Tuesday, July 26, 2011

distracted and frustrated

This post is kind of a way for me to work out hitting a wall in my manuscript. All I want is to finish it. In my heart, I still love it. But after so many edits, this edit is really a bore to do. In my house, two kids are gone for a month, including the most distracting one. In and around my house is a lot of neglected house stuff, largely due to my trying to focus on the manuscript.

When I try to write at home, even if I have my mother-in-law take the three year old out of the house for a couple of hours, invariably I putz around finding other things to do until, lo and behold, they return, and I haven’t even pulled the critiqued manuscripts out of my tote bag.  Like the day last week, when Toots decided waking up throwing up was the way to go that day rather than out of the house with Grandma. I sank her into the couch with Netflix streaming kid videos, and the next thing I knew, I found myself hacking branches in the yard in 100 degree heat, because that apparently was immensely preferable to actually finishing my novel.

And I had a good session on it the day before when I did my usual Tuesday routine of packing everything up and taking it to the library to edit. Okay, so the next day, off to the library I went, and knocked through two chapters in a fairly painless edit session.

As I write this, I look back over this very morning, noting that, yes, I had an early doctor appointment, from which I left a bit upset, mostly just burnt out on doing the specialist shuffle, so I gave myself permission to see another human being, I mean tea chat with a friend, and then another friend who is back in town visiting from far far away showed up, and finally I trotted myself off to the library. I couldn’t settle in as the place was teaming with people, and then the summer camps came tromping through in droves, so I turned right around, having never even opened the laptop.

Home again, Toots was getting a dose of the one program I don’t let her watch, which frustrated me, because I thought I was pretty clear about that to Grandma, but I didn’t make a stink about it. (Do we really need one more show for her to request immediately and often?) I preferred to focus and to attempt to write during and after lunch, Toots’s nap time, and when Grandma typically goes upstairs for a reading rest of her own.

Well, then I started getting ideas. My, isn’t it a lovely day out there, not a hundred degrees, now that we had a good thunderstorm last night. I know! I’ll go out to the picnic table around the side of the house that has a little privacy and an outlet! I got all set up and touched my black keyboard in the sun - youch! like a stove burner that has been left on.

Trot everything - drink, lunch, boiling laptop back inside, two trips - turn on the a/c in the office, and try to “white noise out” that Toots is not interested in napping at that time. Stare at my laptop screen and start typing this instead.

So what is my problem? Why am I having such difficulty with starting a single editing session? Any session for that matter? The excitement is inside me to Git ‘er Done!  Yet instead, here I am devising ways to rearrange the office so that I can work better, more comfortably, get more organized, etc. Frankly, I have rearranged the place a dozen times, and nothing seems to work, and that box of papers that grows and shrinks but never disappears is still in more or less the same spot - not in the file cabinet - it has sat for the past five years since we moved it to Virginia from Massachusetts. Don't ask me how many residences that thing has moved from or the decades involved, I implore you! It is my my little hoarder albatross. It's a smallish box, I swear.

I have little over a week before I retrieve the boys and my mayhem returns to its full tilt, after a camping trip with all the kids.  I have about twelve, albeit, short chapters to go, a bunch of query letters to write and send, and a writing group twiddling their thumbs to see this last draft before I send it out.

Maybe just putting it down where I can see it: twelve chapters in about as many days, is what I needed to do. I sure hope so. Once I get started, I’m good for at least a chapter a session, so now, I just need to do it. Hello five a.m. for the next week?   Any suggestions would be appreciated. 


  1. This sounds like exactly what I go through, all the time, with my own writing. Let me emphasize that: ALL THE TIME. I remember once talking to someone else in the same grad program as me, and he said to me, "My bathroom is never so clean as when I have a writing deadline!" (Meaning, of course, that HE preferred scrubbing toilets to writing.) I have found myself outside shoveling snow at 3 am instead of writing. So, I feel your frustration.

    I have been trying to follow Pema Chodron's advice that, when we are stuck, we need to "do something different." ANYTHING. One day, I took a folder of "important papers" (that I will never read again) off my desk and began crumpling them up one-by-one and shooting baskets with them, into the trashcan across the room. That loosened me up and made me feel more playful, and it helped.... that day.

    Some tricks I have found helpful from time to time are things you probably already know:

    1. Never end at the end of something (like, a chapter). Always end in the MIDDLE of something, even the middle of a sentence, so that the next time you sit down to get started, you are "parked on a downhill slope" and starting is easier.

    2. I write notes to myself about what I need to do the next time I sit down to write. I try to keep them brief and action-step oriented. Then, when I do sit down again, I try to be relaxed about choosing any of them and getting going.

    3. I try not to over-complicate things. If time matters, I try to force myself to write anywhere -- sitting in a doctor's office waiting room, sitting at a messy dining room table, whatever. If I try to give myself the "right" setting, I end up giving myself a great big distraction from what really matters -- which is getting something, ANYTHING, done.

    4. I ask for help. If I am stuck, I talk to someone about it; either I get sick of my own complaining, or I hear myself out loud and realize what I need to do next.

    5. I procrastinate by doing some other writing that needs to get done. Sometimes, completing something short and less important gives me enough of a boost to get going on the bigger thing that is feeling scary.

    6. When all else fails, I let myself procrastinate and wallow until I hate how that feels more than how painful it feels to write (sometimes). I try to focus on how much better I will feel once I have gotten something done.

    I don't know if any of this will help..... I know how you feel. You are not alone! I am going through this right now, myself, all summer long.

  2. wow, thanks, nancy! these are very helpful! especially the stopping in the middle, i keep trying to fix one or two complete chapters per session. of course, my chapters are quite small, so that kind of works.

    overcomplicate things is where i seemed to live today!

  3. I know exactly how you feel!

    You've got some great suggestions from Nancy (many of which I'm going to use myself!). All I can add is to give yourself some added motivation that makes your writing time and writing space (whenever and wherever that may be) special. It can be your favorite beverage, snack, music, anything. That way, you look forward to your writing time not just for the writing but because you also get your special treat, too.

    Good luck! You're going to feel SO much better when it's done.

  4. thanks, kristine, i bring chocolate and candy with me to the library and when i'm at my home desk, i always have a cup of tea or a good snack with me. it is helpful.

    you mst feel great right about now! congratulations!


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