Keeping those dry spells short

And as with all patterns, we can look at them as self-contained little programs: they have a trigger, they execute certain actions, and they have an (often elusive) off-switch.

I find that when I spend a day doing writing-related work, but not writing, I go into the wrong rabbit hole and get away from my story. This is a pattern I now recognize.

And as with all patterns, we can look at them as self-contained little programs: they have a trigger, they execute certain actions, and they have an (often elusive) off-switch.

So, now that I am finally recognizing this pattern, I can expect the off-switch, in fact, I can accelerate the program by eliminating many of the repetitive strings of behavior that take place before despair forces a new action (and a new program).

My writing program can be overwhelming at times, and I’ve come to understand that if I relax some of that binge-writing behavior, I can sustain a writing practice for longer – or, more realistically, I can keep the distraction program at bay. It will still appear and it will still run, but knowing that a thing has an ending makes it easier to endure.

Like all that advice when you have a bad break-up that boils down to “this too shall pass,” while feeling like nonsense in the moment, is 100% true (if you let it, that is).

So, I saw the end of the thing, I made some good use of the distracting functions within the larger program itself, and now I’m heading back to the writing program – literally and figuratively.

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