Things to do instead of write:

The internet is made for lists and self exploration. So if you, too, need just one more reason to procrastinate, read on:

  1. Think about writing.
  2. Read a book about writing.
  3. Oh my! How the dishes have stacked up!
  4. Should probably do some laundry. And sort it. And organize the closet by color, ROYGBIV style.
  5. Fantasize about your long-lost elementary school crush.
  6. Try to find crush on Facebook. Despair that “AJ Foster” is such a common name, and 5th grade was so, so long ago.
  7. Same re: your long-lost middle school crush / science teacher, because “Tom Davis” might as well be John Doe. (Oh, I said it! Weird thing about this situation: He was probably younger in 1997 than I am now. There’s some fun mental territory to explore.)
  8. And since you’re already on Facebook, might as well take time to read that Atlantic article that looked interesting, even though you know it will most likely ignite some liberal rage.
  9. Have a snack. Liberal rage makes you hungry.
  10. Nap.
  11. Snap a photo of your cat, doing same.Jenksie cat nap
  12. Go for a run. Knock off those cobwebs.
  13. Energy! Clean all the things!
  14. Wonder for a minute whether it’s any less annoying and unoriginal to use the phrase “all the things” if one owns and has read Allie Brosh’s book. (No. It’s not.)
  15. Phone home.
  16. Phone a friend.
  17. Wonder for a minute about the fact that these two simple phrases are now ubiquitous pop culture references. Is that something? (No. It’s not.)
  18. Netflix.
  19. Netflix.
  20. Netflix.
  21. Think about writing…

 

Going Pro

Learned a thing tonight: “Procrastinate” comes from the Latin crastinus, meaning, ‘belonging to tomorrow.’ That’s kind of neat, right? (The meaning, not the reality. ‘Belonging to tomorrow’ is a terrible way to feel. But I feel it all the time.)

Tonight, for a bit, I got good and pissed at myself. Wondering, WHY is this thing, which I’ve chosen as my career, which I would claim to be the thing I love most in the world, also the thing I will go to such great lengths to avoid actually doing?

I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. Writers throughout time have written about this struggle. One quote I’ve seen attributed to several different writers (thanks, internet!) is: “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” No matter who said it first, it spits the truth.

Over the years, I’ve carefully honed my ability to avoid doing the things that I know are good for me. (Because, you know, I’m a person.) If I have a big deadline approaching, it’s often the case that one of two versions of myself come out to play: One is the Super-Anxious Avoider, the other is the Over-Active Achiever. Whether I self-medicate with Netflix and naps (the S.A.A.) or with cleaning my house and tackling any other to-do on my list (the O.A.A.), I am so very good at finding non-writerly ways to occupy my time.

I am so very good at driving myself crazy NOT doing the thing I want to do.

So I get good and pissed at myself. Wondering, WHY do I do that?! Who knows. I could talk to my therapist. I could read a book on creative resistance. (They’re out there; I’ve read a few. The War of Art and The Artist’s Way and The Creative Habit are particularly good.) Wouldn’t my Super Anxious Avoider just love to spend hours winnowing out the reasons why?

The important lesson I keep learning is that no matter what, when I finally make myself sit down—sticking the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair—and put in the time, I get the work done. It’s not about waiting for a magical moment of inspiration. It’s just about getting it done.

Writing. Wine. The Warner Brothers (and the Warner Sister).

And you know what? Once I do, I always feel so GOOD. Like I can conquer the world. (Or, at the very least, the next assignment.)

Start again in the month of May

Here is a thing that ought not to be news: Playing music makes me happy.

Bonus non-news: Man, I really like this Arcade Fire song:

In other news, I’m reading a book about procrastinating right now. It’s a long book (kind of a cruel joke, procrastination-writer-people, if you ask me), and it’s about all sorts of things, really. Not just about putting things off, but more generally about why we do things & why we don’t do things. And how to change the way we think.

It’s good. Oh, and it’s called Procrastination, if you want to get after it yourself.

Procrastination Book

How do these two ideas relate, music & the P-word? I was pondering the question of why we (people, and especially procrastinating people) sometimes invest so much effort in not doing what we really want to do.

Maybe we’re afraid to fail.
Maybe we’re afraid to succeed.
Maybe we’re stuck in an old routine.
Maybe we don’t want to upset somebody.
Maybe we’re afraid of making a final choice.

When I finally do sit down at my piano, the maybes and fears dissolve. And there’s just music. (And a river runs through it…) That sounds so foo-foo, I’m rolling my eyes at my own self. But. There is some magic to it. Good habits feel good.

Good habits also breed good habits. Playing music almost always makes me feel like writing. Writing jokes makes me start to notice more things that are funny. Exercising one creative impulse can jiggle the door handles in other parts of my brain that have locked up from neglect.

Good habits also reinforce themselves. I’m surprised to find how easily I pick up where I left off. My fingers will remember a song I haven’t played in months. Or years. I can play by heart (and, occasionally at parties, upside down and backwards) my second grade recital piece, which is — that’s right — something I learned over 20 years ago.

(It looks something like this. And I usually wear all-black. Weird.)

Piano

How does that work?

I can still play this song today because it’s one song I knew by heart that I never stopped practicing. I play it because I know it by heart, and I know it by heart because I played it… This discovery isn’t profound, but still it’s making little M.C. Escher loops in my brain.

It’s fun to know something so completely that you can turn it into an obnoxious party trick.

The learning and practicing part isn’t always fun. It’s full of failures and frustrations and fits and starts. But that’s the time to not quit. That’s the time you’re storing up nuts so your brain has something to do when winter comes. You’re making habits that will be easy to come back to. So 20 years later, you can be delighted to find you still have skills, such as they are.