400 Words: Go! (Day 19 of the Writing 101 Blogging Challenge)

Prompt for June 26

Don’t Stop the Rockin’

writing-101-june-2014-class-badge-2On this free writing day, remember the words of author Anne Lamott: “I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good at it.”

Today is a free writing day. Write at least four-hundred words, and once you start typing, don’t stop. No self-editing, no trash-talking, and no second guessing: just go. Bonus points if you tackle an idea you’ve been playing with but think is too silly to post about.

Even this post is a struggle. 400 words. One at a time, she said. OK, I can do it. But first: the words that come to mind as to the boring things I could write about. Use them as headings and explore the stuff inside this brain.

Motivation, Wasting Time, The Forest, First Steps.

MOTIVATION

I have almost forgotten what this is, let alone how or where to find it. My final exams have all been graded and recorded as of 36 hours ago. The last of the semester’s deadlines–finished. Of course, now there is summer camp to prep for and a few writing and research projects that need my attention, but overall, I finally have some breathing space. I have a list of things I’d like to accomplish. I even have a few things I’d like to do for fun.  Fun? Oh dear, have I forgotten about how or where to find that as well?

Luckily, last night I had the idea that maybe I should just jump in with the current prompt and catch up later (if at all). The last post I made for this challenge was for Day 4. Granted, it was only posted a few days ago (as I am not doing the challenge on the normal schedule), but my intention had been to “catch up.” So this morning, when I read this post for day 19,  it totally made sense to use jump right in and start clearing out all the nonsense that is knocking around in my brain about how time is getting away from me.  Which leads me to the next heading.

WASTING TIME

Anyone who knows me will not understand how this even shows up on my radar. The reality is that I take on way too much, more than any three people should do, and then I don’t give myself credit for what IS accomplished. I silently (usually) berate myself for what HASN’T been finished. Or what I had hoped to do but didn’t get to.

I have made tremendous strides in ONE area. When I DO take time to do something that might not be considered productive by my “doing compulsion” (Enneagram, Type 6, if you care), I don’t view that as a waste of time anymore. I do see things like doing Sudoku, napping, having coffee with friends, and similar activities for recharging my batteries. In fact, that is one of the big lessons I’ve learned in the past few months. No matter HOW busy I let myself get, I MUST take time out for recharging. The alternative is not pretty.

Still, I find myself a little frustrated lately because I now have a little breathing space, but I am not finding my way to the things that really enliven my soul: quilting, writing/blogging for fun, creative pursuits just for the fun of it.

THE FOREST

I’m not sure if this is unusual, but when it comes to trying to map out a daily journey, I can’t decide whether I should go for the forest OR the trees. I can see the forest. I can see the trees. OK, yes, there are too many trees that I focus on. But I have found that the moments of renewal give me lots of forest time. So my frustration comes in when I can’t bring my trees to blend into the forest very well. For me, I think that multi-tasking has really gotten in the way. In the days when multi-tasking was considered a good thing, I got pretty good at it. But I’ve seen the research, and I’ve lived the dream nightmare, and I’m really seeing–both in myself and in others–that multi-tasking keeps us from being fully present in the moment, AND it depletes the limited conscious attention we have to devote to the things we want to accomplish.

I realize that the task list I created for myself as summer began is a problem, not because those things can’t or shouldn’t be done at some point over the summer, but because I started scheduling them in such a way that the summer quickly became a huge case study in the pitfalls of multi-tasking. I took all the tasks and ideas, and started slotting them into the days and weeks and hours as if they were pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. There was no real prioritizing, just shove it all in. And that makes for a really messy forest. Clutter of the mind. As if physical clutter isn’t enough to derail the best of intentions, I’ve got way too much stuff banging around up there as well. No wonder, I couldn’t get excited about quilting or blogging or other fun activities.

While planning is good, I think I might be stuck in “over-planning mode.”  I didn’t just make a list of things I wanted to do this summer, I tried to shoehorn them all in to specific spots. A recipe for frustration. No wonder I have no motivation. The summer looks like a maze with no way out. And even though I have more freedom about which tasks I work on when, my over-planning was paralyzing me into feeling that summer was just like the rest of the year. The aha moment came when I realized that I need to create a summer that works for me, balanced with accomplishing important tasks and regular down time that restores me. Then I can use THAT model to ease myself back into the school year.

