Change is the constant, the signal for rebirth, the egg of the phoenix.”
- Christina Baldwin
Friends, it’s been way too long. But those of you who hang out with me on Facebook and Twitter know that it’s been a helluva year. Every time I feel as though I’ve gained a semblance of control in my life, it slips away and I’m left scrambling all over again. Solid ground turns out to be nothing more than an illusion, and “control” is all but impossible.
So I’ve reached the conclusion that, for the time being, this is the new normal. My day job is still the kind of place where anything and everything can, and will, happen–inevitable when there are involves 100 screaming kids, constantly ringing phones, demanding parents, and way too many surprises. I still have a dissertation looming in front of me, and an anticipated graduation date of June 2015. And I’ve still got those three novels sitting on my hard drive and taking up residence in my head, unfinished and gathering dust. Add in conflicting demands from family and friends, a boyfriend who’s going through his own share of massive transition and change, and the result is that “somewhat managed chaos” is really the best I can hope for.
It would be easy, I guess, I just do the bare minimum and try to get by. But I want to live, in ways that go beyond just moving through the motions. I want to be creative; I want to blog, to interact, to engage within a community. I don’t want to have to wait until I’ve finally got that PhD in hand in order to write, and speak, and exercise my imagination in all the ways I’ve been dreaming for years.
The trick, as I see it, is going to be mastering tools, tricks, and strategies to get things done. Over the last few weeks I’ve started to identify the ways that I can work smarter instead of harder, ways that I can make the most of my limited free time. I’ve also started identifying some of my habits that have been preventing me from accomplishing the goals that mean the most to me. My top 3 fatal flaws:
- Trying to do things at the last minute. It’s been my MO since I was in elementary school. Once upon a time I was able to churn out brilliant work in a single night, motivated by panic and stress and a lot of caffeine. This isn’t an option anymore. I can’t write chapters, or blog posts, or an entire dissertation in one sitting. Hell, I can’t even pull together a newsletter for the Day Job in a 2 hour stint. My new goal? Spacing things out. Giving myself enough time to get things done. Which kinda goes along with the next point…
- Trying to work for extended periods of time. Gone are my grad school days of having multiple days in a row to just sit in my house, grade papers, and write. Now my mornings are filled with exercise classes (Zumba FTW), my afternoons and evenings with the Day Job, and my nights with trying to stay awake past 9 pm. My attention span for writing has all but evaporated; I can barely manage 15 minutes before I start to go a little nuts. So I’m aiming for short sprints, 15-30 minutes of focused, sustained work where I’m not multi-tasking or daydreaming or Googling that random (but brilliant!) idea that popped up out of nowhere. Lauralynn Elliot talked about this in Monday’s ROW80 sponsor post, which I have printed out and tacked up next to my desk.
- Being scared of success. I always scoffed at the idea of being scared of success. After all, don’t we all want to be successful? But I started thinking about the fact that I’ve abandoned tons of projects midway through, projects that I was super excited about at the start, and ones that showed a lot of promise. And when I really dig deep, it starts to become clear that I am terrified of what will happen when I’m finished. I don’t know what’s worse: the outcome being either (1) terrible, (2) mediocre, or (3) brilliant. The thing that sucks about #3? The fact that people might notice me, and that I will get attention. It’s horribly irrational, because there’s a part of me that loves the spotlight and enjoys having a somewhat public voice. But there is a part of me that is 12 years old, painfully awkward, and terrified of being seen. The key, at least for the moment? Reminding myself that I have important stories to share. Pushing past that niggling voice of doubt. Locking up my inner editor until I have something finished and complete to polish. Thinking less and doing more because, sweet Jesus, I have been overthinking everything lately.
I guess what I’m saying is that I’m trying to be honest with myself, and trying to retool things that just haven’t been working. And not everything in this last year has been a total disaster. I’ve made some important strides at the day job, drafted the introduction to my dissertation, and had a successful conference presentation at this year’s American Sociological Association meeting. I’ve also had some awesome experiences that I’m looking forward to sharing in the weeks to come: visits to cool historical spots around San Francisco, meeting a couple of amazing NYT-bestselling authors, and getting started with Penned, an awesome writing app currently building steam on iPhone.
I’m jumping back into ROW80 in the hopes that I can use this momentum to stay accountable and bloody finish something for once. Here’s what I’ve got on my agenda:
- Finish at least 2 chapters by September 20th.
- Continue data analysis between September 20th and October 10th.
- Read at least one dissertation-related book by September 20th.
- Write at least one ROW80 check-in each week until the end of Round 3.
- Draft 4-6 blog posts by the end of Round 3, to be posted on the blog starting in late September/early October.
- Continue to jot down ideas, by hand, for the last remaining chapters in Act One of TELL ME NO LIES.
- Outline the first few chapters of Act Two for TMNL.
This doesn’t seem like a lot, but honestly, it’s more than I’ve been able to accomplish for the last year. So we’ll see! In the meantime, I wave a hearty hello to all of you. I can’t wait to take a peek and see what everyone else is working on at the moment.
How’s the end of summer shaping up? Any fun plans lined up for Labor Day weekend?