And on an unrelated note...

Why does my cat like feta cheese?????

The 1 person who can stop your procrastination. And it's not you. Not really.)

So I actually woke myself up an hour early - at six - to get some writing in. No, you don't understand. Six for me is like four a.m. to others. This is huge. Because for a long while, I had been trapped by procrastination. Felt like I had an inability to self-regulate. But I did it, and this is how:
This is my time on procrastination. Any questions?
I found something that actually works for me. Or rather, someone. My future self. According to French researcher Christine Tappolet, consideration for your future self is really effective at combating procrastination:

"Procrastination involves the voluntary infliction of a burden (perhaps even pain) on our future self... harming [our] future self. ...Putting things off for the future self [to do] despite the burden (e.g., dirty dishes left in the sink to do later) clearly indicates a lack of concern for the future self." 

Yep. Control of your time really is in your hands.
Uh-huh. So passing the buck to your future self is a really shitty thing to do. I mean, you wouldn't trash your living room and then leave it for your kid to clean up. Cuz it's not cool. And you know it's not cool cuz you have a hot little number called empathy. And turning that empathy toward Future You, putting yourself in your future shoes, stops procrastination cold:


Trouble empathizing with that future you? Tappolet says you can learn to create empathy for Future You by paying attention to how you treat, and empathize with, other people and apply it to you:

"Remind[ing] ourselves that our future self is every bit as deserving as another human being of care."

And that's what turned me around and got me up instead of me slapping the ol' snooze button. My unwillingness to be a bastard to my future self. My unwillingness to burden her with the guilt and unmanageable workload that I could have lessened by taking care of shit NOW.

  
Yeah, my future self isn't this creepy. Unless she's pissed at me for slacking off.
And that's another thing. If the idea of willfully harming your future self is disturbing to you, let it be disturbing. Turns out science finds repulsion a really effective procrastinator-killer. And that forgiving yourself for procrastination leads to less procrastination, too. Sigh. Doncha love science? Yeah. Me, too. It's so...futuristic.

Kick-Ass Insight from Haruki Murakami

In the spirit of writing/running analogies, I thought I'd share this post. It's from writer, globetrotter and blogger David Charles, who reviews author/runner Haruki Murakami's WHAT I TALK ABOUT WHEN I TALK ABOUT RUNNING - and in the process uncovers some fascinating insights. Here, with David's permission, I reprint the post for your illumination - and suggest you check out his blog.

 

A review of: 'What I talk about when I talk about running' by Haruki Murakami

Murakami is a writer (and runner). That, according to the final pages of this book, is how he would like to be remembered on his tombstone. And, according to the vague thesis of this book, writing and long-distance running are not dissimilar. In fact, Murakami says that everything he knows about writing, he learnt from running.

So what was that?

Writing and Running

Murakami identifies the three most important character traits for a novelist to possess:
  1. Talent.
  2. Focus. Murakami works for 3 or 4 hours in the morning. During this time he is totally focussed on his work-in-progress. He doesn't think about anything else at all.
  3. Endurance. A novelist needs the energy to focus every day for 6 months, a year or 2 years at a time.
For Murakami, talent is innate. The other two traits, however, you can train, in the same way that you train your muscles for a marathon. Focus and endurance are trained by sitting down at your desk everyday and working hard. They are just like muscles, obedient work-horses who take pain with fortitude as long as you prepare them gradually and don't give them a chance to relax and think the work is done. Murakami has a goal not to give his muscles more than 1 day's rest at a time.

A fourth characteristic is needed in the training: Patience. You've got to keep up this training regime and have faith that you will improve - and you will - but it will be gradual and you may not notice anything for a long time.

The good news is that building focus and endurance can make up for a lack of talent - and can sometimes unearth it.

Murakami likens writing a novel to hard physical labour. Writing itself is a mental activity - but finishing a novel is more like manual labour. Murakami also suggests that writers have to deal with all the toxic elements of humanity, which is extremely tiring. To be able to do this for more than a few years you will need to have great physical strength.

With this in mind, the reason to combine running with writing is obvious:
The main goal of exercising is to maintain and improve my physical condition in order to keep on writing novels.

Writing

The story that Murakami tells of the start of his career as a novelist seems too good to be true. He describes the moment he decided that he could write a novel - he just had the idea. He was 28 at the time. Six months later he had finished his book. Then he sent it off to a competition, which is duly won and suddenly he was a published novelist. So he wrote a second one soon after the first and they were both short-listed for a prestigious literary prize.

The bare facts hide the hard work: Murakami worked late into the night - sometimes til dawn - to fit his writing around his work. Even today, he admits that writing a novel is still hard, hard work - like digging a deep hole. The only thing that has changed it that he has become more efficient.

