un-practicing procrastination

graffiti: big red heart with the words "love yourself!" in cursive, written underneathGood morning good morning!

I’ve just had to go replenish my tea — moroccan mint (green with some mint) and nettle and tulsi and anise and cardamom. Today I needed a little bit of everything, I’m throwing in all the bombs, trying to figure out what will land, what will stick, what will help.

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Tonight’s the LitQuake LitCrawl! I get to share the mic at Carol Queen’s Good Vibrations reading with Gina De Vries, Marlo Gayle, Robert Lawrence, Allison Moon, and the ever-fabulous horehound stillpoint. (We’ll be in the Women’s Building Auditorium, 3543 18th St., 7:15 – 8:15 pm.) I just can’t wait. Do you have your LitCrawl evening planned out yet? Well, now you know what you’re doing for Phase 2! It’s going to be an incredible evening of literary fierceness — eat well today, rest up, do your calisthenics and stretching, then get out there and take in some words!

I’m finally figuring out what I’m going to read tonight — whew.

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Over the last few days, the writing has been coming hard. I am feeling overwhelmed, and so when I sit down at the computer, the first feeling that comes upon me is exhaustion (which I guess is not so unusual for many of us at 4:30am) and a sense of, how will it all get done? I’ve had the words “bird by bird” running through my head pretty constantly for the last couple of weeks — many of you have read Anne Lamott’s book by that name, and if you haven’t, I recommend it without hesitation, whether or not you’re a writer. The ‘bird-by-bird’-ness is related to the message I have taped to my computer screen at my monitor: one thing, everyday. Just take one piece of the big project, the enormous life change, the book, the essay collection, the lifestyle change, whatever big thing you’ve got looming over you, and focus on that little piece for today. We don’t get anywhere all at once; every transition/transformation, every big piece of work takes time and many steps.

I have to remind myself this, over and over, especially since I am an exquisite, practiced, adept procrastinator; I tend to prefer to put things off until the very last minute, right before the deadline, so that I can justify a day spent only working on that task (like, say, a performance for the LitQuake LitCrawl) — and then, the next day, I’ll be closer to the deadline for soemthing else, and will be able to justify ignoring phone calls or other tasks in order just to do that thing. The point is a life spent jumping from fire to fire, instead of pacing more steadily through a gently-warming, steadily-building (sustainable) life, one where I am much less frequently burned. (I’m not at all certain that that metaphor works.)

Here’s the point: yes, there’s a lot to do. I need to find regular workshop/office spaces in San Francisco and San Rafael, have three book projects to work on, have promotional materials to develop and disperse, there’s a talk to write, writing to edit, editing to send out to others. ) And there’s this puppy that needs time and attention, some more training, a relationship that needs energy and awareness.) These aren’t any of them things I can procrastinate my way into getting a day to complete; does that make sense? I’m talking about projects that require regular work, regular attention, steady progress and development; I can’t complete them in the mid night-to-five-am college-paper-writing crunch.

Those old methods aren’t serving me anymore (I’m saying this about a lot of practices these days) — and developing new practices and habits takes work and patience. I get frustrated with myself, get angry and overwhelmed, wonder when the work will be over. Oh, right: it doesn’t get over. It keeps building, because we’re on this path to a life that’s focused on the work we love. Still, that transition is a rough one. (What do you mean I deserve a life spent focusing on work I love?) I practice being easy with myself; it’s work, some days.

I’ve got more to say about procrastination — don’t we all? We keep coming back to what used to work, and trying again, trying again.

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a prompt for today: take 10 minutes with a character you don’t like very much, maybe writing about a time when you didn’t like yourself very much, or someone else you’re not fond of at the moment. (Just notice what comes to mind when you read that prompt, or sit with it for a moment — let yourself begin writing from whatever voices or images arise.) Write from the POV, if you can, of that person/character — who are they? What’s making them act the way that they do? Notice if you can write from a place of compassion for the character/person.

Thanks for your gentle patience with yourself as you walk through whatever changes you’re in the middle of right now — thanks for the patience and presence you offer to others. Thanks, always, for your words.

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