I have just spent twenty minutes playing mahjong, my distractionary online game of choice. There are many others out there, some even arguably related to writing, like WordTwist and Boggle but I like mahjong. I start by telling myself: three games, play only three games. Then four. Then, well, how about ‘til top of the hour. Then, I almost win so maybe just ‘til I win, ‘cuz obviously I’m on a roll!
If I were in Vegas and had a wad of cash I would rationalize myself out of both aforementioned wad and into several trips to the ATM machine. As Jeff Goldblum’s character says in The Big Chill, can’t get through the day without a good rationalization.
FLYLady’s organization system (I swear by it, tho’ my version is a loose adaptation of hers; Laura Benedict, a thriller writer, actually credits FLYLady in the acknowledgements of her first book), if you buy into it as I have via the calendar and stickers, you know there’s an “antiprocrastination day” sticker. I have placed this sticker on my calendar exactly once in the past three years, thinking, why bother, my house is reasonably tidy, I’ll get to all that other stuff when I can.
When we needed more space in our utility room, however, I stumbled across not one, not two, not three, but FOUR bottles of antifreeze, three of windshield washer fluid and TWENTY cans of paint, which I‘ve saved “in case I need to touch up the walls.”
OK, first of all, I never touch up my walls. I wait seven years then ask for my birthday gift to be hiring a painter to cover all the dirt with a fresh coat of paint. And frankly, after seven years with the same color, I change it. I will NEVER use this paint.
Could I put this stuff into the dumpster? Or did I need to take it to the dump and pay extra for hazardous waste disposal? Could I wait for a “toxic waste pick up day” through my Town? Ugh. I needed to research my disposal options. Blerck. Screeching halt.
I needed an antiprocrastination day. I knew I needed an antiprocrastination day. I didn’t want to need it. I … put it off.
Then, we reallyreallyreally needed the extra space in the utility room, due to a home improvement project. It was no longer an option, it was a necessity.
I put the sticker on my calendar and the day of, drank a Lot of Coffee before digging in, tackling not only the various bottles of various fluids of various toxicities, but also identifying the outgrown shoes, t-shirts, books, and kid debris to be given away.
I finished most of it and planned for tackling the rest of it.
I get this way about my writing, too. The pitch I don’t make, the phone call I delay, the story I don’t polish in time for a contest deadline. Why have I not put the antiprocrastination sticker on my writing calendar?
I think because that means developing a new habit. I have plenty of blinkin’ habits, my gawd, my muse squawks, give me a BREAK, I’m tired of the work it takes to do the work! Didn’t you say writing was fun?
But effective work – even creative “work” – takes forethought to be done well, and maintenance to keep it heading in the right direction. Which isn’t to say one shouldn’t pause and assess that direction on a regular basis.
A friend and I are contemplating the development of workshops on “nurturing the muse” – exploring writing as both a self-reflective tool and/or as creative expression. For the first time in many years, I find myself excited, anxious, uncertain, and nervous — a teenager on her first date. Will anyone else want to do this (eg, will anyone like me?!). Do I have the ability to provide leadership to such a group? Do I want to do this?! And back to “what is the point, Shakespeare did it better” of the last post.
[If you have psychological training, insert your favorite theory here. And/or — check out this great post by the Communicatrix about the “resistor.”]
My gut says I’m going to try it, though, because life’s nine innings are looking short, here in what I think of as the top of the fifth of my probable-span of years. And the pitcher keeps throwing curve balls (like, giving me two baseball-crazed sons when I know I placed an order for kids who would prefer the sports one can play with a gin-and-tonic in hand. Croquet. Badminton. Scrabble.)
Long story short: I have no excuse — no one does – to delay whatever project I imagine I’ll get to “someday.”
Take an hour to assess whether or not your project(s) is(are) still important to you. Those twelve mini stockings I was hand-stitching for the twelve days of Christmas, when my kids were two and five? Not ever gonna finish that project.
The short stories about evil? I still think about those regularly.
I made a folder to collect those ideas in, and I’ve INKED in three days in the next quarter to look at that project. Whole writing days, five hours. I will use the Freedom program to limit my internet aka mah jong access and honor my commitment. [If you haven’t heard of Freedom, check it out. It truly liberates me from the tyrannical joy of the internet.]
Get out the stickers or markers or pens (not pencil, it’s too easy to erase) and give yourself one day a month for antiprocrastination efforts. Do NOT put this off!