Murakami also says that those two early novels were very different to the sort of books he felt he wanted to write. These early novels were simplistic and drawn from the life he witnessed as the owner of a jazz bar in Japan. This is not a sustainable way of writing, Murakami says: at some point you'll run out of crazy stories to tell. He didn't feel capable of writing a complex, intelligent novel whilst also working full time. So he quit and started writing longer, more sustainable novels.

His early novels were successful and enabled him to move forward as a writer, but now his life is totally focused around writing. He talks quite movingly about the decisions that he and his wife made, that they would wake with the Sun and go to bed not long after its setting. This meant losing out on a lot of social life, but these are the sacrifices that must be made, just as you have to sacrifice time in your schedule for marathon training. So now he gets up early, works for 3 or 4 hours and then spends the afternoon doing less taxing chores. Murakami also naps a lot. He takes a 30 minutes nap after lunch and has got so good at napping that he does not feel sluggish afterwards.

I found this passage particularly revealing about Murakami's philosophy of writing:
As I write I think about all sorts of things. I don't necessarily write down what I'm thinking; it's just that as I write I think about things. As I write I arrange my thoughts. And rewriting and revising takes my thinking down even deeper paths. No matter how much I write though, I never reach a conclusion. And no matter how much I rewrite, I never reach the destination. Even after decades of writing, the same still holds true. All I do is present a few hypotheses or paraphrase the issue. Or find an analogy between the structure of the problem and something else.
Murakami shares one discovery that set him free in his writing: he realised that if only one in ten people who read the book absolutely loved it - then that was enough. This freed him to simply write the way he felt like and to stick to it.

Running

Murakami talks a lot in the book about the meditative aspect of running, as well as its physical benefits. He mentions one marathon runners' mantra in particular: 'Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.' He enjoys running for its lack of competition - the competition is with the clock and yourself, not the other runners.

He also talks about his philosophical attitude to age and its physical deterioration. He knows his times will never improve again, but he will carry on showing up until he can't any longer. He is very proud of his record of successfully finishing the marathons he enters.

Encouragingly, he also says that he was never able to keep a diary for long - but kept up a runners journal. Incidentally, Murakami mentions that running is a great activity to do while memorising a speech: the rhythms get into the words and into your memory.

He tells us what motivates him to run when he can't face it: 'You don't have to sit on a packed train with commuters or sit through boring meetings - don't you realise how lucky you are?' Compared to this image, running doesn't seem so bad and he hits the streets with the air in his lungs.

Murakami has also run one ultra-marathon (62 miles). He says this event is:
An action that deviates from the ordinary, but doesn't violate basic values - you'd expect it to afford you a special sort of self-awareness. It should add a few new elements to your inventory in understanding who you are. And as a result your life, its colours and shape should be transformed. (Sounds like writing to me! -- ZCS)
This was the case for him, after his 62 mile ultra-marathon he lost the appetite for running everyday. It wasn't necessarily that he had run too much in one go - he lost interest in running everyday no matter what. He'd moved into a new zone, the amount of adrenalin he secreted during marathons went down - so he moved onto triathlons. Murakami would like to do an Ironman, but is scared that the training for it would interfere with his writing job. This is the same reason why he didn't do more ultra-marathons. Remember, the reason for running is writing, not the other way around.

Murakami now does a marathon in winter and a triathlon in summer. This is how the rhythm of his year works. He is always in training. (Bold & emphasis mine. ZCS)

And Me?

I believe a lot of what Murakami is saying and found his simple attitude encouraging. When I cycled to Bordeaux (547 miles) I felt strong and powerful, almost omnipotent. I was certainly transformed and was forced to shake up my ideas of what was possible. I felt I could do anything, anything at all. Surely, (although I don't know yet) it will feel the same to write a novel - to finish a novel, that is. This is my marathon. When I finish, it will be done and my conception of what I am capable of will be transformed again and I will kick on to the next and the next and the next.  
 ###

That's a big 10-4! What a great post. Thanks, David, for letting me reprint it!

Did you quit on that MS?

Came across an interesting piece on quitting this morning. Resonated cuz I've quit on an MS or two. Current MS is treading water in the wide Revision Sea. Momentum temporarily exited stage left. Which feels like quitting lite. BUT...



Turns out quitting might occur, as this guy posited, much the same way it does when jogging. At first, you're gung-ho out of the gate. Still doing okay, if a little pink-cheeked, mid-run. But as you near the home stretch, your legs and lungs are BURNING in the kiln of pain.


At this point, you start visualizing being done with it. And once you do that, turns out, you're toast. You stop short of your finish line. And that's because, as this guy said:

"When my mind started visualizing the end of the run, it shifted from managing the pain I was feeling to preparing for it to end."

And that's when his resistance fell apart. Huh. So that's why this revision has slowed. Starting to see the finish line. And in preparing for the relief at the end, I feel acutely the pain, fear and doubt of the work still left to be done. I'm no longer managing those stressors now; I'm focusing on them.

