Here’s a confession: I’m tired.
I’m about fifteen pages away from finishing the latest in-depth edits of my book and have already told my agent to expect it in her email in-box on Monday.
I’m nearing the summit, I guess, and feel oh-so-ready for a protein bar and a cup of tea and a bit of time sitting on a rock staring out at the vista.
This is a great thing, a fabulous place to be, but there’s something that happens to me right around now. I know because I’ve been here before. I know because it’s happening to me today.
Despite the sunny weather and the ice-out on the river and the redwing blackbirds chirping up a storm in the reeds behind my house, I’m feeling a bit maudlin.
And today that feeling has contributed to habits like: staring at a sentence and re-contorting it four times only to return to the original version and shoving aside work in order to go on Facebook and see how much fun everyone else is having (insert sarcastic snort here).
My diagnosis? Same-old-same-old.
Fear that the thing I’ve spent so much time on is not nearly as good as I want it to be. Fear that it’s a flattened butterfly pinned to the page. So I’m slowing down when I should be speeding up, when I should be pouring late-stage energy into the ending’s whizz-bang.
That’s the scenario.
What’s the solution?
Because there is a solution. I know, since I strive to help people find answers to exactly this sort-of thing.
So, cue the self-coach, with three things that help me get over my angst and back to work
1: Butt in chair. I re-tweeted Anne Lamott yesterday: “Writing is about things going poorly, at every stage. Losing faith in yourself & material? Right on track. Don’t give up. Butt in chair.” Yes. It’s days like this when three things really help me: the timer on my cell-phone, the Freedom app on my laptop (to lock myself off the Internet), and cup after cup of tea.
2: My motto. Whenever I need to remember that I’m not staring at a final project but still engaged in wrestling with a creative work, I repeat the word process to myself. It’s a reminder that [insert current struggle] is not abnormal but part of the creative process and therefore acceptable and therefore I’m not a freak and therefore, see 1.
3: A key question. She’s going to hate it, my brain says. It’s a piece of crap, my brain says. Ad nauseum.“Is this thought serving me?” is the question that I ask and if it’s not, if it’s just a negative-Nellie showing up to ruin the party, I kick it the hell out. Sometimes, of course, this is easier than at other times. Like, inside the personal mental asylum that is 3:12 a.m. it’s, you know, a bit harder, but… practice. It takes practice. Slowly, I find, I’m actually training my brain to drop that useless potentially paralyzing thought.
Before I fill the kettle, throw another hour on my timer and get back at it, let me ask you: what are your secrets to moving out of the maudlin and back into the work?