Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Breaking Through That "I Don't Wanna" Threshold

Alright, I've been putting this off for an hour. I sat here and debated if I could get away with not updating, mainly because I don't have anything to update about. With Easter this past Sunday I've been slacking off with the writing. All zero-days. I felt ashamed to type that.

Then I told myself that it wouldn't get any better if I just continued my week of zeros by ignoring this blog. If I did that then my post next week - if I even had one; it's a slippery slope once I miss one update - would have to include an apology for missing this week, and then an explanation as to why.

Either way, you were going to know about my zero week. Might as well not put it off, right? Bite the bullet, confess, and get myself back on the horse at the same time. If I can push myself past my insecurity, shame, and lack of momentum for this then maybe I can train myself to also do so with my fiction.

My biggest concern for not writing this post, however, was the idea that I had nothing really to talk about. It seemed pointless. It felt like a waste of time - both mine and yours.

Yet, as I forced myself to write that opening line the follow-up quickly came to me. Then the next line, and the next. I'm now up to seventeen sentences and five bite-sized paragraphs. I'm also hoping that I'm still at least mildly entertaining. If nothing else, I'm proving yet again that I'm a flawed human.

See, I'm the same as you with your struggles. Be it writing, exercising, socializing, cleaning, studying, or whatever it is that you wish to accomplish. I'm the same as you. I have good days. I have great days. I have week-long successes. Then I have this week of failures.

You're not alone.

Heck, I didn't even realize I was going to work on something motivational until about a paragraph or so in to this thing, and yet here we are. Now I know that I want to show you how easy it is to get back in to the rhythm of things once you've pushed yourself past that threshold.

One of the MANY comments to Ryan's Self-Help Gold was about exercising. You want to avoid a zero-day? Get on the floor and do one push-up. Just one. It doesn't take that much effort or time, and you accomplished SOMETHING, even if it is just one push-up. Surprisingly, though, once you're on the floor and doing just one you figure "while I'm down here I could probably crunch out a few more." Next thing you know, you've done your full set. All you have to do is cross that threshold.

Same goes for writing. Ali frequently throws out the challenge - both on her blog and in Writers’ Huddle - to set a timer for about five minutes. That's it. Everyone can steal away five minutes a day to write SOMETHING. Even if you just write out a quick paragraph for your latest project. Or you finally jot down a brief overview of your plot. Maybe you use those five minutes to write a simple bio for your protagonist. Whatever. It's going to be brief and it's going to be accomplished in five minutes.

Task is done and you can move on with your life knowing you don't have a zero day.

Yet, once you've written that little bit you tend to keep going. The timer may have gone off, but you're now in the flow. That opening paragraph turns in to a full page, and maybe even the full chapter. The brief plot overview becomes more and more detailed as the story unfolds in your head. The simple bio for your protagonist leads to a bio for your entire cast of characters.

Congratulations. Now you've really gotten somewhere!

Not a writer or someone who has difficulties with exercising motivation? Well, this tactic can work for just about anything.

Bouncing back to Summer's anxiety blog, this girl writes a lot that is surprisingly helpful for even her readers like me who don't have to worry about such mental difficulties. Another super helpful blog post of hers uses the same concept of "bite-size tasks turn in to full project completion", or as Summer puts it "ADHD Cleaning".

The long and short of it is to write down simple tasks that you need to do around the house that can be completed in just a few minutes. Come on, you can spare five minutes to collect all the dishes and bring them to the sink to soak. You can take a ten minute time-out to quickly vacuum the living room. Spending a few minutes to make the bed isn't so hard. So on and so forth. You get the idea. Anyway, you take these simple tasks and you put them on individual note cards or slips of paper. Then just take one task. That's it. Just one. Leave the remaining pile there for "when you feel like it" or the next time you feel guilty enough that you want to take a break to do another task or even for the spouse and/or kids to finish off for you. But after doing that one cleaning task - and seeing the remaining pile on the table or wherever - you feel compelled to do another one. What's another five minutes out of my day? Before you know it the pile is gone and your house is sparkling. YAY! According to Summer's post she and her husband even make a game out of it to see who can complete more tasks first. BRILLIANT!

I'm sure if you think about it long enough you can find a way to apply this to just about any situation you're struggling with. Just break it down in to little bites that have a definitive completion point. That way you don't feel forced to continue because your timer went off but the task isn't done yet. So what if the rest of the living room is a sty, at least everything is dusted. Task complete. Alright, so I may not have done enough of a workout to break a sweat, but I at least got that ONE push-up done. Task complete. Eh, I'll go back and write bios for everyone else eventually, but I at least have the one for my main character done. Task complete. I'll just start up my blog and go "meh, I slacked off and don't have much of an update. Sorry folks, maybe next time." Task complete.

Easy as that.

But once you pass that threshold you feel compelled to keep going for as long as life will afford you to. You don't feel OBLIGATED to keep doing push-ups until your workout is complete. You can stop at any time if you wish, but you feel COMPELLED to keep going regardless. You don't necessarily feel GUILTY about not finishing your chores, but since that one task was so easy why not do another one? You did what you set out to do - one task off of one card - so you can stop whenever and feel proud of your accomplishment. Yet you now have that DRIVE to take another quick card, and then another. You don't feel FORCED to write out the entire plot of your story. You have the broad strokes that you can think about, and that's good enough. Although, now you're EXCITED to keep going in order to let it all spill out of your head.

And me? Well, my simple "I done goofed" blog post that was only going to be a few paragraphs at most turned in to a great lesson once I got in to it. Here it is, an hour later and I'm still writing.

The real trick is forgiving yourself if you slacked off - or if you got WAY too chaotically busy - and didn't try even this "five minute time out" tactic. If - like me this week - you STILL end up with a zero day just buck up and try again tomorrow. Just remember to focus on pushing through next time. Maybe even have a loved one help you out with a friendly daily reminder: "Hey, did you do your five-minute task/single push-up today?"

So join me in pushing through that painful wall of "I don't wanna" - or even the more painful "I can't" - and accomplish SOMETHING today. Even if it's a simple five-minute task, it will still get you back on track with those Non-Zero days.

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