Posted tagged ‘just do it’

More Advice For Blocks – Sugarcoating The Bullet

December 6, 2009

Followers of this blog know that I have devoted a series of posts to blocking writer’s block and other creative blocks.  But the most common blocks don’t concern projects that are creative, but tasks that are onerous.  These are usually tasks that feel extremely uncreative and yet are difficult, daunting, impossible to begin.

I have developed a number of strategies to deal with such onerous projects:

1.  Close your eyes and wish for as long as possible that the project will just go away. You’ll be amazed how often, with enough procrastination,  a  project will simply be mooted, no longer relevant.  (Christmas cards are, of course, a prime example.  Though the worst case I ever had was with a wedding present I delayed sending long enough for the couple to break up.)

This strategy even works with projects that are not time-sensitive.   Take a cluttered closet that houses, in its depths, scads of missing clothes—time doesn’t make the clutter go away, but usually other demands surface, new clothes are purchased, pounds are put on—suddenly the disorder in the closet just doesn’t seem to matter.

2. Involve someone else.  Often you will still be the person who ends up doing the work, but you’ll at least have someone to witness the work, and, hopefully, to listen to you kvetch.  If it’s that cluttered closet you are working on, you can also ask them for permission to throw your things out.  (Generally, if it’s a good, useful, sort of person, they will be quite willing to have you throw your old stuff out.)

3.  Sugarcoat the bullet.  Sometimes you just can’t put a task off any longer; i.e. the tension of procrastination and insecurity has gotten way more uncomfortable than any amount of despairing but determined slogging away.

You have to bite the bullet. And yet you just can’t bear to clamp down.

Some kind of sugarcoating of the bullet may be required.  This should be a pampering that will make the task easier,  but won’t cause further delay.    (Don’t say, for example, I’ll just take a nap first. And don’t spend a couple of hours, shopping for items that will supposedly make your work oh so much easier.)

If your task is relatively mindless, listening to an audiobook or pod cast can make the work palatable.  If the task does demand a lot of your mind, try listening to music or an audiobook that you know too well to find fully distracting.  (Or, for example, the audio, with only occasional glimpses of the visuals, of a Robert Pattinson trailer.)

Remember that the point of all this is to create a distraction, but a mild one–a distraction that does not take you away from the work, but from your resistance to the work.

(Not the TV.)

4.  Just do it.  I hate to paraphrase a corporate slogan.  Still, once you’ve shut your eyes, delayed, given up on involving anyone, and used up all the sugar you have and still haven’t been able to get it to stick to the bullet,  just make yourself begin.  Momentum is a physical reality, but it can only kick into gear when you do.

Blocking Writer’s Block – Part VIII (at least) – Ignore Insignificance

November 7, 2009

One of the side effects of a tragedy like the shooting at Fort Hood is its overshadowing of so many other concerns.  The event is just so sad that it makes much else seem, at least, temporarily, insignificant.  (I say, temporarily, because, attention spans are short in our media-drenched culture.)

Such overshadowing can be especially problematic for a writer or artist suffering from writer/artist’s block.  One feels idiotic to even mention such an issue, but there it is–one more reason why one’s work feels stupid, not worth the trouble.   This is especially true if you are a writer or artist whose work doesn’t deal with these kinds of violent tragic impulses, this extent of sudden loss.

This reaction sounds terribly narcissistic.   But usually the struggling writer/artist feels the national tragedy deeply.  He/she may want to respond in some helpful, articulate, way, but can only come up with platitudes.  Writing well about politics and despair may simply not be one’s cup of tea.  However, in the midst of such events, writing about anything else may feel idiotic.

Don’t be driven into inaction because you feel insignificant.  Go on.  You are who you are.  You do the work you do.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t stretch yourself.  You absolutely should.  (Especially if you’re someone prone to blocks or avoidance.)   But don’t give up on something because you feel that it seems silly, inconsequential.

Think about (i)  Dutch interior paintings (Vermeer); and (ii) still lives (Cezanne, Braque, Picasso).

Think  about (i) Charlotte’s Web, (just about the most brilliant children’s book every written – about a pig, spider, and barn);  (ii) Ulysses (a day, mainly, in the life of humdrum Leopold Bloom, (iii) To the Lighthouse (which has, to my mind, one of the most heartbreaking descriptions of the changes in England wrought by World War I, told mainly by the wind rushing through an abandoned house, (iv) The Importance of Being Earnest, (v)  A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream; (vi) almost any poem by Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, lots of  Chinese poets, (vii) too many others to name.

Don’t judge yourself so much.  If you are someone that writes about Columbine, or 9/11, or Fort Hood, that’s wonderful–our world needs help understanding these horrible events.    But don’t worry if you do not directly work on these things;  everything you are and know and think about is in the core, or texture, or background of what you do.  So just do it;  it will do.

PS – check out my many other posts re writer’s block, and writing, and writing exercises, by checking those categories.  Also, check out 1 Mississippi by Karin Gustafson at Amazon, or at link from home page.