WELL. The months that were supposed to be quiet at work were eaten up by moving house. I can hardly believe it’s near the end of June. Actual writing has taken a back seat to life, though it’s an ever present force in my brain. My stories don’t ever let me completely forget them, they are like an itch I don’t have time to scratch or a sneeze that won’t complete.
I need to make the time, I need to prioritize writing — squeeze it in, make room. I know all the right things to do, it’s just a matter of figuring out how to make myself do them. This applies to everything in my life right now. I need to find the willpower to take a shower (hazards of working from home), dig deep and source the energy to eat right, to get outside every day, to get to bed before 1 in the morning. I’m caught in a bit of a doldrums, I fear, and I’m rocking, lethargically in a lost boat, staring at the sky, waiting for the wind to pick up again, waiting for the stationary dullness in my head to pass.
To wit: I stood in the kitchen this morning, willing myself to find the effort required to make a green smoothie instead of wolfing down something easy like cereal. I have had this battle every morning for the past few months, and until today, the easier breakfast has won out.
“But I’d have to peel an avocado.”
“It’s not hard, they are ripe, even. And if you don’t make the smoothie, that small window wherein avocados are ripe will be over and instead, you’ll find yourself with overripe fruit that must be thrown out.”
“But I’m not sure if we have frozen fruit.”
“Walk your lazy *** out to the garage and check. And hey, if we do, bring it into the kitchen freezer so you won’t have to tax yourself overmuch the next day. I know how sixteen steps can really wear a girl out.”
“You don’t have to be so sarcastic. Look, we do have frozen fruit.”
“Great, pick up the bag and take it into the kitchen.”
Here the phone rang with an important business call. I was very grumpy. You see, if I get interrupted in trying to do a thing that feels overwhelming, chances are the easy thing (grabbing that bagel, taking a nap, flipping off my stack of work with both fingers) will win out. But I dealt with the call and did the dry and tedious work things required of me and then I returned to the battle in the kitchen. The new bag of Asiago cheese bagels sat by the toaster, calling my name. They were so plump, so fresh, so not requiring any effort whatsoever. Their siren call almost won out, but then that supercilious voice inside my head cleared her throat. I could almost hear her tapping her foot as well.
“Do you want to feel bloated and gassy all day? Do you like having a carb crash at 10am which you then fix by stuffing your face with tortilla chips? You’re going to forget all about lunch, so you might as well at least put something nutritious in your body to start of with.”
So I did it. Even though I’ve had this exact argument with myself for three + months, today is the day that I did it. I made the green smoothie. I peeled that avocado. I actually had the dark, leafy greens in my fridge and they had not yet wilted into a slimy mess. I cut up an apple. I measured and dumped frozen fruit into the blender. And then I sat down and I drank the finished smoothie. Which, if you know me, is to be just as celebrated, as I have sometimes gone to all that effort and then wandered away, distracted, to let it separate into an unpalatable mess in its jar on the counter.
I feel like someone should be pulling crackers and emptying a pinata over my head, for this is how momentous this occasion feels.
I have also been having a similar argument with myself about Yoga. I am not a health nut, nor am I overweight. I am matronly. I look like I think a normal person who has given birth to a handful of babies should look. Not youthful and stretchmark free, necessarily, but fine. Still, Yoga gives me several good things in return for the effort required to complete a session online (oh my word, online even, I don’t even have to go to the gym and it’s still hard to make myself do it sometimes. Why?). Yoga helps me relax. I can get very, very stressed out and overwhelmed by my day job (this should surprise no one given that making a healthy breakfast is overwhelming), and Yoga is that oasis in the middle of a herd of screaming banshees bolting for the cliffs. You know, as herds of screaming banshees are wont to do. It also helps me feel better mentally, physically, and emotionally. How many things do that? Chocolate comes pretty close, but misses on the physically part because I always overindulge.
So, green smoothies today. World domination tomorrow.
Ways I have professionally procrastinated when I should have been writing:
- Map making
- Reading, browsing, checking out, and buying books on the craft of novel writing.
- Reading author websites
- Reading writing forums on Reddit
- Re-reading bits from favorite books to see how other authors handled plot and character development.
- Searching for tutorials on world building and race/species creation.
- Blogging or using social media
- Making graphics for blog posts
- Obsessing over one chapter rather than working on the whole.
- Being weird about my writing environment.
Whilst engaged in #4, I stumbled across this post in which Chuck writes about all the different ways you can outline your novel. In discussing a ‘con’ for the Story Bible method, he says:
A very good way to waste time productively. Most things like this have a horizon line of functionality, and it’s very easy to traipse past that horizon line and continue writing your worldbuilding story bible for 16 years while never committing word one to the actual book you’re writing. It feels productive. But after a point, it damn sure isn’t.
Some of those rabbit holes I fall down are productive and interesting and some spark new ideas or solve problems (like my map making). I also find in stepping away from my novel to do something mindless or professionally procrastinate, a solution for a sticky plot point will present itself like magic, and I’ll have an ‘ah-ha’ moment. But there is definitely a balance, it can be way too easy to waste too much time doing other things.
Like making this print to hang over my computer.
I didn’t know who first coined the phrase when I made it, but it appears that the brilliant ‘butt in chair’ is attributed to the incredible Jane Yolen.
So now that I’ve made the print to yell at me, I’ll be more focused, right?