t work on either one of them.

I blog instead; that counts as writing, doesn’t it?

Today I actually did buckle down and work on Dosterra, thinking the whole time about how that other story is still in that annoying stage where I have an idea about how I want the story to feel and I’ve created some characters, but it doesn’t have a clear enough shape in my mind to convince me that it will ever fully exist.

I’d love to tell myself that the more I write the less this dilemma will occur. But I know better than that.

The Ticking Clock

Every aspiring writer (or anyone with a personal goal of any kind for that matter) has the same problem. I don’t mean that all of our problems are the same, of course they are not, but with the potential exception of the fully-actualized human being (if such a creature exists) we all share one problem in common. You know the one.

We feel the urge to procrastinate, and the longer we do it the worse the feeling gets. All the while the clock ticks. Before you know it, it’s supper time. Oops, where’d the day go?

We comb books and blogs (and there are a ton of them on the subject) for quick fixes. We look for that technique that, if we could only find it and master it, would solve the problem. Though we know that no such thing exists, we keep looking and over time find puzzle pieces here and there that add to the picture of our own individual ‘block’ and what works for us to overcome it.

A puzzle piece fell into place for me while reading a particular passage, from Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, called We’re All Pros Already.

The War of Art looks at the urge to procrastinate (he refers to it as ‘Resistance’, an apt name) and how to deal with it from many different angles. This particular passage is a reminder that not only do you have the skills you need to push through the but-I-really-don’t-want-to feeling, but if you’ve ever had a job, or any responsibility for that matter, you already know how to use them.

I am very glad that a friend handed this book to me (thank you C.E.). It’s one of those rare finds where I knew from the first page that it was worth my while. Whether reading it when I should be writing actually counts as ‘Resistance’…well, I won’t go there.

It occurred to me that back when I had what some would consider a ‘real job’ I was not defeated by procrastination the way I am now. Not that I didn’t procrastinate, I did. But when it came down to it, not only did the work always get done, I was even efficient. Whereas now I struggle to complete a to-do list full of tasks I really want to do, back then I was actually one of those people capable of handing in a project before the deadline—even though I might abhor the task set before me. Discounting my first two years of university that is, which brings be to my next point.

Sometimes we have to relearn lessons. If you don’t use it, you lose it. After reflecting on the differences between my approach to work then and my approach now, I came up with the following list of changes, or backslides, in my attitude.

One

Now: But I like writing (running, swimming, french, piano, insert self-improvement activity here) it shouldn’t be this painful. Maybe it’ll be easier tomorrow (on the weekend, after the holidays, when the weather improves etc, etc).

Then: If it sucks now it’ll still suck later, just get it over with; then at least I can stop agonizing over it (I know it sounds cynical, but it’s also accurate).

Lesson: It’s ok to be uncomfortable. Yeah, nine years in the military and I still had to relearn this, sheesh. Possibly I forgot this one on purpose. Anyway…though the ultimate goal for us all may be to attain a psychological state where getting started on a task isn’t painful or scary—a state I believe you can get closer and closer to, but never actually reach—in the meantime it will be uncomfortable. Suck it up. It won’t kill you (if it will, disregard and rethink your course of action) and you might even feel good afterwards. Or during, I’ve often been surprised by how much I can enjoy just about any task once I’m on a roll.

Two

Now: Staring at task A. I should be doing B by now. I should have started this sooner. Maybe if I just got C out of the way. No, C will take too long. Maybe I don’t have time to do all of these before X. I’m hungry. What time is it? Crap! It’s been half an hour already.

Then: Make list (in head, on paper, doesn’t matter). Pick item. Do it. Maybe I don’t have time to do all of this before X; at least this one will be done (half done, outlined, anything is better than nothing).

Lesson: Focus on this task for as long as you are doing it. Then move on to the next one and keep plugging. There are various ways to approach this: 1) Priorities: If I could only get one thing done today what would it be? Do it first. 2) It will take as long as it takes: I’d rather get one thing done today than start five things. Conversely, 3) Pick a time: I will work on A until (5min from now, an hour from now, 5:30pm at which time I must get in the shower if I’m to be ready to go out on time). Take note, set a timer, whatever you need to do. Now relax, you don’t have to think about it again until the deadline arrives. Then move on to the next thing. Not finished? So what?

Three

Now: Not sure how to do this, I might screw it up….stuck.

Then: Not sure how to do this, I might screw it up. Ok. If I screw up then I’ll know better for next time.

Lesson: It won’t be perfect; do it anyway. Once it’s out there in the world you can learn from the feedback. If you finish with time to spare, even better. Your brain will continue to chew on it while you do other things. The brain is cool like that, give it the time and likely it will formulate improvements you couldn’t see while looking too closely. If you can’t finish early, that’s ok too. Better to have a finished product with room for improvement than ten never-finished-because-they-weren’t-perfect products.

Four

This takes a lot of practice. It is one that I have learned, forgotten, relearned, and forgotten again… and again…and again…

Lesson: What’s done is done, relax and get over it (closely linked to the above mentioned “you’ll know better for next time”). This generally works best if you have a time of day when you mentally shift gears and let all the crap go. This could be when you walk in the door in the evening, when you’re in the shower, yoga class, anything that works for you. The important thing is to practice it regularly. Note that I said ‘relax’ then ‘let it go’, not the other way around. I think that what a lot of people don’t realise is that the relaxing comes first. Not after the novel is finished, or the kitchen is renovated, or everyone’s had some time to forget how much I screwed up X, Y, or Z. Relax first and the letting it go part will come naturally.

You may be thinking wait a sec I thought we were talking about procrastination, not meditation. How many times, whilst procrastinating, have you found yourself thinking of your past failures? Or how disappointed you are with how long your current project is taking you and the road bumps you’ve hit with it so far?

That’s what I thought.

I am currently relearning all of these lessons and many more. Feel free to join me.