:: WHY WE BE ::

Boo to false, self-imposed limits, we say. These champion oracles want to live enthusiastically. Follow our trip through projects that challenge, frustrate, and/or scare us. In the end (which is really the middle) we want to live like big bright free and authentically awesome people.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

COFFEE Project Post Two: Creating My Path (Tawni)

I’ve decided to dedicate my second COFFEE Project blog to the acquisition of self-discipline. To the journey. To the path.

The path to success sometimes feels like a winding, treacherous hike through a forest full of motivation-mauling bears and courage-killing cougars. My goals limp from tree to tree like wounded prey, anticipating attack. I need to figure out how to protect them. I don't want to live in fear anymore. (I tried to work some sort of gun or hunting bit into this ridiculous paragraph by the way, but decided I was taking it too far. You’re welcome.)

"Your difficulties are not obstacles on the path, they are the path." ~Ezra Bayda

Small, easily attainable victories that might boost my flagging creative confidence seem like a good idea; so for starters, I’ll recap what I hoped to accomplish last week. I’m going to call them my “Go Me! Moments” because I find this name so horrifically cheesy, that after I stop shuddering in disgust and humiliation, it actually circles back around to awesome. (Seriously. Somewhere out there, Oprah Winfrey's ears just perked up and she sniffed the air questioningly, trying to smell her latest catchphrase.)

My Go Me! Moments:

Goal #1: Give myself a big hug. Acceptance of imperfection.

Goal #1 Update: Totally accomplished. I had a good, long self-snuggle during which me, myself and I donned fake beards and did the Good Will Hunting thing, repeating to each other, “It’s not your fault,” over and over again, until we all cried. And then I bought my inner child a pony.

Okay, not really. But you know what I mean. I’m trying to give myself a break.

Goal #2: Ass-kick my chicken-sloth habit to the curb.

Goal #2 Update: Somewhat accomplished. It turns out my chicken-sloth is a surprisingly strong and formidable opponent. I spent more time than I should have chatting on blog comment boards and watching recorded Chelsea Lately and The Soup episodes. But I wrote this week. I did. And I got through a scary teeth cleaning, followed by an even scarier drilling and filling a few days later. (Yes, we have dental issues.) I also worked out at the Weak ‘N’ Wounded Gym (physical therapy for an ankle/foot injury sustained in August by working out too hard… duh) a few times, and worked out my upper body and abs at home. The usual laundry and housework got done, but those aren’t really accomplishments, so much as they are steps in the prevention of cholera, hepatitis, and the accidental confusion of my house for a toy store, post-hurricane looters.

I will try harder this week. I promise. I will be a fiery ball of motivation headed straight for the planet of my laziness. It will be the most inspiring, stimulating explosion you’ve ever witnessed.

Goal #3: Stop reading books all the damned time.

Goal #3 Update: I stopped reading books all the damned time. I returned all library books. I didn’t go get more of them. I have been on a list for the latest Harlan Coben for months, and it is finally waiting there for me on the reserved shelf too, which is killing me. I think I deserve extra points for resisting the temptation.

Whilst jonesing for something to read as my son played at the playground this week, I did finally snap and read a big book about Feng Shui I bought a year ago and promptly forgot. (Feng Shui Update: I moved a crystal from the south to the southwest of my house. I am working on creating a water feature in the north. Stop laughing at me.)

I also cheatingly searched the library website to reserve the new Stephen King, but there are, like, 8563 billion holds on the one copy, so I’m never going to actually get to read it. Goal accomplished.

This one was hard, but I did it. Goodbye for a little while, my beloved books. I'll read you again someday, after I build up my atrophied self-discipline and focus muscles.

Goal #4: Stop over-editing everything I write. Again with the acceptance of imperfection.

Goal #4 Update: You are experiencing the results of this accomplishment right now. I naturally babble. You say “tomato” and I say “a savory, typically red, edible fruit.” You say “swift and passing,” and I say “long and lasting.” You say, “Shut the hell up, we get the point, Talky,” and I say, “Bite me.”

