“Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?” Poet Mary Oliver’s famous words are battle cry to stop wasting your time and get your shit together. In this New Year, we’ve already made promises to ourselves about writing, exercising, blogging, reading, organizing, saving, cleaning (?!) more. If you’ve stuck to your promises, then good for you! But most of us get stymied by comfort, complacency, perfectionism, judgment from others and transition. It’s time to stop complaining about how you don’t have time to do anything. You’re in charge of your “one and precious life”—not your wife/husband, kids, job, boss, economy, weather, housing market, aka, The Man. I’ll speak about The Man later in this post.
Transition is my big bug-a-boo—I’m frequently a few minutes late to appointments in the winter time because I hate transitioning from a warm seat in front of my laptop to the cold air to get to my car—you see, I park my car in the driveway, not in the garage because my husband’s two antique cars are in the garage. That’s another story. My ego and fear of getting uncomfortable gets in the way of me practicing new pieces on guitar and violin—I have to fight this urge of not practicing. Same situation applies when I’m practicing for a poetry reading and need to read my chosen poems out load so I don’t mumble and mess up words. So how do I stop getting in my own way? Part of it is to slow down and stop the crazy, busy activity. I’ve learned that I use busy activity as an excuse not to dive into personal projects and fuel my own creative work.
This is my first January in SIX years that I’m not teaching five workshops, volunteering for Poetry Out Loud, and editing three full-length manuscripts. Last year I wrote a note to my future January 2016 self to not have such a busy schedule. And I fulfilled it. I’ve already read one of my book club books, I’ve taken time to exercise at the gym, I’m practicing new songs on guitar, submitting poems to contests AND I’m writing my blog—yay me, but I still have lots of personal writing projects left to do, which won’t get done if I fill up my schedule with meetings, work and social media crap.
Here are my four ways to get shit done:
- Devote certain weekdays for your creative projects and make appointments in your calendar for when you’ll be working on them.
- Work off of “to do” lists.
- Set deadlines for when these projects will get done. Bring in other people such as your mastermind group to help you keep accountable.
- Give yourself a small reward for when you do get your work done. Last year, I bought myself a Boba Fett handbag after I finished my first draft of Heroes without Capes. For if you don’t allow yourself a bit of downtime or reward, you’ll be stressed, mean and not fun to be around.
If you’re working on your book this year, what are you doing to get it done? Are you sectioning off time to write? Have you given up on reading the newspaper and TV? [Don’t get me started on TV watching—TV is The Man’s way of keeping the general public complacent and stupid. However, I do like watching my favorite Emmy-winning shows: Fargo and Game of Thrones. They have excellent writing. And reading the newspaper is wonderful, but an hour or two can go by when you ought to be writing]. What are you avoiding to NOT write? I have taught many, many writers in my workshops over the years, but only a few have published their books. I’m sure some wise-ass out there will say it’s because I’m a crappy coach, but no, it’s because following through on a book project is hard and it takes discipline that can only come from within. Sometimes my students realize that they don’t want to devote all of their life to writing or they don’t want to deal with the sacrifice writing entails. The same could be said for any creative endeavor: painting, music, dancing.
I say, do you want The Man to win? The Man doesn’t want you to spend your precious life being creative—he wants you to do what everyone else wants you to do, which is go to work, watch TV, go to bed, repeat process and then get old and die. NO! Fight The Man! I just did my writing this blog.