Step 0.5: Crippling Indecision
This is the hard part for me, the making of the time and the gentle canoodling. My default setting lately has been “Overwhelm + 10” and I feel like stroking my ideas would leave bruises right now. Gentle? Who has time for that?!? Like a fool, I stepped out of my Morning Pages habit two months ago. I’m struggling to find my way back and I’m feeling untethered. I always feel untethered without the daily writing habits that sustain me. It’s time to begin again. (Hey look — another goal just popped up for November: return to Morning Pages. Wheeeeee!!!)
I feel so … professional, revealing all of this. And yet, here’s me persisting.
I’ve been thinking-avoiding-thinking about what to do for the MEG in mild, non-committal ways for months. What could I do this year? I like my short stories. Could I publish a collection? Do people buy that stuff anymore? I’ve got a list of ideas somewhere. In some notebook somewhere in that stack of 18 notebooks. Or maybe that one. There’s plenty of time. I just need a minute to search through … what is up with that cat’s soft belly. LOOK AT IT! It wants a tickle, I know it does …
I mean, I’ve known the MEG was coming for a year now. It comes around every November. Duh. I’ve been talking about it with different writers since about mid-August, laying the groundwork for those I know are struggling with completing work and prioritizing writing in their lives. The September Word-Count Challenge and October Flash Lit Challenge were all about laying the groundwork in such a way that it felt good. It was so much fun walking writers through the process of establishing a creative habit and getting them addicted to completion without them really knowing what I was doing. They were too busy having fun and playing with their stories and nudging each other reading everyone else’s submissions to think it couldn’t be done, or that nothing works for them.
I’m so clever, I walked myself right out of time and energy to do this for me.
To Live and Write in Alameda is steeped in the belief that we need each other, and that working your craft is just that — work. I push people to share their goals publicly so they can be held accountable for their own sake, but I also insist that no one is expected to sit down right now dammit with goals ready to shoot from fingertips to keyboard.
I’m all about encouraging members to reach out and ask each other for help, but I think there’s some fear there about being judged — that maybe they hold the patent on the insanity that courses through all our noggins in one way or another. For some, it’s crippling self-doubt and the echoes of childhood bullies. For me, it’s a nest of OCD tendencies hidden in the rafters of my psyche.
So of course I’m sitting here on October 31, wrestling with what to post in the Facebook group to corral all these writers and their goals into one thread. It’s that ugly time where I have to page the words or get off the pot. Somehow, I have to lock down my own goals by the end of the post. Desperation is the mother of Doing the Work.
And now I’m freaking out about how to chunk my big goal into smaller goals because OCD tendencies have heard me thinking and their ears are twitching. They yawn and stretch and begin to climb down from their nest. I watch them skitter closer and closer, pawing across my thoughts, and I’m doomed.
Is it professional to admit you get blocked at the most inopportune times, just like everyone else? I’m always looking for new ways to get around a block so … What the hell, I’ll just write the panic attack as it happens.
How To Make A Goal Your Bitch. In live action sequence.
In order to own it, you must first make it submit to being examined, identified, and defined. And also canoodled.
1. I want to show respect for NaNoWriMo by adhering to their 50,000-word challenge. Cool. Writing that down.
2. My little OCD brain will have to decide by morning whether that means thirty 1,667-word stories or fifteen 3,334-word stories.
3. Or twenty 2,500-word stories.
4. But how would that work in a 30-day month?
5. Two stories every three days. That feels rickety. Like a 2-legged stool and a full glass of water. And Shiloh trying to climb on top — that cat is way to destructive nowadays.
6. Where was I?
7. Twenty 2,500-word stories sounds do-able. Easy to remember. Easy to write to. But rickety stools …
8. Ugh. I just had to invite OCD to the party. What the hell is wrong with me? What are they saying over there in the corner? It’s all slithering whispers and hisses.
9. Oh, yeah, that’s right. My OCD has a fetish and it’s the number seven. How could I forget?
10. Seven does not go smoothly into 30. Or 50,000. I’m going to need a calculator.
12. Now I’m stuck between writing twenty-one 2,381-word stories and twenty-eight 1,786-word stories
13. But then again, I could write fourteen stories of varying length …
14. Oh shit, there’s that stool again. A story every other day until when? The 28th? THEN WHAT?!? Rickety.
15. I mean, CAN I allow myself different lengths if there are 14 stories and they add up to 50,000 … ?!?
16. But 14 doesn’t go into 30 days!!! Wait, but what if I stop at 28 days? It’s a multiple of seven … can I handle the extra two days? That’s a solid NO from the OCD corner.
17. ——- ARGHHHH ——-
18. << chokes on giant mental hairball>>
19. Spit – Hiss – Growl
20. ——- fuckkkkkk!!! ——-
21. << licks arm like nothing happened; writes nothing >>
This is why I need people to talk me down from trees and pet me and feed me kindly reassurances until I’m calm. Someone please assign me a fucking goal that doesn’t trap me inside the tight spiral of barbed wire that is my brain.
Maybe you will take courage from my freak out, and know that it’s part of the package, and it’s okay. What ends up on the page can be so pretty, but what goes into actually paging the words can really messy. And that’s okay. Just write, love. Just write.
If you recognize any of this, speak up. I get it. You don’t have to get stuck before you even start. This is why I’m a coach: I know secrets about goals and intentions, and I like to unstick people. And I’m a hot freaking mess, just like you.