When I don’t go back and edit out half of what I’ve written, this is what happens. But it’s a means to an end, because if I don’t stop obsessing and nitpicking, I’m never going to get anything completed. My fellow COFFEE warrior Wendy (Hi Wendy!) shared the best advice last week: “Write drunk. Edit sober.” I kind of loved that.

(Also, as long as I’m not over-editing, let’s talk about the word “nitpicking.” Isn’t “nitpicking” a disgusting word? I hate it. I use it because I can’t think of a better word to describe what I mean, but it makes me puke inside every time. I always think of lice crawling in someone’s hair. And monkeys eating the lice crawling in someone’s hair. Gross.)

Goal #5: Stop caring so much what others think of my creative output. Just believe in myself.

Goal #5 Update: I’m trying. I need to find the literary equivalent to wearing a lampshade on my head/making an ass of myself to get over this writerly insecurity. A trial by fire sort of thing. Maybe I’ll create a no-editing-allowed blog like my fellow COFFEE warrior Patresa’s (Hi Patresa!) Edit Less More. Her blog is described in the upper right hand corner as “a place to write badly.” I can’t think of anything scarier than letting others see my raw writer guts like that. She is so brave.

I might like to do a “photo prompt” no-editing blog; randomly search for an internet photo to post, and then write the first things that come into my head. I have always wanted to do that. I’m very visually stimulated. Like men. And that Tyrannosaurus rex in Jurassic Park.

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

So here’s where we start chopping down the brain trees and creating that safe path for my innocent little goal-animals. Time to make my first writing schedule.

This is intimidating because I have a child. And because life can be a ravenous vampire bitch. Unexpected family turmoil and illnesses sometimes seem to look hungrily at my delicious little plans, and gobble them up in one bite. (I have no idea where this predator/prey theme is coming from today. It’s mildly disturbing.)

I had planned to make a writing schedule the second my son started kindergarten, but the events of the last few months (car accidents, injuries, etc.) and my powerful blend of chicken-sloth juju have combined to lead me astray.

I take my son to school, get home, and think to myself, "Self, you should totally sit down and write while you have the peace and quiet." Then I end up doing housework, or worse - just being lazy and reading, or playing a dumb video game.

All during his infancy and toddler-dom, I pictured myself being able to write "for real" once he started school, so I am mortified by my ineptitude in getting started with it. I don't seem to know where to begin.

So how about right here, right now? I’m finally going to do it. Let’s discuss:

I will be in physical therapy every Monday and Wednesday through November. As soon as I get the okay from my physical therapist, I’m joining a gym, because I can no longer treadmill, but have to exercise every day for sanity regulation. So I need some workout time every morning. Established.

I go straight from dropping off my son to PT (or soon, to the gym), and am usually home by 11:00 a.m. Established.

I can start writing by 11:00 a.m. Established.

I leave to pick up my son at 2 p.m. I can write from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on weekdays. Established.

I am going to start with writing on Tuesdays and Thursdays for November. By mid-December, I will work up to writing Monday through Thursday, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Established.

Evening writing hours will never be realistic for me because I am a morning person. Yes, I’m the annoying person you snap at for smiling and being perky first thing in the morning. I am most productive in the morning, and unapologetically love it. (A sunrise! The blank slate of a new day ahead! So much possibility! What’s not to love about that? Don’t hit me!)

Alternately, I am a big tired baby in the evenings and often go to bed at the same time as your grandma. I do not feel creative when I am tired, and I desperately do not want to suck all of the joy out of this endeavor; so there will be no nightly writing expectations.

But I would like to eventually add a weekend writing slot to my schedule. Let’s see how my December “writing training” goes, and maybe I’ll work in a Saturday or Sunday slot. My husband is my number one supporter, and a champion of all things creative, so he will happily keep our hyperactive 4-year-old son out of the office for me so I can concentrate.

Okay. It is written here and so it shall be. You, my friends, are my witnesses. I am hoping that the accountability of your readership, and the desire to not disappoint you (or me) will be the shove I need to get through the woods of my psyche and something about animals and brain trees and goals… okay, that’s enough. I can’t handle another one of these Wild Kingdom analogies.

But it's a start. And that wasn't so hard. I'm officially creating a path.

My path.


Wendy Jans said...

