Old habits die hard, but…

python anfscd

…new habits are even harder to keep, especially when you’re trying to reorganize your life.  It’s terribly easy to slip back into the old ones when you’re trying your damnedest to get rid of them because they don’t work for you anymore.

Still, I can’t expect them to change overnight.

I’ve been doing my best to reorganize my life so I’m not wasting so much time passively surfing the internets.  There are a few goals here, of course: I can still get easily caught up in the latest imbroglio on social media, fall down the rabbit hole of You Tube (I wasted a good ten minutes right now looking for other Monty Python gifs and then finding the Spectrum skit, one of my favorites), or staring at the screen trying to think of what the hell I’m going to blog about for tomorrow’s entry.

On the other hand, I have great days when I fall into a groove and I get all sorts of things done.  I’ll close down the browsers and only have my mp3 software running (or a single browser playing a radio station or one of the Sirius XM channels).

So what to do about it?

I’ve tried all kinds of things.  Closing down the browsers.  Knowing the difference between enjoying an unencumbered weekend afternoon and just wasting time.  Obsessive cleaning and reorganizing.  Facing down the Don’t Wannas by doing the damn thing regardless.  Putting my current writing project front and center on my screen (or in this case, on my desk) so I can’t avoid it.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  Regardless, it’s a matter of actively working on changing those habits.

It’s a slow evolution, but it’s getting there.

my neighbor seki
SEKI YOU’RE NOT HELPING

On Writing: Determination and Distraction

Some of you may have seen my Twitter pic or my LiveJournal post last night regarding “the Return of the Whiteboard Writing Schedule.”  A few years back I bought one of those erasable whiteboards that has a calendar grid on it and stuck it on the wall, eye-level, in front of my desk.  I used to have one of these in the Belfry years ago as well, which I used as a way to remind me of due dates and deadlines.  It worked out pretty well then, and figured it would be good to have again.

When I first put it up, I came up with the idea of giving myself a strict writing schedule.  Two reasons for this: my writing time is not as concrete as it used to be, and I find that I’m more productive when I give myself a specific schedule in which to do things.  This was proven during the Belfry years when I consistently hit a high word count working in the early evenings every day.  I also had one project going at the time–the Bridgetown Trilogy–so as long as I stayed true to it, I was fine.

I’ve used this schedule since around 2011.  I’ve changed it up a few times, moved things around, dropped a few projects, but for the most part it’s worked.  I chose to drop it for a time earlier this year, but for a good reason: I was doing a major revision of the Trilogy and wanted to devote all my writing time solely to that.  Now that that’s done and that I’ve anchored myself to a new writing project, it’s time to return.  I reused the January 2013 schedule I’d come up with that had served me well; the new project takes up the weekday, with Walk in Silence taking up the weekends.  I’ve also peppered in some offline/personal projects such as poetry, art, and music practice.  I’m also returning to my morning 750 Words, which I’ll sneak in during my work hours alongside my daily journaling. 

It’s a lot, but I like having a lot to work on.  It keeps the creative blood flowing.  It also makes me a better writer in the process.  Furthermore, they’re not strict deadlines but guidelines.  This isn’t homework, something I must do, but something to aim for on a weekly basis.

 

So…what’s this about distraction, then?

Well, that would be the forays over to YouTube, the refreshing of the Twitter feed, my longterm project of music cataloging, among other things.  Mostly done during the work day, when things are slow.  All well and good in moderation.  I can allow myself to let the time pass.  Hell, my old timewaster at work when I didn’t have internet access was doing word search games.  It’s a way to relax and keep oneself occupied.

On the other hand, when there’s nothing better to do and no immediate directive involved, it’s easy to fall into the trap of distraction.  Popping onto a website to see the latest posts, read the latest news, keep up-to-the-minute tabs on friends and acquaintances.  We still get fascinated by immediate gratification, and that’s what the internet is all about.  It’s what movies, radio, and TV were all about.  Which means that it’s up to our own selves to know when to turn it off, because no one else will do it for us.

It took me awhile to learn that.  I’ll fully admit that I get easily distracted.  Playing around with my mp3 collection, falling down the Wikipedia or YouTube rabbit holes, playing FreeCell or Solitaire, you know how it is.  I’d stop myself after twenty minutes or so, basically when my conscience would gently prod me and say “Dude, look at the time.  You’re wasting most of it right now.  You’d better get cracking if you want to get anything done tonight.”  And as timing would have it, my wife would walk in about five minutes before that moment and mock me for dicking around so much.  I’d eventually get things done, but later than usual.

This is another reason for the return of the Whiteboard Writing Schedule:  so I’m too busy doing things I enjoy, such as writing, drawing, or playing my guitar, to be distracted by timewasting things such as cat memes and silly gifs.

So.  How to avoid distraction?  Any specific steps?  Any tricks?

Not really.  Just the one step: Be aware that you’re distracting yourself, and do something about it.  Especially when you notice it and not doing anything about it.  You want to be a writer, yes?  Fine.  You want to get some writing done tonight?  Fine–then stop not writing.  You’re well aware of the distractions–it’s up to you to be procative and cut down on them.  Replace them with distractions you enjoy–reading, painting, hiking, what have you.  They may not exactly make you more productive or prolific, but they’re an outlet that inspires you.  And in the process, they may even change your mood so you’re even more creative once you start writing.