The last few weeks have not gone to plan. I hurt my back and got a chest cold (just a regular cold, not anything serious). Now my back has returned to normal, and I'm not coughing all day; but I've been struggling to get back into it.
As I was recovering from that, I picked up an extra shift at crappy night job (in part to cover how much I spent on take out while I was sick), doing 41 hours last week, making it hard to pencil in any writing time.
All this has got me thinking about discipline. I have always done better with set routines, and since I moved to days six weeks ago, I've been all over the place. Crappy night job has given me different hours each week, and I have treated the days off as weekends rather than workdays.
I need to build a writing day routine. I need to put Resistance in a headlock and get work done no matter what. Illness and irregular work hours are indeed outside of my control, but what I do with the rest of my day is mine to control. I've been taking the easy route, and it's time to start pushing up the incline. It might be a journey to climb a mountain, but you'll never do it if you stay at base camp. Instead of letting Resistance tell me the mountain is too high to climb, I need to focus on the fact that if I keep moving, the view will get better every day.
I'm supposed to have two days off each week from crappy night job, which are outside of the traditional "weekend." Three days at crappy night job, two days writing, two days off. That's the plan. So on those writing days, I need to get everything done for the week. The question is: what do I want to get done in a week?
When I'm just writing, I get 1000 words per hour on the page on average. Therefore, the weekly content for the website (4 x 500 word pieces) should take about two hours to get done. The podcast, which I have neglected for a good while now, takes about two and a half hours for the script, recording, and editing. We're up to 4 and a half hours to get the weekly content done.
One problem I have come across is the problem of choice. Outside of the weekly content, everything else is not attached to a deadline. Setting an arbitrary deadline for those projects might seem like a good idea, but if I know that it's arbitrary, it never works. Here's what I've been paralysed by for a while:
Jobs to do:
Solar Flare volume 1
Frank Mason stories/book/something?
Short stories for magazines
Articles for websites
Finding science fiction podcasts to collaborate with
Finding blog/sf writers to collaborate with
When I look at this list (and the other 40 things in my head that I could do), I don't know where to start. What will give me the best return on my time investment? I won't know until I try them, and then there are many reasons why a single project can succeed or fail that has nothing to do with how much effort I put into them.
If I think about it the other way, how good will it be for me once I have all of those things done? Then the answer is obvious. Even if they all fail, they will have been worthwhile attempts. So why am I stalling? I'm guessing it's because the human brain doesn't actually respond to well-reasoned arguments.
So much of our decision making is done by our unconscious mind. The internal monologue is only a tiny part of what is going on in our brains; FMRI studies into decision making show that the brain makes the decision before the internal monologue is aware of it.
It is the unconscious mind that unleashed Resistance on the conscious mind. The truth is that spending a lot of hours pursuing a target that doesn't guarantee success should create some level of anxiety. Studies into brain development in mammals show that our prefrontal cortex is a very new part of our brains, evolutionarily speaking. The old part of the brain has the experience of close to half a billion years of data, compared to maybe 50 million years of data for the inner monologue. So, of course, it's dangerous to explore new things. From evolution's perspective, it is hazardous to do such things. But we don't live in such a dangerous time anymore. There aren't any lions over that hill. There actually is no threat at all.
My bills are paid by crappy night job; no one is going to evict me if a writing project doesn't make any money. Consciously I know that I will fail a lot. But my unconscious mind is unleashing waves of Resistance to tell me not to try at all because I might fail. Well, whoop-de-do unconscious. Failure is a part of growth.
I will never change my unconscious; it will always be a Resistive force to my writing, no matter if it does work. That's OK too. Resistance isn't there to stop us from going over that farther hill; it's there to make sure we aren't accidentally doing it. We aren't wandering into danger by mistake. Evolution actually requires some of us to go over that hill. We know that it won't be safe and that some of us won't make it. But some of us will find a new water source, of foodstuff, maybe the key to fire is over that hill.
The Hero's Journey is a tale of just that. Something up-ends the hero's happy life in the valley, forcing them to leave safety and venture over that farther hill. Once over the hill, they try to use valley thinking to conquer the new environment, only to fail. A new environment requires a new coping strategy. Forced to change by circumstance, the hero learns the secret of the new place. And then the hero conquers adversity or sometimes fails valiantly.
Jung looked at all the world's cultures and found that story everywhere, across all the seas, going back as far as anthropologists can find human stories. I have to agree with Jung on this one; it isn't a coincidence. Our brain hardware hasn't had a significant upgrade for two hundred thousand years, but the software gets adjusted all the time. We are genetically the same as our ancestors, yet we've made marvels. We live in an incredible time where life is easier than it ever has been. As a result, we can be freer and more tolerant as a society. Our conscious minds take on this new data and assimilate it. But our unconscious minds pay no attention to such new-fangled things such as software updates. The unconscious is the base operating system upon which we load these new ideas and information. While there are generational changes to the operating system, we are basically running Windows Vista. It's terrible, and it's all we've got. It might limit us, but it clearly doesn't prevent us from overcoming the challenges that face us.
Anyway, all I'm saying is that I need to get my butt in a chair and stop letting maybes and might nots determine what I do.