Sunday, October 4, 2020

TRYING TO OUTWIT THE REBEL

 In an earlier post I shared some of the challenges I have been facing as I try to get organized and overcome my lifelong habit of procrastination.  One of my little victories was deciding to use 5 Post-it Notes at a time to write down tasks I need to do for my book so that I can pick one rather than feel as if it were something being forced on me.  The first attempt worked fairly well, along with the suggestion that I set a timer for 5 minutes to work on one task.  I did that one afternoon and finished the first one. The next day, I set the timer and after the first five minutes were up, I kept going and sailed through three more. I showed my "About the Author" essay to my business partner, and she immediately tore it to shreds.  At first I resisted listening to her, but then I realized that she had some points (she had run a publishing company for many years in Austria) and that I would have to rewrite it.  So now, I have that project again, and the last Post-it Note and have done nothing about either in over a week.  The rebel has dug in her heels.

Things that work for others don't work for me. Many of my friends swear by calendar blocking.  I've tried that, but as soon as I block it in, it seems to set up an internal alarm that means I will never get to it at that time on that day.  The one thing that I have stuck to for over 40 years is Mondays are poetry days.  When I came home after a week in the hospital when I had my first child, I decided that on Mondays I would write poetry. I had had a full-time job outside the home--and in fact, dressed for work the day I wound up going to the hospital--and now I was staying at home in our little apartment in Hackensack, N.J. I'd taken a poetry workshop from poet Colette Inez just before I'd gotten married and decided that poetry would suit the lifestyle of a new mother better than pursuing my dream of writing the Great American Novel. My first daughter was a good sleeper and I could count on a long nap while I wrote, revised, and mailed out my poems to journals and contests.  At the time, I was still using an electric typewriter and I amused myself with different colored ribbons so that each submission was in a different color. It was too precious for words, and I wasted a great deal of time changing typewriter ribbons when I could have been writing.  Despite this foible, one of my poems won 9th prize in a Canadian journal and I became a professional poet.

After my children were grown I decided I could write any day or every day and the result of this perception was that I often didn't write at all because there was always tomorrow.  Over the years the children were growing up, I did finish a middle-grade novel, and after my husband died, I wrote a book on marriage (the one with the accompanying Post-it Notes assignments). I submitted a full-length poetry collection to several contests and am waiting to hear from the current contest. I am (I think) almost finished with the chapbook of poetry, once my daughter Mary gives me her latest critique. The ziggurat that was her greatest stumbling block has been completely dismantled. However, when I gave her the version without the ziggurat, she took it home and later texted me, "Just finished reading 'Portal of Light.' Pgs. 36-37 are really excellent. The way you return to the cosmic imagery of the first poem to express the emotions and upheaval of that time is brilliant. Unfortunately for you, this means I have no guilt about pushing you on it because what you wrote is so, so good."  She has really mastered what we called in Marriage Encounter "the negative sandwich."  When the husband or wife wanted to share a negative feeling he or she would sometimes squeeze it between an opening compliment and a positive close.  However, the important thing was that by sharing our feelings we learned to understand each other more intimately. Similarly, all of Mary's critiques and comments have been focused on making the chapbook the best it can be.  

I have returned to my Poetry Mondays, without calendar blocking them because they were so intrinsic to my life that all I needed to do was raise the bar and click them back into place. Wednesdays have gradually become my days when I often call my daughter Teresa and Skype with Catherine. At 4, I have my Energetic Embodiment session, which I have never managed to describe adequately but which has helped me understand myself and others better and access more energy than I knew I had. In the evening, my husband and I would go to church for an hour to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  We did that for over 30 years and I continued after he died.  When Covid 19 shut down the churches, I just continued my hour of prayer at home. So I suppose I could say that Wednesdays are my days of interpersonal communication!  For nearly 8 years, Thursdays have been my days to work on my greeting cards with my business partner. On Fridays, I journal in the mornings and have my horn lesson, which can take 2 or 3 hours, in the afternoon.  That leaves Tuesdays if I want to work on my other writing during the work week. So I suppose that I need to approach Tuesdays with more of a sense of purpose--or perhaps as a rebel, I need to slide sideways into the day without thinking of it as an assignment, but maybe going back to the 5-minute timer and promising myself that I will only do 5 minutes and then give myself a reward for that.  The rebel is complaining that it's a dreary prospect, so perhaps I really have to find a good way to celebrate other than saying, "Great, you did your 5 minutes."  I am realizing even as I write this that I am going to have to do some serious thinking about celebrating and rewards!

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