remove the thumbscrews, see what happens
- 5,653 wds. long
I'm declaring this week to be Conscientious Anti-BIC week. It's my week for Active Emancipation from the Tyranny of Butt-In-Chair Philosophy.
It's an experiment. Hear me out.
I've stated my intent to have the short story revision done and submitted by the end of January. One week now remains to hit that self-imposed deadline. That's plenty time for the task at hand, if I use my time wisely and don't dawdle.
Which would lead one to believe that BIC would be the best strategy:
Pick two hours a day. It doesn't matter which two hours, but make them two hours that you can do every day.
For that two hours, you will sit in front of your typewriter or computer. You will have no distractions. You will write, or you will stare at the blank screen. There will be no other options.
Writing letters does not count. Reading does not count. Doing research does not count. Revising does not count. You will write new stuff, or you will stare at the screen... Fill the page or go mad.
...Your mind will rebel. You'll want to clean the toilet, change the cat box, mow the lawn. But you won't, because there are no excuses.
Isn't that logical? Doesn't it make sense? To get something done, you allot time in which to do it, and you damn well do it in that time. What could possibly go wrong with that?
Well... I have this brain, you see. A brain full of avoidance monsters.
It goes like this:
The closer I get to deadline, the scarier the project gets, the harder it is to make myself sit down and do the work.
The more work remains to do, the harder it looks to do it, the more I avoid doing it.
And the more I tell myself things like this:
Your body will rebel. You'll get headaches. You'll get colds. You aren't allowed a choice. You will sit in front of that screen even if your head is throbbing.
...the more those two hours begin to look like torture. Which doesn't exactly help with the avoidance monsters, you know?
Now, I'm not saying BIC is bad advice. There is a time for BIC. BIC is about getting from "thinking about the writing" to "actually writing." My daily timesheet, where I log time spent on writing and try to make it add up to five hours every work day, is all about BIC. But neither BIC nor any other piece of writing advice is the right advice for all occasions. I'm convinced that no writing advice is wrong, but any writing advice can be a bad match given a particular writer and a particular set of circumstances.
I'm experimenting with the idea that BIC is not entirely the right match for me right now.
Fast-approaching deadlines make the work look scary... so I need to work as if I had all the time in the world. Huge, overwhelming goals make the work look impossible... so I need to work with small, bite-sized, non-overwhelming goals. And the BIC philosophy makes the work look like a painful, horrible, absolutely unenjoyable ordeal... so I need to work in ways that don't hurt.
I hereby declare this week to be the Week of Following Rabbit Holes.
Following something that appears to be a distraction is not a waste of time, if ó and itís a big all-caps IF ó you can do it consciously....
You realize that you are not avoiding your project. You are investigating an aspect of it. Or learning something that will help you with it....
The outside culture says yell at yourself for following the urge to fold laundry instead of writing that proposal.
I say: find out what is waiting for you in the laundry.
Which isn't to say that the writing will magically get itself done for me while I go fold laundry, make dinner, stain a closet door, or just up and walking around the block. Rather, the thing that's got my writing stuck might go away while I do those things. This is the art of consciously following distractions, of deciding that the distraction wouldn't be there if it didn't have something to tell me. (If the writing were going well, would I be getting distracted in the first place?)
And if I give myself permission to dive down rabbit holes and see what's down there, the scary, threatening pressure of "two hours, butt in chair, doesn't matter if it hurts, just do it" ...dissolves away. The threat of pain dissolves away. The fear dissolves away. The avoidance dissolves away--why shouldn't it? There's nothing left to avoid.
And maybe instead of simply not avoiding the work, I might find myself looking forward to the work instead... because I've stopped making it look so much like work.
I'm also going to give myself permission not to keep "logging out" and "logging in" on my time sheet. Rabbit holes, followed consciously, count as part of the writing process. (Just like tea with my avoidance monsters.) If in the middle of the work I feel the urge to take a short walk and look for clues, I'll take that walk "on the clock."
I don't want to draw such bright glaring lines between "writing" and "not writing" right now. I want instead to write from a more holistic space, where all of the things surrounding the writing are part of the writing process.
Like I said, it's an experiment. One of many that I've proposed for myself, all of which address in one form or another the hypothesis, "If I am kinder to myself, I will write more and I will enjoy writing more."
Well, when you put it that way...