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.