Top excuses why your writer’s projects may be stalling…
September arrived right on schedule, dripping with a triple-shot of pumpkin-spiced panic. Three-quarters of the year gone and still so many projects not started, even more started but not finished. So, in the spirit of community service and not at all related to having one more reason to avoid my own stuff …
Here are my top four excuses why projects keep stalling and a few tips for restarting them:
Silencing the work cyclone
There are just too many things to do in the fall! Writing deadlines, school, kids and the ‘other’ real job all seem to get busier as September starts. I end up shuffling things from pile to pile like a carnival barker playing a shell game with my mind, and panicking as the piles keep growing.
- Put down the stapler, stop jumping from your desk into the garbage can, forget death by papercut– it doesn’t work.
- Pick one visually obvious thing. Empty the garbage can, put that pile of research books back on the shelf, they didn’t work well as a footrest anyway. You can manipulate your brain into climbing off the panic button just by having a visual cue that something got done. It doesn’t need to be the biggest or most urgent something, just something you can see.
- Break it down to doing one thing. Take one thing every day and finish it, be content with it, let it go and throw away the sticky. It doesn’t matter if that one thing is a load of laundry, a business phone call, or a chapter of editing. Specifically pick one thing, finish that thing, let the rest sit, they aren’t on the list for today.
If you knew how busy I was, you’d cut me some slack! I work full-time, mom-full time, and wife kinda-full-time. When am I supposed to have a moment to write, read, do accounting, or even wash dishes?
- Well here’s a revolutionary thought, brain, what if you stop trying to carry the whole ocean in your hat and just say no. Decide what I can do with the time and energy that I have right now, and reject, kindly, what I can’t.
- Stop should-ing on yourself! To finish all the things that should be done today would take an efficiency expert three weeks. Making endless lists and stickies isn’t going to accomplish anything except to reinforce the feeling of helplessness as you see yourself fall further behind.
- Can I ask for help? Communication around projects and deadlines is hard, because I expect myself to be able to do things alone, but sometimes it’s the only way to get moving again. Which logically leads to…
It’s not fair!
The fastest way to get something on my FOAD (F** off and die) list is to make me feel like I’m carrying more than my share of responsibility. I get angry because I don’t get help, but I don’t ask for help because I don’t want to look inept.
- Am I expecting people to read my mind? Because they can’t. Despite my amazing passive-aggressive grumbling skills, until the words come out of my mouth people do not know what I’m thinking.
- Have I asked the right people for help? It doesn’t make much sense asking a writer for help with accounting, or a handyman to work on your computer. Pick someone who can help, rather than asking someone who just the ‘I have to do it alone’ attitude.
I’m avoiding it.
You’ll notice this is number four, it started out as number one, but I avoided it.
I don’t have any brilliant answers for this one, all I can do is give you words that have helped me find some way of delighting, even if it’s a perverse delight, in the tasks I loathe most.
So let September come, let the pumpkin spice flow, I’ll be in there swinging-one sticky note at a time.
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