j4: (clutter)
I have a folder on my chiark account called lj_temp. It's full of bits and pieces of things that might have been intended as LJ posts, and (because I am bad at sticking to my own filing systems) drafts of awkward emails or comments, lists of things, ideas, all kinds of mental detritus. I think of it as a drawer full of good ideas which, if only I had the time or energy, I'd sit down and work through and transmute them all into pure blogging gold. In practice, when I come to look at it, it's a directory full of text files containing half-written comments/emails. Half the time I don't even remember the context which prompted them. Take this, for example:
Sometimes the person who's experiencing the emotion doesn't know the whole picture either. People can get jealous and upset and angry with very little real cause.

I agree it's rarely practically helpful to tell them straight-out "Your emotions are irrational", but equally I don't think it's helpful to say "Yes, keep on feeling that jealousy and anger, you've got a right to your emotions". The wetness of water, the greenness of grass... I see these things as morally neutral in a way that I really don't believe adult emotions are.

Isn't there room for some kind of middle way? Admitting that you -- or someone else -- feels something but also recognising that it's irrational and unhelpful, and not nurturing the unhelpful feelings? I'm sure you accept that your garden will always have weeds in it, but you probably don't put fertiliser on the weeds & cut back the flowers to make room for them. Initial reactions to events are hard (possibly even impossible) to choose or control, but once the shoots are showing it's often possible to nudge them in a more appealing direction.
I'm sure this made sense in the context of the debate to which it was doubtless intended to contribute, but I can't remember it (I have a terrible memory for conversations these days), and I didn't make a note of it -- I've quoted the file there in its entirety (it was even written with HTML markup, so clearly intended for LJ). I'm reasonably sure I never actually posted it, though, because I generally end up chickening out of posting things like that -- because disagreeing with people on the internet nearly always descends into nastiness and ends in tears (tears for me, at least; probably a sense of self-righteous victory for the other guy -- and it is usually, but not always, a guy). But that's a blog post for another day (or rather, a blog post to chicken out of on another day). Right now I'm thinking about these fragments.

They're sitting there, using a few KB of disk space, doing nothing. Worse than doing nothing: they're a mental buffer between me and getting things written, muffling the sound of my thoughts like a thick drizzly fog. They are heavy like a dressing-gown at 3pm, a comfort blanket that's become a ball and chain. They make me feel as though I have a basketful of good ideas if only I could get round to doing anything about them when in fact I don't; they're worse than that idea for a novel that everybody carries around with them in their head, they're more like an idea of having had an idea for a novel. Like dreaming you wrote a symphony and being unable to remember it in the morning. The handful of "ideas for novels" I have in my head are all things I know I'll never write down because they'd turn out to be rubbish.

Those fragments remind me of what, for me, is at least one aspect of the "overwhelming question": what would I do right now if I'd done everything on my list? If I didn't have anything to procrastinate about? What would I write about if I didn't feel I should clear that backlog first? It's all very well saying "you don't have to clear that backlog first": I've tried that, it doesn't work. The backlog's there.

What should I do with all those fragments? Post them (and pull them apart) here? Delete them? (No, I'm not going to print them out and set fire to them or anything like that, it may be symbolic but it's also wasteful and pointless.) They're probably all worthless, but then what is 'worthwhile' to write?

[Poll #1641161]

I'm not promising to act on any of your suggestions, but I do promise to read them.


Nov. 2nd, 2010 11:46 pm
j4: (admin)
I'm going to try to post every day this month again. I mean, I'm going to try again; I failed to do it last year, because of fail. In the past I've called this attempt NaBloPoMo, but it's not really a National blog-posting month, it's a Not-very-national-at-all blog-posting month: hence NoBloPoMo. In fact, I'm also probably not going to write very much or very fast; so it should really be SloMoNoBloPoMo. And I figure I can probably manage to be a bit post-modern about it once or twice, at least enough to justify calling it SloMoPoMoNoBloPoMo. (HoHo!)

