Jim Ryan (otherdoc) wrote,
Jim Ryan

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What For Brain Not Work Good?


I am frustrated by the fact that I cannot seem to make myself work on things that I want to work on. At least, not YET. I'm sure I'll figure out a way to do it, I just haven't hit on the right trick so far.

This is part of the problem. I have to trick myself.

Not an easy task, seeing as how my not all that tiny ego likes to pretend it's aware of everything that's happening to it at all times.

I have spoken, from time to time of my ADD/OCD cocktail, I'm sure, but in case some of you billions of people (or possibly 3) who may be reading this haven't heard this particular rant, I'll do another one for you now.

I've come to realize over the years that part of the reason that there never seems to be enough time to get anything done is due to the fact that I seem to have a mayfly's attention span combined with a near-psychotic streak of perfectionism. This means that I focus as intensely as I can on something that I want to do and make sure I do it properly... right up until I'm distracted by a stray thought of something ELSE I need to focus on, at which point I immediately begin to focus on it to the exclusion of all else up until the NEXT stray thought comes along, and so on and so on and so on.

Lately, in particular ever since I came to a more direct, conscious realization that this is happening, I've tried to lean into the curve a bit -- when I think of something important that I need to do relatively soon (say, that same day or that same afternoon), I try to take care of it right then if I can because I know that I'll have forgotten about it in a few seconds if I don't do something immediately. I've tried writing myself notes to combat this but that tends not to work very well because I will then put the note in a very careful and obvious place where I'll be absolutely sure to see it later -- which, as I'm sure anyone who knows the first thing about Murphy's Law can tell you, is the best way to make sure I'll never lay eyes on it again. I'm not quite ready to go the Memento route and start tattooing the notes on my body, though, so I just try to get things done by knowing myself and trying to be realistic about the way my brain is going to function when I'm making plans.

Now, this is where I come to the crux of things. After listening to and observing a number of people out there who are around my age and have children, I've found a metaphor that I like to use and have therefore latched onto like a remora.

Living in my head is, I think, what it must be like to run a day care center. My various thoughts are all constantly running all over the place, getting into trouble and clamoring for attention. There are things I can do to keep them all quiet for a while, like watching a movie or playing an video game, but if I want to get any use out of one thought or group of thoughts in particular then I have to work out a way to trick the others into not bothering me long enough for me to make some progress. This is something I can do easily when I'm participating in a role-playing game, for example, since most of the thoughts that aren't relevant are still held in check by the fact that I'm playing a game, which is something I like doing a lot. Same thing for stage acting.

With writing, though, it's a lot harder. I think this is because writing is as open-ended as it is. There are so many possible choices that I get bogged down trying to consider them all. Plus, once I've made the decision to work on one particular thing, then the moment I start to work on it I immediately think of ten other things that I'd like to be doing and instantly become either distracted or bored. Which leads to nothing actually getting written.

So, how am I managing to write this blog entry?

I tricked myself into it.

Well, maybe not literally. As far as I'm aware I don't have multiple personalities or anything like that (sure you don't, Jim, just keep typing while the rest of us wait in your head and plot your demise mua ha ha, etc...), but I've managed to convince those parts of my mind that would otherwise distract me at this time that this is important enough for them to keep quiet. How did I do that? Well, by saying publicly that I would be writing blog entries on Sundays. If you read back a few weeks, you'll see it there. If there's one thing that ego of mine that I mentioned earlier can't stand, it's being shown up for not being able to follow through on something I've said I'd do.

So, I baited my own ego by saying I'd be writing weekly blog entries and voila, here one is!

With my various attempts at fiction writing, though, it's a bit more complicated since there are a lot of what appear to be equally important developing projects and there are a lot of things I have to think about in terms of getting them done. I keep thinking that one obvious solution would just be to assign deadlines to each of them and then publicly announce them but I really need to figure out more about my own writing process and the process of getting stories sold before I can do that since I'd like those deadlines to be realistic. I suppose I could just dive in, do it arbitrarily and see what happens.

But, I can't help but think that there are better and more productive ways of tricking myself that I just haven't hit upon yet.

You know, for years I, like a lot of other hopeful writers, would go to writing panels and ask the speakers lots of vague questions about how to get started as though there's some kind of secret to becoming a published author. But, recently, I finally hit on a more specific question that much better encapsulates what I'm looking for, so I'll end this one by asking anyone who's reading this that might have an answer:

What kind of tricks do you use to get yourself to write when you don't want to?

I'm always looking for ideas for this, so feel free to either reply here or e-mail me or whatnot if you have any.

And now I must rush into the kitchen and rescue the pot of water I started boiling about an hour ago but forgot about until just now because I was blogging. Gah!!!!
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