Yesterday was the longest day of the year. I didn’t get my writing done. I didn’t get my revision done. I didn’t get my blog posted. What did I do all day? What do I do any day?
How can I stop churning and start winning?
Let’s consider this for a moment:
I began at 7:30 with coffee and laundry. Next I paid my mother’s bills and prepared the checks for the mail. I reordered a prescription on-line, brought our checkbook up to date and made my list of errands before showering, dressing and inhaling the breakfast my darling short-order cook made (bless his heart).
“ Looking up, I noticed I was late. . . “
I jumped into the car and made it into my seat at the lecture on medieval tapestries (I’m researching a poem) as the lecturer took the podium. Back home, I inventoried the refrigerator and pantry while I ate crackers and apricots for lunch, planned the next week’s menus and made a grocery list for my Wednesday run to Oliver’s (senior discount day). I started salad greens soaking in filtered water for our dinner (served with sliced tomato, radish, egg, potato, chicken and tuna—refreshing on another hot evening) and went to my office to complete the waiting list of tasks: new bio for the new website, update my credits’ list, grab covers and web addresses for the anthologies I’ve published in.
“ Looking up, I noticed I was late. . . “ The Post Office was going to close in ten minutes. I gathered the letters and parcels needing postage and flew. . . .
Back in the office I finished a volunteer proofreading assignment for the next Redwood Writers anthology and and returned to the kitchen (after a pass through my garden to smell the roses) and made dinner, ate and washed up.
Suddenly it was after nine and I hadn’t written, let alone posted, a blog entry, worked on the book review now due, or worked on the revision of my second novel—a lot of zeros on my checklist.
Time is ticking by and I’m exhausted. I feel like a total loser because another day, another half year has gone by and I haven’t done my work.
I read an article in the Huffpost recently by Abigail Williams called “5 Secrets of People Who are Always Organized.” Here’s what she says:
- They live by lists. The key is to keep lists manageable by breaking down long-term tasks into small steps. Maybe revising the entire book today was too ambitious?
- They have a place for everything and put everything in its place. I’m late every day because, well, where did I leave my keys?
- They make clear, quick decisions and stick to them. I agonize over all the options, killing efficiency. Mary Oliver opens her poem, Wild Geese, with “You do not have to be good/ You do not have to walk on your knees. . .” Just get on with it!
- They cut the clutter. What? Clean up and keep clean my wildly creative workspace (euphemism for “totally messy”)? Now, where did I put those new file folders decorated with scenes of London, Rome and Paris?
- They value their time. Don’t you just hate those organized people? They’re able to do it all! Uh-uh. They work smarter and delegate. And herein lies the conundrum—I’m the delegee.
So what am I going to delegate? Certainly not the shopping, dinner preparation or laundry. I’d be thrilled to stop housework, but if not me, who? My husband is earning a living (and anyway, he takes out the garbage and mows). He’d gladly hire a housekeeper—when I earn enough to pay for her. Drop my fiduciary responsibilities to my aged Mother and our family business? But as a retired accountant I’m so well qualified. Stop volunteering? Let my garden turn into a brambly weed patch? Quit my job? No, no, and no! I love my work, and my garden is my sanity keeper.
What’s the solution? Less TV? Less sleep? Less socializing?
I’m going to add a sixth secret to Abigail’s list:
- People who are organized pay attention. The experts say the more time you devote to your spiritual practice, the more efficiently you’ll run your life., so meditate more often. A study done at the University of Wisconsin—Madison found “people who meditate regularly have different patterns of brain waves, potentially leading to more efficient attention-paying and learning.” Meditation then is a means to organizing your mind, exactly what I need. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to sit.
6 responses to “Another Half-Year Older (And what do you have to show for it?)”
I like it, your blog. Life gets in the way. But we have to live, we have to breathe, and we have to eat. Pure efficiency means discipline which becomes routine. Maybe, we reject routine? I like to do what I feel like at that moment. I’m talking about my free time, not my work time (my work as a manager at a restaurant) which is set.
Sometimes, I need to walk for miles, sometimes I need to paint, and sometimes, I need to write. But most of all, I need to be with people!
How is your novel coming? I miss hearing you read from it.
And yet I’m reading your blog post, which can’t have written itself! On the other hand, if you’ve figured out how to do THAT, please reveal your secret 🙂
Hahaha. Yeah, it did write itself. Or much more easily than the current novel-in-progress.
Ana, all that organizational stuff is fine, but not necessary. You do a lot that is admirable. But what it means is that you don’t value yourself enough as a writer. Writing should be the FIRST thing you do every morning (coffee in hand). Even if it’s only 30 minutes….or 15 minutes. Set the clock. Ignore everything else and do that. You know what will happen? The mental energy you now spend castigating yourself for not writing will be saved. And you might even get some writing done!
You are so right!