Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Anguish of Beginning

Yep. That's a stupid title. But it got me started. I stared at that empty title box, cursor blinking, for longer than I care to admit. I always hate writing titles. There's nothing more satisfying than writing a fantastic title/headline, and I can say confidently after writing maybe thousands of news headlines at this point, that that is terribly rare. Which is unfortunate, because the title can make or break your story. I think books are judged far more often by their title than their cover art.

Original point being, I gave up on a clever title for the sake of starting. Something about starting, no matter what it is, is stupidly excruciating. Why is that? Most people would probably agree that if they could snap their fingers and be dressed and at the gym, working out would be a breeze. It's the getting dressed and getting there part that prolongs and even prevents us from all being the shredded beach bods we were meant to be.

The book I referred to in the last post about making and breaking habits (titled Better Than Before--which I must say may not be a jaw-dropping title but it's pretty damn perfect at getting to the point of its goal) talks about starting very small; so small that intimidation of a large commitment isn't a factor. That merely starting whatever the project may be somehow takes the daunting factor away. Chipping away at something has never been my style, but I'm not bragging. Waiting so long that I have no choice but to half-ass it, or plainly never starting at all is my style. Impressive, huh?

I've been told for as long as I can remember by teachers and probably my parents that breaking up a large task into small parts prevents it from being overwhelming; makes it digestible, and makes starting quick and painless. But it's rarely felt that simple. I think that's because step 1 is almost always boring. It's preparation, research, set-up. None of the things I want to do. The redlight-free stretch of the Embarcadero along the shoreline of San Francisco is why I run. But that's step 7. If my run started dressed, away from the crowd, body warmed up, beautiful view ahead from the get-go, I'd be motivated much more than I am.

It seems odd to add a habit that's broad as "Just start" to a list of pretty specific habits, but it's really a prefix to all habits. I'm trying so hard not to quote Nike right now. That plus my crap title would make this post suck tremendously, so I'm going to quit. After all, my only goal today was to start.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Four Years Later

If it takes you years of convincing and self-nagging to get around to doing the one thing you claim to love doing, is it really something you love? It's not a riddle, and frankly, there was no real reason for asking that in second person. I'm rusty... my last blog post (which is on a blog I no longer have access to because it was created in the days when I didn't despise Yahoo! for email) was in 2012. I had just quit my full time job waitressing to dedicate all my time to finding a job doing what I'd moved across the country to do: write. Rather, get paid to write.

It took that exhilarating jump (and sudden influx of spare time) to sit down and blog about it. It was short, uninspired. The gist was, here I am, quitting. In a city with soaring rent and not a whole lot of freedom to search for the perfect opportunity. It was stupid, but I knew that when I did it. I knew the chances of taking a pay cut were huge, and the amount of time I would spend searching was unpredictable.

I spent the next three years writing for my first adult job. And not once did I sign into my blog. Not because the writing I was doing for work satisfied me. Because I rationalized that I didn't have enough time.

I'm reading a book about finding out how you function; how you make and break habits and what motivates you, and the more I read, the more I realize I have very few good habits, plenty of mildly bad habits, and zero self motivation, which is possibly the most frustrating conclusion I've ever come to. I put my own to-do list dead last, always, and constantly find myself unsatisfied. I often get ready for bed Sunday nights thinking the weekend got away from me entirely and now I have to wait five more days to try again. That's unfair and far from the truth. My boyfriend and my friends are always making plans. We relax at home, we eat out constantly, and we have some amazing friends who are always doing something fun and inviting us to join. So saying at the end of it I feel unaccomplished is... a lot of things. Shitty is the first thing that comes to mind. High maintenance. Confusing. Selfish.

I feel as though there's a balance I haven't figured out how to strike yet to feel completely satisfied at the end of a weekend. Monday's are daunting; if only I had gotten some work done Sunday. But Sunday is for taking a break, right? Did I exercise enough to balance out how much I ate and drank? (The answer to that is always 'not a chance.') Did I spend within my means? (Again, never). Did I cross things off my to-do list that I know I won't have time to do during the week? (Often the same things: pay bills, grocery shop, food prep for the week, organize, clean). And again, the answer is no, no, no and no. But if I did all these things, if I worked out to my stomach's content, cleaned til there was nothing left to clean, budgeted my weekend spending, tied up all loose ends --what would be left of my weekend?

The idea of spacing it all out isn't lost on me. I've tried and failed and tried again. I'm starting to realize why: I don't create good habits. I could go on for a while about what I've discovered reading this book on habits, but it's Sunday evening and the daunting Monday morning awaits. So for today, habits I must break, and habits I must make.

Break:

  • Wasting my life away in the bathroom. (I spend an ungodly amount of time in the shower, and I couldn't begin to tell you why). I'm also a picker, and will pick at my face until it's red and swollen. It's mental, I know, and even when I know I'm doing it, and know it may be costing me precious time, I don't stop. 
  • Eating junk food at every possible opportunity. I swear it is impossible for me to say no or leave a plate of sweets unfinished. It's embarrassing, and I genuinely envy those who can pass up a piece of cake when offered. 
Make:
  • Set specific times that are no-excuses-writing time that are reserved for writing for pleasure and not work. 
  • Scheduling a time to grocery shop on weekends. It's something I resent and put off til last minute or worse -- skip entirely, which enforces other bad habits, like ordering unhealthy lunch and paying too much for it. My mother is at the grocery store Saturday mornings when they open, every Saturday, without fail. I don't know when she started that habit but she's done it for as long as I can remember. Nothing gets in the way of that commitment. 
  • Exercising 5 times per week. I can get into funks where for weeks at a time I'm up at 5 and at the gym 20 minutes later, but as soon as I stop, it seems impossible to start up again. I want to get to a point where I don't have to think about it. 
Accountability is everything. This readerless blog will serve as my accountability, so long as I make #1 a real habit, and continue coming back to post. There are plenty more habits I need to make and break... and I'll add them as they come up. If I'm back before 2020, it's an improvement.