Tawni, you are so stinkin' funny. I found myself reading this, thinking, oh I'm gonna comment on how clever that was...no THAT... no THAT, etc. Suffice to say, this was an excellent post. You ARE creating a path and shoot, that's half the battle.
BTW, I love hearing someone say that you have to return library books and stop reading so much! My husband is the same way - his library reserve list is maxed out at all times and he checks his little account thingy constantly. Nerds unite! (I mean that as, definitely, a compliment ;-)

T-Free said...

Yay! A fellow library nerd! I actually have the library website bookmarked in my toolbar, constantly smiling at me from the top of the page. It's beckoning me right now, but I will resist. Does your husband have the library website bookmarked too? Haha.

Thanks for the kind words about my seemingly obsessed with prey and predators post. I think I might need to stop watching so much Animal Planet. :)

Gloria said...

Oh, funny, sweet Tawni-friend. You are so gotdanged funny!

Here's how these would go for me:

Give myself a big hug. Acceptance of imperfection. - this usually looks more like: take yourself out, get yourself drunk, take yourself home, take advantage of yourself, feel awkward when you wake up with yourself in the morning. I like your version better.

Ass-kick my chicken-sloth habit to the curb. For me, this would look like: slow the hell down and frickin' focus on one thing for once!

Stop reading books all the damned time. Start reading more damned books! (Seriously - have you read the TNB Book Club book we're working on? Half a Life? Read it! READ IT! Stop whatever you're doing right now and go get the bo...Oh...wait...

Stop over-editing everything I write. Again with the acceptance of imperfection. Edit your crap better! People like Tawni notice instantly when you accidentally write viola instead of voila! Microsoft grammar and spell check is NOT YOUR FRIEND! “Write drunk. Edit sober” may be one of the best pieces of advice I've ever read. Hey! I know! Next time I take myself out on a drunken date, I can write about it and then when I wake up, I can edit it in my one-night-stand hungover fog! That'll be the best.

Stop caring so much what others think of my creative output. Just believe in myself. **sigh** Great advice. Forget what I said above. And - - viola! All better! Shouldn't Patresa's description say A Place to Write Bad?

I love your writing schedule and your dedication to do this, Tawni. You have more discipline than I've been able to muster, and I'm a week on/week off parent. I'm envious, supportive, proud, and confident in your ability to kick this writing thing's ass!

You're top-shelf, my friend.

Katie said...

Tawni! I LOVE "chicken-sloth juju"!!! It is now My Favorite Phrase. I also love your concrete plan. I need concrete. And so I admire all the permanent angles when someone else has the need for concrete too! Love, love, love the free-ness (see?! I was taking your advice and not editing out free-ness for spontaneity - although I did look up how to spell spontaneity, because free-ness is no excuse for poor spelling). *Big flop backward onto fluffy bed* I love your post.

patresa said...

Woo! Awesome. So Awesome.

1st, does anyone else notice "be okay with imperfection" as a connecting theme? i do! holy cow. what is this? why do we all feel like everything we do has to be perfect? high five to that one, tawni.

literary lampshade! ha! yes. DO IT. you know, nanowrimo is actually a really great vehicle to getting rid of the need to be perfect. it requires some kind of horrible literary barfing.

i think you're going to tackle this scheduling bit with tremendous success. that is my prediction. and as you are writing, you are going to kick a lot of ass, because you are a fantastic writer.

on a sidenote, i relate completely to the challenge of following schedules. and the ability to waste enormous amounts of time doing mindless things (like cholera prevention and video games).

Tanner May (Tanya) said...

Oh, I love your "Go Me! Moments!" I like it so much better than, "yay, me!" I may steal it internally. :)

And oh man, if I could pick up reading your books, this would be a win-win. I read just about NOTHING but work crap. I mean, it's important, but I cannot even tell you when I read a fictional novel last. Seriously.

I also love that you are going to be edit-free(ish). I SO enjoy reading anything you write. I could be a groupie, really. You have an amazing and stimulating way about you... it makes me want to be more carefree and FUN! You are FUN!! AND, YES, please do not even care that I think this! Yes!!!

And Tawni, it is so wonderful to read your hubby is your biggest supporter. This just makes me smile.

