Ugh. Just ugh.
The good news is that I managed to finish part three, chapter 1 this month. The bad news is that I just managed to finish. Badder news still, I’m really starting to worry about my 2021 deadline.
I had nothing but distractions for the month of March, both personal and professional. Most were small in nature, but when one started, the rest followed. I have a tiny window set aside each weekday to write, and I noticed that some things chipped away at that window here and there, and completely hijacked it on other days. The weekends are better for me as I’ll have more interrupted time, but I then have home commitments, too. Plus, chapter 1 needed extensive re-writes that took a lot of thinking, planning, typing, deleting, panicking, control-z’ing, then deleting again. On Monday, I hit “save” and said to myself, Boy did I hate writing that chapter and it probably sucks.
(This is a natural part of the writing process you don’t learn about until you’re actually writing.)
I started thinking about it and finishing a chapter a month has been my goal for a while. At six chapters per part with five parts, that’s — crunches numbers — February of 2022 until I’m done with the re-writes!
No. No, no, no. Fuck that. I need to make better progress. I think I wrote more over the summer when I didn’t have the bigger commitments. But there are a couple of things I did at home to alleviate some of the smaller distractions.
So what are some things that I did to help? I’m sharing a few of them in hopes that they help anyone reading this, too:
I moved my desk
When I write, I have two main inputs: my iPad Pro, and my PC.
I use my iPad for roughly 90% of everything I do. It’s consumption and input. I scribble notes on it occasionally, too. The other 10% of the time I use my PC. My PC has a wide screen so I can put windows side-by-side (like the iPad) and compare/contrast notes. I have a huge, wide screen with the PC and occasionally I play video games with it, but to be honest in the past year I’ve mostly used my PC1 to write.
My PC sat on one side of the television in my living room for the last few years. For most of the time, it didn’t bother me when someone else wanted to watch TV and I wrote. I put on my headphones and plugged in while the TV-watcher put on their headphones and watched TV. I could see the screen out of the corner of my eye, but never thought too much about what was going on. It did annoy me when someone would say, “Oh, what are you writing?” or “What site is that? Are you done writing now? What are you reading? Can you come hang out? Wanna watch this movie/TV show now?” Meaning, they were/had been looking at my screen instead of their own — so I had no privacy. Eventually, I started taking my iPad upstairs to write in my bedroom or the guestroom when I needed a few hours to myself. But the problem downstairs persisted.
This month, I moved my desk across the room to a separate corner and the television to another corner of the living room. Now, both sit on opposite ends, where neither me nor a TV-watcher can see what we’re doing without obvious nosing, even with headphones on!
I picked better playlists on Spotify
Speaking of headphones, did you know there are nature sounds you can listen to on Spotify?
I do my best thinking in the shower. There’s something about getting clean that stimulates the brain synapses, I think. And there’s something about listening to water that stimulates the imagination.
We’ve heard the advice about listening to instrumental, or lyric-free music while you’re studying or writing to create a distraction-free mental environment. That has helped me before, yes, and that may help you too. For that I recommend the Chill Lofi Study Beats playlist on Spotify. But I’ll do you one better if you would rather pretend you’re stuck in a remote writer’s cabin somewhere in a rainy woods: try Rain Sleep & Nature Sounds by Sleepy John. You can also listen to Fire Sounds or Rainforest Sounds by the same artist. One I haven’t listened to (and wouldn’t be my taste) is the Cafe Sounds, which I’d imagine simulates the sounds of a real life coffee shop — people chatting, cups clinking, keyboards clacking, etc.
While I like to listen to chill music, it turns out I’m not productive listening to music and writing at the same time. I feel like I get more accomplished with ambient sounds from nature than I do with music playing. Interestingly enough, I also can’t fall asleep to white noise, either. I have to be in a silent room or a room with only natural sounds — no music, no ticking fan, no space heater, nothing. I wonder if the two are corelated?
Anyway, maybe switching up your music habits will help your productivity, too.
Finally, I’m learning how to say “no” more.
Confession: I’m a bit of a door mat. I don’t like telling other people “no” too often lest they find me a woman that’s difficult to work with. I’ve gone through almost all of my life trying to be amiable and malleable, smiling and nodding, saying “yes, I’ll do that for you” even though it’s inconvenient for me, stresses me out, and all that smiling and nodding hurts my face and neck. There is a big difference between being a doing someone a favor for nothing in return because you’re a good friend/person and doing the same because you’re a door mat, and that difference lies in the person doing the requesting — not you. Do they take advantage of a lot of people? Do they seem like they need help all the time? Do they offer their assistance, too, or are they conveniently not around when you need help?
So I’m teaching myself to say “no” more often.
Like I said, I don’t have a lot of time where I can write, so the time I do have is important to me. “Ah, crap. Sorry, I’m going to do some writing tonight. Can we take a raincheck?” is a perfectly polite and acceptable answer. Most of the time, this works and there aren’t any hurt feelings. The other time…well, fuck ’em.
“No” is a complete sentence.
I’m hoping these tips help everyone reading, even a little bit. I’m leaning into them over the next couple of weeks and looking forward to a more productive April.
1 I’m thinking about replacing this with a new M1 iMac when they come out or even an M1 Mac Mini. I really, really, hate Windows.