I returned to the novel a few months ago, surprised to find that I had a lot less to accomplish in order to finish this draft than I believed. I quickly wrote Chapters 12, 13, 14, and 15 in less than a month, and assumed I’d motor write through Chapter 16 — the final chapter — in a similar fashion.
And then I stopped.
I finished Chapter 15 on a Thursday morning, so I took Friday off (I try to take a day off when I finish a chapter or story, a recommendation I picked up from Dorothea Brande’s fabulous book Becoming a Writer). That evening, Husband and I headed off for a weekend getaway to Berkeley, our last shot at some vacation time before the two of us become three.
Monday I returned exhausted, so I took another day off. Normally I might have pushed on through, but again, “woman’s work” intruded–the exhaustion attendant to the growing of Number Three won out over my work ethic, and even dulled the guilt a little bit b/c it’s not just me I’m thinking about when I sleep most of the day now.
Tuesday, I forced myself back to my favorite table at my favorite cafe–and discovered another problem related to Number Three: I’m no longer comfortable for long periods of time in the cafe chairs, so after several hours of producing NOTHING I gave up and went home. I spent most of the afternoon working on transforming our office to Three’s room.
Wednesday I woke up determined to work at home, in my far more supportive chairs. We all know how it ends when I try to work at home. More energy pumped into Three’s room.
Thursday and Friday I decided that as long as I was resisting work, I might as well give myself REAL permission to do so–and so I poured myself into Three-related projects, with no thought to the novel at all. The only condition: Monday I would return to work.
And I did! Yesterday I made notes for what will be the last chapter of the first draft of this book, and today I wrote the first 500 words of it!
Despite the “lost week,” I don’t feel as badly as I usually do about walking away from my writing. Part of that has to do with listening to the David Allen podcasts at www.43folders.com. One, in particular, is about procrastination, and ways around it/through it.
Regarding working THROUGH procrastination, it was suggested that often the problem has to do with the task at hand not having been broken down to the most basic WIDGET property of itself. In the case of Chapter 16, then, I set myself the MOST BASIC WIDGET STEP of reading the notes I’d been gathering for the last several years regarding the ending of this book.
But easy as that should have been to do–the notes are very neatly collected in a binder that is tabulated into three acts, and the acts themselves are separated into chapter groupings–I still didn’t wanna. Part of that, obviously, is my general weirdness about finishing things–I get a little wonky when the end is near. I know that about myself, which I why I am a hugely happy follower of the WIDGET approach–tiny little baby steps distract me from the finish line. I’m not COMPLETING THE FINAL PAGES OF MY NOVEL. I’m “preparing the chain of events” for the chapter; I’m “writing 500 words”; I’m “writing 500 words”; I’m “writing 500 words”; and somehow, 500 words from 500 words from 500 words from 500 words from now, I’ll surprise myself by making it to the finish line.
Which is how, of course, I got back to work yesterday.
But last week, I resisted the WIDGET approach, and still, I got a lot done. I moved Husband’s clothes in the master closet, and turned what had been his closet into Three’s domain. I sorted all the baby clothes my mother had saved for 30+ years into bins by size, and laundered the clothes appropriate for Three’s early months. I sorted through 6–count ‘em, 6 banker’s boxes of Husband’s unfiled papers, and filed them. And I started selling books we don’t want, to make room for Three’s first library and storage system. I didn’t write–but I did something important, and pressing, and this is also GTD-appropriate. Like Allen said in the podcast, if you’re procrastinating one thing, then you better have a lot of other things you’re doing until the resistance passes–and I did!
That said, by week’s end I was near my usual “I haven’t written in a week and I’m falling mentally to pieces” point–I do get crazed when I stop work. That was sort of a relief, actually–I’d been worrying that maybe I’d be okay, not writing, just doing house stuff … and I’m pleased to report, I’m not. I can do it about three days before I start to ache for my writing. By a week, the ache is a full-blown “get thee to a word processor!” scream in my head.
I’m guessing the moodiness isn’t easy on Husband. But he did get a fully organized, color-coded wall of the master closet in return for my week at home. And I got reassurance that despite the unbelievable amount of time and attention I devote to Three’s impending arrival, I haven’t yet completely lost myself.
So I’m happily back to regular programming.