Episode 11: An All or Nothing mindset achieves diddly squat
In which our protagonist searches for the brain-switch that enables dream-focus
Let’s get this out of the way first, dear reader: yes, I’m a day late. I know, I’m sorry to keep you waiting. I didn’t plan to be late, but when it came time to sit at the computer I just... didn’t have the energy. It came down to a choice between adhering to the rules of marketing, or adhering to the rules of being selfish. So, I chose me.
I’m trying to choose me more often. I thought I was getting quite good at it, actually. I was even patting myself on my back at all the progress I’ve been making - not at the end yet, no, but visible, tangible stuff is happening, and it’s good and it’s wonderful and it’s heartening. And then I did what I always did: I put the brakes on subconsciously.
I could say it was because of the state of the world in recent weeks, because of the turmoil in society and the relentless relentlessness of it all, but that can only account for a certain percentage. This is something I recognise from my past. This resistance is an old friend.
Here’s how it tends to go: I make a decision to make a change. Once the decision is made, it has to happen right now, right this minute, no more dilly-dallying, get to it NOW. If it doesn’t happen now, I lose interest and it doesn’t happen at all. But if I do jump straight in and start to see results, that’s when I think it’s all over. Well, something changed so I can give up now. Which, I’m sure you know, always definitely works 100% of the time. Not.
There is somewhere deep down a resistance to Doing The Work. And we all know that Doing The Work is kind of essential to Getting Shit Done and Achieving Your Dreams. I was asked this morning, as I made even more excuses about why I haven’t gone further with the novel, whether I even wanted to do it. I say this is the priority, this is the Most Important Thing right now, but then I don’t make time for it. Why is that?
Truth be told, I don’t know why this happens but it’s what I do. No - scratch that. It’s what I have historically done, not what I do present tense. The things that mean the most to me are pushed aside for other stuff, just as I am pushed down in favour of other people. I don’t just diminish myself, play small as an individual, but I also give my dreams the same treatment. And that’s not fair on my dreams; that’s not what they signed up for. They showed up as requested, they shone a light in the direction of travel, and I told them “hang on, not right now - I’ve got to do this other thing first.” Cue patient dreams waiting silently, hovering just out of sight, begging for attention that I won’t give them.
A patient dream does not deserve to be ignored
The fact that The Book (now in capital letters to denote its importance to me) has continued to hang around since my age was in single digits tells me it’s persistent, that it’s patient, that it knows it will happen someday - but that does not give me permission to keep it waiting. It does not give me permission to keep any of my dreams and goals waiting just because it’s inconvenient for me right now and I can’t be arsed because it’s easier to do something for someone else than myself, or it’s easier to read someone else’s book than write my own. I need to get over myself and just Do The Work.
...so why can’t I? What is this resistance to The Work, whether it’s the book or the health or whatever is important to me? No, seriously, I’d love your thoughts here, dear reader. Have you had this happen before? How did you deal with it? Here’s what my armchair philosophy and one year of university psychology studies is telling me: because they’re so important to me, this book, this health, this body, I’m afraid of them. Because of their importance, I’m afraid of them. And the longer I wait to Do The Work, the more afraid of them I become. The fear is all-consuming. What if I start and it turns out I’ve been putting it off for no reason, that I’ve wasted decades putting off a dream that was actually quite straightforward to achieve? Worse still: what if I start and I fail? What if I’ve wasted decades on a ridiculous pipe dream that I should’ve known better than to chase?
What if I stop what-iffing and worrying about wasted years and whether anyone wants to hear what I have to say and whether I’m worth the effort, and just start doing? No one can predict the future, no one can tell me that this is the right path. I need to trust my instinct, go with my gut, and Do The Damn Work. No one is going to hand this to me on a platter, I need to Do The Damn Work. I need to get over myself, stop comparing myself both up and down, stop wondering and Do The Damn Work. Only once the Damn Work is Done will I know how to adjust the dream. Because nothing worth doing comes easily, right?
So can someone tell me where that switch is in my brain that will let me Focus on the Damn Work already?
What’s that? It doesn’t exist?
