Friday, October 27, 2017

Why Does My "To Do" List Always Turn into "I Didn't"?

Our household, consisting (besides me) of my daughter, six-year-old granddaughter, along with two cats, a bird, and one hermit crab have been sick for the past five weeks. I mean "coughing, gagging, spiking fever, aches, pains, runny noses" sick. As a result I haven't done a lot of writing in the past few days, and the animals are barely getting by because we're all too weak to do anything but toss some food in the dish and throw some water at them.

While I didn't do much actual writing, I did try to fine-tune my "to do" list. This is what it usually looks like:

TO DO 

  • Make a list. (This guarantees I'll have something to cross off.)
  • Go to the bathroom, then shower.
  • Enjoy a cup of coffee while I peruse the news and my emails. 
  • Nod off
  • Wake up (See? Already I'm making progress!)
  • Go to the bathroom
  • Think about getting to work on a blog post, batch of emails, current WIP, etc. 
  • Eventually consult my list 
  • Take the easiest, most desirable project I can find and procrastinate on the not-so-fun ones (which will undoubtedly find themselves on my next day's list).
  • Get a snack and a drink
  • Go to the bathroom
  • Find something--anything--I can do other than what I should be doing. (It's a skill I've honed over the past few years.)
  • Finally settle down to get something written/edited/marketed/blogged.
  • Work until I can justify stopping to do something more important--fluff the couch pillows, check the driveway to make sure no serial killers are lurking out there (so far, so good), check to be sure there are no wrinkles in my bed sheet, scan the refrigerator, talk to the bird, etc.
  • Look at the clock and gasp! Time to make supper already? (I just hate it when the day flies by and I never get anything done.)
This is me trying to keep my head above water. I look a little
like an otter, don't I? Hm-m-m, never noticed that before.
Then I make a new list and vow I'll get my act together tomorrow. But I've discovered--and this is the actual point of this post--is that "to do" lists seldom work. At least they don't for me. A list of upcoming obligations and the dates they're due and a few things you know you'll get done is just fine. But I've found that the words "to do" intimidate me because I know darned well I won't. I always overestimate what I can do and underestimate the time it will take to do them. And that's not taking in consideration those spur-of-the-moment things that pop up--an email I have to reply to right away, phone calls, appointments. As a result, I fail. Daily. Every stinkin' day. And that makes me feel bad about myself.

Now I'm not advocating not jotting down the important things (and obviously the list I showed you above is a silly exaggeration), but I think "to do" lists should be limited to plans for a party, errands to run, banking, grocery shopping, and the like.

Writers face enough obstacles without setting ourselves up for failure. If you have the fortitude to follow your "to do" list, and if you feel you really need it, then go for it. I applaud you for your determination and gumption. My inner "crack-the-whip muse" lets me know when I really need to buckle down, and I find myself working like a fiend for hours upon end at times. Other times resemble the list above. But I can't, and won't, add guilt on top of my writing obligations.

I say we do whatever makes us, as writers, feel the best. We have enough competition, time-gobblers, and roadblocks in our paths without us putting other things in the way. I guarantee the more you do what you can to feel good about yourself, the better your writing will be. As for me, I'm abandoning the "to do" list habit and trusting myself to get it done without being nagged.

It doesn't matter what method you use. It's a personal choice and probably won't wreak destruction and havoc across the nation no matter which you choose. All you really have "to do" is remember that you're a writer, and be proud of yourself and your work.






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