• Missed Goals: Pep Talks
Now that the pattern of postponing has been established and your inner turmoil is activated, you attempt to establish goals for productivity to bring yourself to the task. As in the first stage of the Wheel of Suffering, you are still in denial about the seriousness of the problem. You attempt to address the powerful forces of procrastination by generating some inner deadlines, writing them on your calendar, and giving yourself pep talks about why you should get going. The humbling reality is that these attempts to resolve the problem are ineffective, and you cannot make yourself sit down at your desk and type on the keyboard by simply telling yourself that you should.
Daydreaming is truly a tricky problem. When you daydream you disconnect from awareness of your immediate life in this world and slip into a realm where your mind drifts along on other currents. In the morning you might give yourself the goal of writing five pages before breakfast but somehow, three hours later, you find yourself in the grocery store buying chocolate chip cookies and renting a DVD. Your mind is not your own. The process of disconnecting and getting lost in the labyrinths of the mind is subtle and quick. You are usually unaware that it is happening.
If this is one of your challenges, it is useful to have external structures and reminders for your writing life. This may mean discussing your writing process with other people who will hold you accountable and encourage you. You can arrange to meet and write with others, if that helps. Classes and critique groups also provide a regular external structure for focusing on your writing, and the thought of arriving at an upcoming session with nothing to show is often a strong motivation to stay on task.
It also helps to have dedicated writing periods scheduled in your day and written on your calendar or posted on your refrigerator. You might also set up cues such as buzzers on your iPhone© that go off to remind you to write, etc. Even when we remember to write, within minutes of beginning your mind may wander. Writing often brings up stressful feelings, so the impulse to wander about in the recesses of your inner mind is seductive because it allows relief. When you allow your consciousness to be captured by unconscious forces within you, you lose valuable time and become unproductive.
Mindfulness meditation is another good practice for strengthening your connection with the reality from which you write. This is a meditation practice that cultivates awareness of the present moment. Mindfulness practices developed from Buddhism described in John Kabot-Zinn’s book Full Catastrophe Living and Jack Kornfield’s A Path with Heart are simple, effective ways to improve concentration, awareness of the moment, and openness to whatever arises—all of these skills are useful to writers.
(to be continued)