Finally. A good day of writing.
Yesterday I completed all the items on my “to-do” list. I did laundry, went grocery shopping, strung white lights in my meditation room, vacuumed, cleaned out the litter boxes, took out the trash, paid bills, got the mail. All of this so that I would have no reasons not to write today.
And it worked. I woke up, made breakfast, and set about writing. I wrote a lot. I set a schedule: write from 11am to 1pm, then take a break, then write again from 3pm to 5pm. But, once my mind was focused on writing I didn’t want to stop. My first session went from 11am to 2:30pm and my second session . . . well, this is the start of my second session. The plan is to write this post then return to the project I was working on earlier this afternoon.
Today was a good writing day because I had the entire day for writing. No classes to attend, a day off from work, no emails requiring immediate attention, and nothing left on my “to do” list. It was just me and the page. I felt like a long-distance runner who goes and goes. There is freedom in the going.
I also took away the pressure. I had so many deadlines (self-imposed and otherwise) weighing me down that I didn’t want to write at all. Every time I thought about the deadlines I would end up with heaps of anxiety and a mind that couldn’t find peace. Those deadlines took away my freedom and the trust I have in myself to finish writing projects using my own structure and good sense. Yes, deadlines are good. But, not so many.
My thesis can be an example. The 150-page project is structured into six chapters and because I am in an academic setting instructors want to be certain students are using their time wisely and so impose deadlines for each of the six chapters. This is too many deadlines for my monkey mind. My monkey mind starts to panic and stops writing. It goes something like this:
Teacher: The first draft of chapter three is due on December 7th and the final draft of chapter three is due on January 17th.
Me: Great. No problem.
Monkey Mind: Excuse me? You want a first draft? Why would I let anyone read my first draft? I will write my first draft, edit my first draft, write my second draft, edit that, write the next section, edit that, write, edit, write, edit, writeeditwriteeditwriteedit, Oh My God! I can’t do this. This is crazy. This is too much work. I can’t possibly write and research and write and research and edit and writeresearcheditwriteresearcheditwrite. No, No, No! I’m not going to do it!
Teacher: Why haven’t I seen any of your work?
Me: Sorry, I’ve just been really busy. I’ll get to it.
Monkey Mind: (Crying) Nononononono. I can’t do this. I won’t do this. You can’t make me. I don’t want to. Not like this! Stop putting your deadlines on me. Stop it! Leave me alone! I can’t write under this much pressure!
And this goes on and on for months. Until finally I realize that I can write this, I will write this, but I have to trust my own ability and structure. So, I create a new scenario.
Teacher: The final project is due at the end of March.
Me: Sweet. I’m on it!
Monkey Mind: Great. Will do. Now let’s go make cupcakes.
And in between making cupcakes, looking out the window, watching snow flurries, hanging lights, visiting with friends, and drinking tea I write. And write. And write. And write.