So. Time to shift my attention. Time to refocus on managing those stressors with good pacing, positive thoughts. Strength. The hope and non-existent wind-resistance of those starting days. Joy, even. So that, at this last stretch, I don't quit. So that instead...

I break that fucking finish line ribbon like a freakin' champ.

So what about you? Feel like quitting? If so, did this help? Provide some 11th-hour stamina like a protein pack slapped into a marathoner's hand at the 24-mile mark? Shit, yeah! So, go! Go! GO!

Ooh. So that's where it went.

 So. It's February 7th, do you know where your New Year's resolutions are?

I know where mine are: Treading water back there in apple-cheeked and optimistic January. Evidently I'm not alone; Self says only 1 in 10 resolutioners keep theirs -- 75% relapse in the first 2 months. Stressing? Don't: I've got some good info to get you back on track at the end of this post. Trust me, it's some eye-opening, paradigm-shifting shit.

So what were your goals, writing-wise? How are you doing with them? Mine were to treat procrastination to some blunt-force trauma. To stop being such a well-troll and pop out occasionally to see what's happening top-side. And to define what kind of writer I want to be.

Before I fail on all fronts, I'm hoisting the giant .50-caliber Illudium Q-36 Resolution Rocket Launcher and firing some motivation to get you unstuck. First, a blogfest. Shortly I'll post deets and dates, but general thrust will be quick n derrty: give me 3 adjectives describing the kind of writer you want to be & 3 steps you'll take to become that writer this year. (Make 'em specific, y'all, cuz e'erybody knows only specific resolutions tend to stick.)

Second is that eye-opening, paradigm-shifting tip. And it's simple as hell. Just


From Pilar Gerasimo
"The problem with willpower is that it's one hard-driving taskmaster cemented to a static idea of success. But willingness is full of open-minded inquiries, like: How might I go about getting started on this project? What would happen if I tried this? What would be most helpful now? Where the will never says die; willingness is continually reborn and gets smarter and stronger each time around."

So instead saying I WILL FINISH THIS REVISION THIS MONTH, I'm simply saying i am willing to try and how can i best accomplish thisThat shit just sounds friendlier. Approachable. Doable, even.


Tip#2If you wanna control yourself, you first have to control your environment.
Tip#3: knowing the diff between intentions, goals & actions is what creates authentic inspiration.

So what are you willing to look at to meet writing goals? How can you control your environment to achieve the best results--and get fired up again now that February has eaten away that motivation?

Interesting stuff, y'all. I'm thinking. Thinking 'bout it. And that's some damn fine ammo.

Dear God, she's waxing philosophical again. Somebody get this girl a vodka tonic.

First off, let me say that, yanno, *raises eyebrows* Koontz is pretty damn commercial, isn't he? Even so, that man can still sling the words sometimes. Bending it like Beckham, I mean. Sliding in those little turns of phrases and plot-locking POV shifts that make you nod and go, yeah, man. Okay. Nice.

And this is coming from someone who's not a big reader of He-Who-Shall-Always-Sneak-A-Golden-Retriever-Into-Every-Single-One-Of-His-Books.

The reason I'm not a huge Koontz reader of late is because sometimes his books feel a little too This-Is-How-An-American-Male-Horror-Author-Does-It-Circa-1989. (Just my opinion folks, no hurling rocks here, I still fucks wit a Koontz novel e'ery now and again, sheesh.) 

But also because sometimes it feels like his hunger is gone. Ditto my favorite author, King. (Okay, UNDER THE DOME felt at least a little peckish). I mean, I liked CELL and LISEY'S STORY and DUMA KEY, etc. (and still love the eye-closing sweetness of that familiar King voice) but the latter part of the King canon feels a little too much like the hunger is gone for him, too. The hunger that made me feel the weight of Roland's big ol guns or smell the furious oil of a certain Plymouth Fury. The hunger that made me, in turn, devour his pages. Now, the taste lingers, but the hunger is gone.

And I wonder about that. Worry actually. About the thing that happens when you've written your way through the angst of your 20s and the bills of your 30s and the swiftly-shifting political parties of your 40s and into the golf memberships of your 50s--if you've been financially successful in your writing career, I mean. Or that thing that happens if you haven't been successful and all that unpublished angst has burned a bright gold hole into the back of your head through which the sighs of your new yoga breaths gently drain it all away--?

What happens when you get to that point in your career? What I mean is, when you finally see the thing that's waiting on the other side of your ambition. What is that? And if you see it, can you unsee it? Unsee it and catch a little pang that might grow back into the hunger that devours your readers and makes them, in turn, devour your books again? 


What is that thing?

*shivers*

Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is that I just finished reading Koontz's WHAT THE NIGHT KNOWS and I wasn't ravenous but I dug it. Nice pace. Nice tension. Nice eldritch little sub-tones. Nice widening gyre. Enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I let it make me start thinking about golden holes in the backs of people's heads.

*narrows eyes*

Well played, Mr. Koontz. Well played.