Yikes. Guess I have to Do The Damn Work myself, then. Wish me luck - and give me a push next time you see me, please.
A word from our sponsors…
OK, “sponsor” is the wrong thing to say, but inspiration? Encouragement? Cheerleaders? Leading deities of all writers everywhere? I want to say thank you and happy anniversary to Matt Trinetti and Parul Bavishi of the London Writers Salon, the pair who launched Writers Hour a year ago today with a handful of writers in a Zoom room as lockdown started. This morning, almost 400 writers joined them at 8am GMT in that same Zoom room to write in community, in silence for an hour. No one could’ve foreseen the massive growth of this community, nor how important and sacred this time would become, but so it has and so it is.
The support I’ve received from - and the friends I’ve made in - the LWS community are all precious gems gifted to me by a plague-driven world. I won’t start naming names in case I forget someone, but you know who you are. Thank the stars something good has come of all of this.
To celebrate the anniversary, writers hour is heading around the world in 24 hours, starting this Friday at 7pm GMT. I’ll be in the writeathon host seat from 10pm until 1am GMT - that’s 3-6pm Pacific time, 6-9pm Eastern US time, and 8-11am Eastern Australia time - with a special spooky theme for my final (midnight) hour. Join me, won’t you? Sign up here - it’s free!
The week ahead 🗓
I’m trying. Honestly, I’m trying. The mountain is so big, though.
Writing: I’ve been encouraged to “have a date” with the book to reconnect to the magic. I’ll report back via the socials.
Work: The sabbatical is officially extended, though I haven’t made a song and dance about it. I need more time, so I’m taking it.
Home: The other half is off work this week, so there will be a spring clean, I’m sure.
Health: I need to stop giving into fatigue and get back into action this week. I’ve also got a chat with the doc lined up to discuss how I can / If I should start on the fasting lifestyle to help my blood sugar.
Routine: And of course, I aim to continue my daily practice: morning pages, 15 minutes of meditation, 10 minutes of stretches. Plus, join me and hundreds of others at the LWS Writers’ Hour every week day: 8am GMT, EST, PST and AEDT.
PS it’s Mr Lauren’s birthday tomorrow, 23 March. His craft beer Instagram page just hit 1000 followers, too. He’s always stealing the limelight 😉
On the stereo 🎧
Anthem, by Alana Yorke
The stereo was largely swapped for the TV these last few weeks as I binged on Netflix and ignored the world, but this song had me reaching for Shazam quick smart. It appears at the end of the film Swallow, a slow-burner psychological body horror about a woman who develops a compulsion to swallow things she shouldn’t. The final track, playing as she reaches her conclusion, is a glorious celebration of escape and survival.
Off the shelf 📚
Bunny, by Mona Awad
My reading has slowed somewhat in recent weeks, and it took me 10 days to get through this one. Not because I wasn’t enjoying it - I loved it. I knew I would, and not just because of its title or cover image. It’s just been a tough few weeks, y’know? Anyways, I highly recommend diving in here, especially if you’re a fan of teen girl satire and fairytales. A college outsider is “utterly repelled” by the rest of her fiction writing cohort, a clique of unbearably twee rich girls who call each other “Bunny”. When the outsider is invited to a Bunny party, we head down the rabbit hole... Think Heathers meets Mean Girls by way of Clueless and The Craft, all with a brilliant voice and binge-worthy reading.
“I quietly prayed for the hug implosion all year last year. That their ardent squeezing might cause the flesh to ooze from the sleeves, neckholes, and A-line hems of their cupcake dresses like so much inane frosting. That they would get tangled in each other’s Game of Thrones hair, choked by the ornate braids they were forever braiding into each other’s heart-shaped little heads. That they would choke on each other’s blandly grassy perfume. Never happened. Not once.”
Visual confirmation 📷
Here I am, about to start the first thing of my new thing - leading a class on creative writing for Arts Network Sutton’s Creative Connections online festival. I was nervous; I was convinced I’d pitched it too intense, too high-level. The feedback was encouraging, though. Maybe I can actually do this; maybe I should offer the class again as a ticketed event?