Friday, November 10, 2006

Day 10: one small step sideways

Although I intended to write yesterday's 1,667 daily words after finishing a full day's teaching, that didn't happen: by 7:00 on a standard Thursday night, I am in pajamas with a book or magazine, my mind miles away from anything remotely resembling "work," and last night was no exception. So when I awoke this morning, I was even further behind: about 8,700 words shy of today's target of 16,670.

As a teacher, I know what happens when students fall behind with deadlines. Some students can dig themselves out of a hole by diligently devoting themselves to their work, but other students--many or most of them, in fact--feel so guilty and hopeless about being behind, they can't bring themselves to start working. It's not that catching-up isn't's that these students feel so bad about their situation, they can't bring themselves to begin chipping away at what seems to be an insurmountable mountain of work.

I know this pattern well. Much of the time I spend "working" on my dissertation was actually spent in the downward spiral of procrastination: because I felt so bad about not having worked on my diss, I'd avoid even thinking about it. Even though the only thing needed to step out of a downward spiral is one small step sideways, for a long time I couldn't find the wherewithal to navigate even that.

These days, I know how slippery a slope the downward spiral of procrastination can be. Although I've been looking forward to this weekend as a time when I can spend a healthy chunk of time working on the So-Called Novel, this morning I felt the niggling stabs of guilt and self-doubt: "I didn't work on it yesterday, so I'll never catch up now!" Today is a beautiful autumn day here in Keene: the temptation, of course, is to procrastinate the Ugly Business of catch-up in favor for a sunny stroll. And yet, since beginning is the most difficult part of breaking the procrastinative cycle, I made a compromise with myself: if I wrote 1,000 words after breakfast, I can take a walk and return for another round or two of writing this afternoon or evening.

And so, this morning after breakfast, I took one small step sideways, chipping a 1,000-word chunk out of a 8,700-word deficit. This afternoon after walking--or tonight after the sun's gone down--I'll make another chip, and tomorrow another, and the next day another. Chip by chip, word by word, is how procrastination is defeated and another So-Called Novel written.
Word count: 9,007
Where & when:
after breakfast this morning, at my kitchen table
Last line:
Practicing at X for me wasn’t a matter of practicing with a like-minded community of spiritual seekers; it was about trying to polish a thin veneer of mock spirituality, as if whispering, keeping my eyes downcast, and following several steps behind my ex-husband could make me a “mindful bodhisattva” rather than a young and uncertain soul trying to find her spiritual home.


At 11/11/2006 8:55 AM, Blogger Kevin said...


My buddy Charles heads up the South Korean contingent of WriMo'ers, and along with doing his own "so-called novel," he's podcasting a daily pep talk to keep people motivated. I have no idea whether you're into that sort of thing-- listening to other people's pep talks-- but if you'd like to hear what he has to say, check him out here:

60-second Pep Talk

If you'd like to read his story (currently at 26,729 words; probably going up by 2000 or 3000 in about an hour), check out the part of his site called "The Workshop," here:


Charles tried to persuade me to get into this Nanoo-nanoo nonsense, but there's just no way. No way. My head would explode.


At 11/13/2006 5:28 AM, Blogger GreenishLady said...

Hi, Lorianne,
I hadn't realised you were doing it this year. Your blog may have been where I first saw reference to NaNoWriMo, I think, and so I jumped in this year. I was in defecit middle of last week, having had one or two completely word-less days, and I found it was allowing myself to "write a paragraph" or 500 words that I found my way back in. Think you've reached the same conclusion. - Little bit by little bit. I'd be really interested to read your spiritual memoir. Best of luck with the rest of it.


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