Sometimes the distance between what I plan to do and what I actually do feels like a chasm.
It may be the simplest action, like writing a short piece for this website, as I recently threatened to do. I have cool software, a lovely studio. I have time – or at least the same 24 hours in which others have advanced humanity by winning a Nobel prize or inventing the cronut. I have the motivation… or do I? Because for weeks after making my resolution I just. Didn’t. Do it.
Or it may be something to not do. Not have a burger and fries for lunch again. I had one yesterday and the day before, so it’s not like I’m facing imminent expiry from a severe burger deficiency. But then… I cave.
Who is in charge of us? We say I want to do this, I don’t want to do that. So who is it that comes along and overrides us? Who else is in here?
It’s this internal interloper that transforms a seemingly small step into a chasm; a giant, yawning, untraversable abyss. We skip along hopefully, brandishing our noble plan like a good deed on social media. We want to do the thing, we really do! But what’s this? Suddenly before us springs the saboteur, the troll, setting ridiculous riddles with unconscionable hair and leaving us in despair at the chasm’s edge.
David Bowie, one of my beloved heroes, knows about the chasm:
Time and again I tell myselfDavid Bowie, Ashes To Ashes
I’ll stay clean tonight
But the little green wheels are following me
Oh no, not again
Yes, again, David my love, again and again.
I don’t know what his ‘little green wheels’ were, his troll. It’s been suggested they were his dealer’s car, or rolled-up bills for snorting.
I’ve often wondered about my little green wheels. When it comes to writing I’m aware of several.
- Rejection – fear that people will criticize my writing, or my stance on something.
- Being ignored – tumbleweeds in a field of crickets.
- Getting started and finding I have nothing to say.
- Writing something and discovering it is awful.
But you know what I realize as I read this list? I have experienced all of these. Many times. And survived.
- I’ve been criticized for my sense of humor (I know this is hard to believe but yes, it has happened).
- I’ve been lambasted for spelling words
contrary to the reader’s local styleincorrectly.
- I’ve been told off for my ‘liberal’ views.
- That was back when I had active websites; now it’s more a tumbleweed-cricket combo, with a side of is this thing on?
- I’ve started countless pieces that petered out faster than a January diet.
- And I’ve written my heart out, consumed with the joy of expressing an idea, only to return later and find there a heinous mound of excrement. In fact, that happened with the first iteration of this very piece. NO THIS IS NOT THE FIRST ITERATION. Geez.
The little green wheels are not easy to evade. They know us so well and they have zero scruples. So how do we deal?
One option is to take up arms and fight the little green wheels, the differently-haired troll.
On the field of the Self stand a knight and a dragon. You are the knight. Resistance is the dragon.
This is fine if you’re motivated by battlefield imagery and not confused by the addition of a dragon alongside our troll and little green wheels. Yes the metaphors have gotten away from me and at this point you may be thinking good lordy woady, what was the first iteration like. Rude.
The only battlefield I enjoy is the one in Pat Benatar’s classic. I prefer something less aggressive, and here is what has worked for me. I lowered and lowered my standard for what I hoped to achieve. Over the course of a few days, it evolved like this:
- #1 Write a piece for my blog
- #2 Write for one hour to start a piece for my blog
- #3 Sit at my laptop for one hour and write any old tripe
- #4 Sit at my laptop for one hour with Scrivener open
- #5 Sit at my laptop for 40 minutes with Scrivener open.
(I felt I’d nailed it at #4, but some part of me resisted the hour yet felt okay with 40 minutes.)
Now, you might think that’s a pathetic goal, 40 minutes of not-even-tripe. True. But here’s the thing: it worked. It got me away from the little green wheels. They were over by the prefects and their loftier goals and didn’t see me here, smoking behind the toilets with the sub-tripe underachievers. But I don’t care. Since I settled on goal #5, I’ve been back to writing regularly and almost always write for longer.
If you have a troll / little green wheels/ dragon of your own, you might like to try this approach. No matter how facile the goal you’ve set yourself, try one lower.
No babe, lower.
Okay, now let’s see how you go.
Please let me know if this works for you!
Well, it’s lunchtime – I’m off to have a salad.
Photo by Meg Jenson.