Getting out of my own way

I’ve been trying to work through some small blocks that I’m putting in the way of getting my writing done. I had some low ambitions for October. I decided to remove myself from the Prep-toner nonsense by getting another book done before I start the one for NaNo.

I have, of course, not yet finished the book.

I don’t want to talk about fear or anxiety since I’m not sure those are my particular issues at the moment – though fear is always an issue when you endeavor on a creative journey. No, I think this is something else.

I am having too much fun and it feels like I’m doing it wrong.

I’d decided to use Dean Wesley Smith’s advice in his book ˆWriting into the Darkˆand just go with the flow, focusing on starting and cycling back a bit here and there to make sure threads are followed and tied up. While I already had a loose idea of the steps in the plot (it is a murder mystery/thriller), I decided to stop trying to figure out my characters first and just let them tell me their story.

it’s gone in a few weird directions, but I’m having a blast. I think that’s why I’ve been hesitating.

I don’t want to write a junk draft and then go back and revise. Like Smith, I feel like I’ve already been down that road. Granted, I don’t have the years of experience, nor the bibliography to back this up, but it feels right for me.

But I can’t shake the feeling that I’m supposed to be suffering. (I’m typing this on a tiny, Bluetooth keyboard connected to my phone – it’s hugely convenient, but my wrists are suffering, so there’s that.)

I’ve got a pretty creepy scene coming up and I’m excited to write it, but I’m worried that my excitement will build up my expectations and I’ll be disappointed with what I produce. When I write that out, it sounds absurd, but inside my head it’s perfectly rational.

My brain is just trying to protect my ego. I wish I could tell it not to bother. Well, in the meantime, while I procrastinated on the creepy scene, I’ve written this blog post. Thanks for reading this far and I wish us all luck!

Time blocking and writer’s block

There’s nothing I love more than a YouTube video that promises to solve all my procrastination problems and anxieties about productivity only to see, three minutes in, that it’s another argument for time-blocking.

I have learned to scan the timeline of each video, previewing frame by frame, to look for the candy-colored grid that will inevitably show up in these ‘tutorials.’ “Let me show you how I plan my week,” they will say in dialects of enthusiasm and twee and then explain how their particularly busy influencer life can be broken down into Tetris-like blocks that always fit well.

High Score!

If I sound cynical, it’s because I am. Having undiagnosed anxiety for most of my life left me feeling demoralized when it comes to productivity. I couldn’t produce or create what I wanted. I couldn’t stay on task. I couldn’t follow through.

I would always be a failure.

Then I started to realize that these tools, suggestions, tutorials, classes, courses, the entire world of productivity influencers focused mainly on people with typical brains. By typical, I mean brains wired to properly work in our capitalistic-achievement society. Perhaps typical is the wrong word.

Perhaps they have “preferred” brains.

What I want to say to you, and give you permission to say to yourself, is that time-blocking is one way to schedule your day, or give priority to your goals, but it’s not the only way.

For me, blocking out my day created too rigid of a structure. And it was a structure built for failure. The confinement of all those colorful boxes on my calendar made me excited to see all the things I would accomplish, but this only lasted during their creation.

Once set up, the slightest adjustment or distraction, meant I slammed up against the bottom of a blue or red box and had to switch tasks to stay on track.

Hold on, I’d built the track and could rearrange it. But then that added another task to the list and the boxes all fit so nicely together, to insert five minutes to shift everything would ruin the aesthetic of the whole… Aaaaaaaaagh.

See? For me, the anxiety of the grid took over my thinking and I could never really focus on my writing (or other work for that matter). Time blocking blocked my writing.

Over time I’ve noticed that my biggest area of anxiety is transitions, from one task to another or one place to another. And realizing this has allowed me to think more strategically about my time use with fewer boundaries. I’ll explore more of that in a later post.

For now, just remember what works for everyone else isn’t the right way to do things, it’s just their way to do things. We can all find new ways together.

Image courtesy of Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Is time ever truly wasted?

The last post here was another apology for not posting post and in the many months since then I’ve spent time avoiding another post. More accurately, I’ve been not thinking about posting at all.

I don’t know what the larger community could gain from my perspective. More accurately, I don’t reach a larger community at all.

Other writers have talked about impostor syndrome, procrastination, depression, anxiety, ADHD, writer’s block, and all of the maladies that impact creative endeavors now in the shadow of our inevitable collapse.

Collapse of what, you ask? What you got?

I am struggling to finish what I’ve started and am blocking myself from starting something new. The projects that may hold my attention now will soon dull under my fickle gaze and molder as the last projects do now. My world is a stack of half-finished notebooks and sticky notes of genius gradually losing their grip.

Why should anyone listen to me? I’m just another person who can’t finish their shit.

I wonder about the writing influencers out there, the ones on YouTube or Instagram who are generous and copious in the amount of author content they produce, but how little actual writing they seem to share. Maybe you don’t have to finish anything to be part of this game. Maybe I’m doing it right?

Is it a game? Is there a right?

I’ve overcome a couple of obstacles recently: a professional achievement and a prescription. I would like to assert that I needed both to be able to have the space mentally to write, but that would be a lie. That is revisionist history. I have always had the mental space to write. What I never had was the permission.

From myself. You know that right?

So I am once again asking for your guidance as I rebegin again. I hope I can follow through this time. Your neurotypical motivation is lost on me, so just nod slowly and smile and get back to your own shit.