FIRST STEPS

SO, new plan. Just make the list, so the items that need attention don’t get forgotten. Then, just walk away. For me, this is revolutionary. I don’t have to plan when each of those things is going to get down. Once I’ve written everything down, it’s there for me to look at any time I want to. All of the things I need to do are contained; they are no longer wandering around in my head, with me wondering if I’m going to forget something. But, I really don’t have to map out a time slot for each one of those items. It’s enough that they’re on the list.

WHAT?

WOW! It’s enough that they’re on the list. I don’t need to spend time arranging and rearranging them based on my frustration level and the other surprises life brings my way. I can just focus on a couple of things at a time. Create a reasonable schedule for THOSE things, and then go back to the list and choose the next things to focus on. A recovery process for an over-achieving multi-tasker.

The actual steps involve:

  1. Making the list
  2. Choosing the first 2 (or 3 at the most) tasks to focus on.
  3. Walk away from the rest of the list.
  4. Enjoy the breathing room.

I have the list. That was the first thing I did at the beginning of this period. I just didn’t stop with the list. I started plugging everything into a calendar. I missed the walk away part. I just have to extricate it from my attempts at calendering everything. Not too tough.

The two things I need to focus on first have emerged–as a result of a couple email exchanges this morning. I don’t have to force the process. It can actually be organic. The flexible third thing has also been identified.

The rest of the list can be put aside. (I’m still marveling at this.)

I have a feeling the next few days are going to be much more productive AND relaxing at the same time. I suspect my frustration will diminish as well.

 

THE EXTRA SURPRISE

I never would have expected to make it to the 400 words (with little editing) once, let alone three times.

Writing through my frustration helped me make some discoveries that were below the conscious level of my recent circular thinking. This resulted in breakthroughs and a potential plan.

I expected I would feel better after I got these feelings and thoughts written, but I had no idea that I would get to the end of it with a solid plan for changing my way of doing things.

When things seem frustrating and confusing, writing really is the best thing to do.

I’m moving again!  🙂

 

 

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8 comments on “400 Words: Go! (Day 19 of the Writing 101 Blogging Challenge)

    • Thanks, Beth, I can’t take credit for the quote. It was part of the prompt. But I’m very thrilled about the breakthrough. Already putting it to use! 🙂

    • Thanks, Maggie! I love it, too. It was such a huge insight. Since I posted this, I realized a few more things. There may be a sequel. haha

      Thanks for stopping by.

  1. Love the clarity you were able to write yourself to! I’m in a similar place around (sort of) playing catch up while also just leaping into the now of the current prompts. So I really hear you about the importance of triaging immediate priorities, and then being really present to them, rather than continuing to think over the rest of the to-do list while pretending to be attentive to what I’m doing…

    • Thanks, Sherri. It was a great writing exercise and led me to some very interesting realizations. Even after I posted, more things kept popping. I think they’ll show up in another post even. But yeah, isn’t it amazing how easy it is to say, I’ll just do this step by step, and it’s nothing but getting further and further behind. And in the long-run, no one is really keeping score. Duh! I can just pick up and go with this. The point of the challenge was to get me posting, not to trip me up with my own sense of how it should be done. 😉

  2. I’m glad this got you unstuck! I hope your ideas help you enjoy life and writing 🙂

    I can relate to some of this… I find that when I have a list that’s too long, I get nothing done. It’s like my mind can’t settle on any one thing and I turn in indecisive circles. (That’s why I didn’t even get the computer out yesterday…)

    • That is so true. Now that I only focus on a few things, I can still take a light approach (and catch my breath after this last semester) and STILL actually make progress on those targeted projects. I totally understand that thing about not getting anything done when there’s too many windows open. I would put x amount of time into working, but the efforts were so scattered that it took forever to see project completion. This new approach is much better. The two current projects aren’t done yet, but they have LOTS of progress and will be reaching the finish line soon.

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