Rock on Lady. Your creative path is the cat's meow, the dog's paw, the chip's dip. Rock on. :)

T-Free said...

@Gloria: Thanks. And I don't know. I kind of like your sexy version of self-love better. Mine seems so G-Rated now (and just like that, my friend Gloria/Glorious/Glorgeous/G-Lovely had a new nickname).

Well, this uni-tasker is jealous of your multi-tasker ability to focus on more than one thing at a time. I can focus intently on one thing, but I forget about everything else I want to accomplish. Lists are my best friend. If only we could find a way to meet our brains in the middle, yes?

"Voila" spelled as "viola" doesn't make me nearly as crazy as "voila" spelled as "wallah." *twitch*

We have to fight those creativity vampires, girlfriend. They're mean little suckers, aren't they? A stake made of "I don't give a shit what you think about my creative output" to their evil little hearts! And yes, maybe P's blog should say: "A place to write real bad and stuff and junk." :)

Well I think you're top shelf too. You inspire me to write "for real" all of the time. When I'm feeling whiny about not having the time I used to for creative endeavors, I often think about my friend G-Rated and her twin boys and her time-sucking day job... and I tell myself to rub some dirt in it and get back in the game. You're pretty amazing, lady. xoxoxoxox.

T-Free said...

@Katie: Yes! Hooray for concrete plans! If I am going to have a shred of self-discipline, everything must be laid out in the form of tasks to be accomplished. I'm very Type A that way. It's one of the reasons I like to work out on the weight machines at a gym so much: I know how much weight I lift on each one, how many reps I did last time, and how many sets I have to do to meet the same goal. No wiggle room for cheating or excuses. I'm truly impressed by people who can accomplish goals without structure, but I'm just not blessed with that ability.

Thanks so much for the kind words about my babbling post. Here's to harnessing our chicken-sloth juju while retaining our free-ness!! :)

T-Free said...

@P: I agree completely about the re-occurring perfectionism theme we have happening here. Why are we so hard on ourselves? It's so unrealistic. My husband often exasperatedly tells me, "You are harder on yourself than you are on anyone else in the world." And he's right. I don't hold other people to these impossible standards, so I don't know why I'm so mean to me. Sorry, me! *more self-hugs and ponies*

Awesome. Literary Lampshade will officially be the name of my "making a writing ass of myself" blog. Thank you for naming it! I am breaking out in a cold sweat just thinking about it, so I probably ought to go ahead and do that no-edit blog. So scary, but it would probably really help me get over the insecurity.

And yes, I considered NaNoWriMo for my COFFEE Project challenge, because I have so many friends who do it every year. But that goal seems so huge. From zero to sixty in three seconds. I'm more of a tortoise girl. I got nervous that if I didn't take slow and steady steps toward my goal of writing more often, I would become discouraged and give up completely. My brain is competitive to a flaw, to the point that if I can't win, I won't even play the game. It's not a flattering realization, but it's unfortunately true. Upon failing, I might just give up like a pathetic little baby, grab my ball, and go home. I worried that if I couldn't win (i.e. cough up 50,000 words in a month), that I would take the failure too personally. So I'm hoping that I can use the accountability of this blog to build up the discipline and writing work ethic to rise to the NaNoWriMo challenge next November. Because I really would like to try it.

Wow. Thanks for calling me a fantastic writer. Because you are so talented, that feels like Martha Stewart telling me I'm a great cook or something. Or Meryl Streep telling me I'm a good actress. Or something like that. You know what I mean. Thanks! *blushes* :)

Michelle said...

I LOVE Stephen King. I used to be voracious like you with reading. But somewhere along the line when I became a gratification-delayer with a pinch of ADD, I started taking a really, REALLY long time to get through a book. And of course, his are usually pretty freakin' long. But I just hate for them to end, so I only allow myself little nuggets at a time... usually when I'm on the can. lol (Yes. I said it.) But that's when nothing else is distracting me! *defiant chin lift*

I am working on that, but it's a challenge. Back in July when my A/C was broken, I spent days sitting outside on the deck reading and I was like, "Ahhhhh... I forgot how nice this is!"


nitpicking -- *puke*

The photo-prompt thing sounds fun!

