When You Can’t Seem To Follow Your Own Advice

All work and no play had made these ladies terribly dull!

I had big plans for this week. I was going to be crazy productive. I was going to stockpile some blog posts, spend some time on Twitter looking for new people to follow, catch up on blog reading, write two chapters of my book, email people I met at blogher, and finally deal with my ever growing slush pile. Instead, this is what I’ve accomplished:

• Found a new pizza place in my neighborhood that I think is far superior to the one we currently frequent.

• Purchased stovetop espresso maker.

• Attempted to make a latte.

• Failed in attempt to make a latte.

• Watched an anxiety-provoking episode of Grey’s Anatomy (or maybe three).

• Confirmed that new pizza place is definitely superior.

In other words, I have done nothing productive, and as a result I feel awful. The “big deadline” is looming ever closer, and I can’t afford to waste a single day. I’ve worked with writers for a long time, I know we all need and deserve breaks, so this begs the question, “why can’t I follow my own advice?” As of Monday at 11 a.m. it was clear that I needed a break. I was showing all the classic signs! Opting to vacuum instead of sitting down to write, making lists of household tasks that I somehow convinced myself couldn’t be put off a single second longer. Vacuuming the curtains? Really? When I finally did try to write, it took me about 45 minutes to write one truly terrible sentence. So why did I insist on torturing myself? Why couldn’t I do what I would tell other writers to do, which is quite simply TO GIVE IT UP FOR AWHILE? I mean, the world is not going to come crashing down if I watch a couple of episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. Nor is it a total disaster if I decide to see a movie, read a novel or eat more pizza. What is a waste of time, is making myself miserable and forcing myself to work when clearly everything I do right now is just not going to work.

Today I finally did it. I went out and got a couple of new books, went out for coffee and read like a regular human being. I didn’t feel guilty, I just enjoyed myself. I had a decent latte, and you know what? I’m pretty sure that when I write this afternoon it’s going to turn out just fine.

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7 Comments

Filed under Writing

7 responses to “When You Can’t Seem To Follow Your Own Advice

  1. The accessibility of writing – in my notebook, a blogpost, a word document, on the back of an envelope – it makes us feel like we could and therefore should be able to do it all the time.

    I’m glad you’re giving yourself a break. When I completed my first draft, I let it sit for two weeks before I even looked at it. Now I’m editing slowly while doing lots of other things. I notice that my abilities come in bursts.

    Have you conquered the latte yet?

  2. I am a latte failure. It tastes like burnt motor oil. Need lots of practice. . .

    Breaks are crucial!

  3. Ooh, a great pizza joint?

    That sounds like a successful week to me!

    Good luck with your writing, I’m sure it’ll turn out fantastic!

  4. Last week I read Stephen King’s memoir on writing and one thing he said stayed with me — no one knows where writing ideas come from. Your job as a writer is not to find ideas but to learn how to recognize them when they appear suddenly and randomly out of nowhere. It made me relax a little about how to approach writing. I don’t have to know, I just have to be watchful.

  5. I love Stephen King’s memoir. I especially love the story about how he got the idea for Carrie. So crazy and inspiring. Ideas really do come from ANYWHERE as that story completely proves. I reread Carrie right after reading his memoir. It’s really an amazing novel.

  6. Oh I am all about not following my own advice 😉 And at the risk of being obnoxious, I have to add this link to a post from my Thoughts Happen blog called, “Be Gentle With Self” that is right along these same lines. It’s a lesson I keep having to learn over and over again.

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