I’ve had a little bug in my ear kicking about for the past few weeks.
It landed when I listened to Milo’s first Micro-Podcast of May, and I’ve been struggling with it since then.
I was struck by the phrase, “keep up,” a common enough one. It was used not as in ‘keeping up with the Joneses,’ but as in maintaining the level of productivity you expect from yourself.
I’ve been in what you could call a funk, or a dip, using up immense stores of willpower to get even an hour of editing in. I’d rather stare into space, put away papers, or set up marketing meetings than focus on this computer and polish my characters and their timelines.
It’s like I exist in a separate plane from the real world when this happens, like Time slows down to taunt me while my ability to focus is weaker than a goldfish’s. And that is when the feeling of ‘keeping up’ is really maddening, as you can peer over to Regular Life and remember when you brindled right along, but alas, you’re trapped in this bubble on the side, pusillanimous.
The writers know what I’m talking about.
Perhaps because of this lethargy of the mind, my eye has been caught by several blog posts dealing with creators and self-discipline. Authors and discernment. Artists and courage. I also happened upon an old magazine article dealing with how to order your day for the most energy (thank you, procrastination technique!).
It’s still quite useful, giving tips for mental and physical aids to keep up your energy and thus your productivity throughout the day: lighting choices, minimizing decisions in the morning, choosing energizing scents, prioritizing types of interactions, etc. The magazine also had a section on what to do to snap yourself out of a bad mood, another one that should help in this case: exercise, comedy, music, nature, letters.
I’ve got my own go-to Get Outta Jail Free activities, and it’s a very similar list: dance to favorite music, watch funny Youtube videos, hike in Washington Park, write letters.
Maybe it’s not so much distraction or rest that I need but commitment and reconfirmation of its value. Commitment on my part, which has always been an ebb-and-flow kind of thing, and confirmation from others.
But that is what I struggle so not to need!
The practical part of me says that maybe if I could hear what other writers do with their long-term self-publishing schedule, that would be enough to normalize my own experience and calm down my nerves (‘why in hell is this editing so hard?’ ‘is the book terrible?’).
But I don’t think I’m dealing with the practical part of me. That’s not the part that refuses to move, insists that I can’t do it, and makes my dream-building muscles ‘lose the name of action.’ Nope.
I think the question, ‘Why can’t I just be more focused?’ is often just “Why can’t I succeed the way Valued People do?’ in disguise. We want the laser-like focus so we can plough through wads of paper, zip through lines of email, blast through any number of difficult people trying to tell us no. But once we get “through,” what’s on the other side?
Emptiness. We haven’t been driving ourselves, but letting ourselves be driven by social norms and expectations, outdated ones.
How do we find what really fires our dreams so that even the baby steps we make feel like part of the whole, and not a sidelined, ancillary, unnecessary pursuit?
How do we change ‘keeping up’– looking over from our side-lined world– to ‘being true to ourselves’ and get back in the driver’s seat?
Image via Debra Prinzing
Sorry you’ve been struggling with this Margaret, which sounds like a loss of motivation to me – I totally relate of course.
One thing I have found with the podcasts is that having something small you commit to do daily (or you know, five days a week) is a good way to bypass the ‘dam’ of procrastination.
Of course limiting yourself to say 10 minutes a day is a discipline in and of itself, but I do think it’s as important not to let it get out of control as it is to do it in the first place.
Just my random thoughts of course – hope you’re ‘keeping up’ a bit better now!
Thanks, Milo! I am flopping around a lot with scheduling systems, but what I came up against this past week was feeling I was just holding myself to too high of a standard, too rigid of a structure. Someone suggested I take a vacation; I took a day off and wrote 3,500 words of a story the next day, even though I doubted that was even the problem! Hmp. Trial and error = my Native American name.