My main reason for doing this is to try to stop me procrastinating so much, or at least to try to break some of my procrastination routines. I will never say the word procrastinate again... oh OK, I lied )

So one of the purposes of this month's writing is to make myself sit down and Do A Thing until it's Done (and 'Done' doesn't have to mean 'brilliant' or even 'good', it just means 'completed'; sometimes it even just means 'bounced into someone else's court for the time being', though it's a bit hard to do that with blogging). No word-limit (oh, OK, it has to be more than 140 characters, otherwise I'd just post it in the other place). I suspect a lot of it will not make particularly interesting reading, so apologies in advance for that, but I'll try to make it not too dreary and not all just whining. Let's see if I can keep it going for another 28 days.
j4: (BOMB)
I find that, more and more, there are things I know I need to do, and even (in some cases) want to do, but I don't do them, and I have no idea why. I write them on my various to-do lists, on the mini-whiteboard in my office, on the back of my hand... and still I put them off. I transfer them from one day's 'to do today' list to the next's, and the next's, writing them out like a scribe trying to preserve ancient writings they don't even understand, knowing only that they are somehow sacred. But where the scribe might perhaps feel an air of sanctity, I feel only the sensation of guilt settling on my shoulders, around my neck: the holy albatross descending.

Of course, I don't do nothing in preference to the tasks on my list; I do smaller and smaller tasks. If the task I'm procrastinating from is a big one, I'll break it down into little things. If it's a little thing, I'll do the one-liners, the one-action tasks. If it's a one-liner, I'll check my email. If I've run out of email, I'll check something else, running round in an endless circle of refresh-refresh-refresh like a dog still confidently expecting its tail to get closer. Checking email isn't a task; it's like checking that there's still gin in the bottle by drinking some.

The next stage is writing about the procrastination on LiveJournal; from the initial "I can't seem to make myself do it", through the "Tell me off if you see me here", to the inevitable "still not done it". It's Hamlet's disease: words, words, words. Nothing shall come of nothing, and words (not actions) shall come of words; they grow legs, they grow wings. Writing about the procrastination turns into describing the sensations of guilt, describing the procrastinatory tactics, wallowing in the attempt to weave creative writing out of uncreative ennui. It's like trying to knit your way out of a blanket.

But words breed yet more words, they invite the helpful suggestions over the threshold: do 43 Folders, Inbox Zero, Morning Pages, the GI Diet, Tai Chi; set alarm clocks; embrace idleness; uninstall FreeCell; make lists; don't make lists; drink 8 glasses of water a day; don't step on the cracks. The tiny thread of deferral unravels until the entire jumper of forward motion is lying in a tangle of mixed metaphors on the ground. The inch in which we live becomes the minute in which we'll do it, and before we know it we're bounded in a nutshell with bad dreams to boot. You know the sort of dreams: the ones where you're trying to organise a conference but all the people who turn up aren't on the list and their names are in Russian and it's supposed to start at 9am and you're trying to explain why it's running a bit late and then you look at the clock and it's already 11am and you don't know how that happened and you're trying to email the other organiser but she's gone to Birmingham and when you do get in touch with her you find out that the reason she isn't there is that she's turned into an owl and it's already 3pm and ... Look, I know it's not just me. Not even the owl.

In the end, there's only one solution to getting things done, and it's an unpopular solution, an unsexy solution; it's the journey of a single step. You can't sell books about it, you can't even write an iPhone app for it, because the solution is to ACTUALLY DO THE THINGS.
j4: (dodecahedron)
[livejournal.com profile] fivemack muses on the comparative numbers of mice, humans, rabbits, cows and wildebeeste, reminding me of a pub conversation recently in which the question of how many Magdalen deer you'd have to kill in order to feed all Magdalen's students was hotly debated[*]. This led to me asking AQA "How many venison steaks would you get from one adult deer?", to which they responded: "An adult deer weighs 115-135lbs. Half of that is bones and hide. There's 1 cubic ft of lean venison. It yields 30-40 steaks, depending on their size." So I just thought I'd share that knowledge with the internet.

Yes, I am procrastinating.

[*] for "hotly debated" read "amicably discussed over a post-theatre beer".

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