I demand a picture of you with a lampshade on your head. *snort*

Great work on your schedule, I'm very impressed. I'm sending you positive sparkly shiny juju to STICK WITH IT. (And to also allow yourself a hug if you deviate here and there!... The path is made by YOU and you alone)

T-Free said...

@Tanya: I love "Yay me" as much as "Go me"! I picture my supportive inner cheerleader jumping around and doing kicks when I say it. She's also wearing a really cute mini-skirt and has the fabulous legs I wish I had. My inner cheerleader is so cool.

Awww. You deserve the awesome escape of fiction books. That is so stinky that you only get to read work crap. Get our Tanner May a beach-side vacation, a fruity drink and a juicy novel... STAT.

Thanks for saying such sweet things about my writing. I really want to be fun, stimulating and carefree. I absolutely love that. Woo-hoo!

Yes... ROCK ON... all of us! :)

T-Free said...

@Michelle: I LOVE Stephen King too. He is so good at putting me inside the head of another. His writing voice is so everyman/woman and realistic. We always had his books about the house, so he is one of the earliest authors I realized I enjoyed. I wish I could read in little bits like you do. I get completely sucked into a good book, am am one of those people who can't put them down. They end up briefly taking over my life and keeping me awake longer than I'd like when I read before bed. I often wish I liked short story collections because they have quick endings that wouldn't keep me tied to the book longer than I'd like, but I don't. (They always feel like a bunch of little book ideas that never came to fruition. I don't want to scan someone's potential novel ideas.)

I often read outside for the same nice feeling you mention, plus I worry about getting enough vitamin D, so it's two birds, one stone and all that.

I love the lampshade-on-head picture idea. *giggles*

Thank you for the positive sparkly shiny juju!! That's my favorite kind! How ever did you KNOW? :) xoxo.

Michelle said...

Yeah I had to stop reading in bed for that reason, and I read (lol) somewhere that the more stimulated the brain is before bedtime the more sleep problems, and I used to have a lot of trouble with insomnia.
Anyway, have you ever tried King's books of short stories? His are the only ones I've been able to enjoy, they're really good!

How did I know about the positive sparkly shiny juju? Oh... just a hunch! ;)

amy said...

I'm so behind, Tawni! I read your post on Friday and then life became a ravenous vampire bitch. And I have child. Who's very similar to a ravenous vampire bitch, sometimes, come to think of it.

1-I think you are doing fabulous with your goal accomplishments. Goal #2 alone would have made me call it a week (I hate the dentist, like the plaque) (ha! did you get that play on words I just did? Plague, plaque, plaque, plague....heh. ahem.)

2-I love your "photo prompt" no-editing blog idea, I think that's stellar and something that would completely get your no editing creative juices going.

3-I laughed out loud during your less-editing post here, and I laughed at all the witty and smart less-edited thoughts you have. And I'm also really in awe of your spelling and grammar abilities, because I edit everything I put up (anywhere, including facebook status updates) a gabillion times before hitting post and even then I end up with bizarre functional errors that make look odd and eccentric and I really really wish I could find a cool and witty way to end this sentence/thought.

4-I liked the predator/prey theme. Predators are very fierce and determined, and prey have to be very alert and on their toes. And I think that goes well with all that you've accomplished so far.

Rock on, T!

Steph said...

I love that you acknowledge your hubby as your biggest supporter! How awesome! That's something, girl! Good stuff!
You started. You are creating a path - YOUR PATH. I don't know about you, but there is something powerful and intensely satisfying about carving out MY OWN PATH! It's also incredibly frightening... because it's MINE. I'm the responsibly party, and I can blame no one else if it goes awry! YIKES! However, in the spirit of COFFEE, you're creating your path just like I'm creating mine, and the Fear can "BITE ME."
I loved that, btw.. it's a great philosophy for what you're trying to do. Edit less, share more, accept yourself where you are while worrying less about what people think. I think the "BITE ME" thing is just the thing! When YOU start fussing, tell yourself this: "Bite me, Tawni." Maybe that will make that inner editor shut up. When you start fussing about what others think, you simply utter a heart-felt, "bite me" toward them, as well. I like that. I might even steal it! :)
Keep it up, girl! You're well on your way!