Tag Archives: time management

When Writers Stop Writing

I feel like a fraud. A zombie Steff in a fake world.

I haven’t been writing. Haven’t had it in me. I’m on auto-pilot. Wake, skate through life, meet required time obligations, get the 40 hours of work in per week, plus the paid blogging, plus the client stuff, plus the rehab back appointments, plus… plus… plus… Oh, look at the shiny sunset.

When life becomes a thing of clock-watching, it’s hard to find the inspiration.

Every now and then, I’ve wished I could stop time and just write, but the day has been full of needs and requirements, and pressing pause would mean falling too far behind to make it through the week while sleeping through my nights. So, instead, I take a picture and I move the hell on. (The photos seen here are all in the last 10 days.)

But these are the choices in the life of those who do what they love outside the hours of that which they do for survival.

When you’re a writer, the unexamined life is like the tree falling in an empty forest. What’s the point?

I’ve taken pictures in the month that has lapsed since I last wrote for you. I’ve made a lot of good food, cleaned my house, walked a lot, spent a lot of time just sitting on the ocean shore and staring into I-Don’t-Know-What.

It hasn’t been an exciting life, a life worth writing about, but for all the little brief moments of awe and wonder during a life filled with stress and time-management, I think I found a livable balance. For a time.

But that’s not who I am. I can’t do “livable balance.”

I want to do life.

Balance THIS, grasshopper.

You know, when I got my new driver’s license photo issued in October, I spent a while reflecting on my last five years, four of them spent with chronic back pain issues. I refuse to believe my back can’t be healed despite all the obstacles and setbacks I’ve had. No one has told me it’s a cause not worth fighting for, either.

A young couple catches the sunset at Victoria’s Clover Point.

That was the catalyst for my choice to make my back a priority, the top priority, for 2–3 months. I’m tired of a life spent in half-measures.

Working so much so I can throw money at trying to make my body relax after years of trauma and stress is a strangely paradoxical life, and it does not fill me with joy, inspire me to wordsmith, or make me feel like sharing myself with others.

We do what we have to, so we can do what we want, is what Forrest Whitaker’s character espouses in the rousing drama The Great Debaters.

What I want to do is travel. I want to be able to go on long distance cycling trips. I want to hike into the backcountry. I want to be that chick you look at and go, “Look at her go.” I want to know my limitations are far and that it will take me a long time to reach them. I want to know the world out there isn’t too much for me.

I want more than what I have now.

If that means I walk around for a little while as a zombie, while thoughts wither and die without being recorded on the page, then I guess that’s what that means.

I hate it but I need it, I guess.

I may have to get all Dylan Thomas and rage, rage against the dying of the light, because that’s what not writing is starting to feel like to me.

I’ve been here before, almost dead inside, just because I stopped writing after my mother’s death in ’99 till ’04. It’s not about writing for a living or a big audience or for slow-claps or rousing applause.

When you’re not writing, the idea of writing isn’t about the end-user’s experience, it’s about existential relevance.

Deep down inside, I think there’s a kind of egoism that writers have to have. We believe we see the world through an interesting filter. We believe our thoughts have relevance. Unfortunately, this feeling applies to far more people than it should.

Fortunately, some of us are right.

Just before a foggy nightfall, Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park.

Not everyone cares about having an audience. I’m not sure I do. I’d like to have the money that comes with one, but even that barely motivates me to do a “real” book or product for purchase. (But that day is coming.)

I toyed with advertising a long time ago, and hated how it made me feel pressured to produce, and loathed the standards I was churning out as a result.

It’s why I won’t create content for you right now “because I need to post something.” I won’t stoop to the Obligatory Posting point ever again.

For now, I need to fix my back. It’s the number-one thing that will prevent me from going further as a writer, because I do not like the filter I see the world through when I’m in pain. The limitations hurt my soul, and it affects what I put out in the world. That’s not the writer I want to be. Not anymore.

Not writing, though, makes me feel the same. Ah, a cruel contradictory ailment.

I’m five weeks from the end of my hardcore time-management needs for back-rehab, and similarly five weeks from my first REAL time off in more than a year, since this year’s vacation time all got spent on finding a home and moving into it.

But in the last few weeks of not-writing-just-staring-at-the-ocean, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about life and my place in it. Who’s expendable, who’s not. What I value, what I don’t.

Yesterday, I awoke with back stiffness, it was grey and miserable, and I spent 20 minutes talking myself into a dawn walk. By the time I returned home 90 minutes later, I felt grateful for where I’ve moved, the life I feel I’m on the path to have, and the world around me.

I also realized I’m at the dramatic midway point in the film that is representative of this year in my life.

It started with adversity, began in a turn-around, and now I’m at that challenging climax where the protagonist has to ask herself how badly she wants it, and how much she’s willing to do to get it.

And just on the other side of all this is the triumphant conclusion where she rides her bike off into the sunset, without taking an anti-inflammatory, then can skip stretching so she can write a blog post about it. Or something.

We do what we have to, so we can do what we want.

Somewhere in the mix of this zombie-like obligatory sense of life, my frequent pauses to enjoy the world around me, and the quiet I’m starting to find, I feel like this miway-movie point in my present is a really, really neat place to be, if also blood-draining exhausting.

I’m still looking forward to what’s around the corner, and especially finding the intersecting of both the will and the time to write, albeit I’m finding a lot of little small moments to enjoy in the middle of all my crazy.

Sometimes, it’s not a sin to live life. Sometimes, it’s the only way you’ll survive.

Even writers have to make choices. Today, this writer chooses Everything Else, but only because this writer knows that simply won’t last. Eventually, the word volcano has to bubble over and spew. The writer inside always emerges.

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Of a Girl and Her Overfilled PVR

Moving means lots of change.

Like, cable providers.

The good news is: My new apartment building comes with free extended cable TV. The bad news is: It means I have to cancel my Telus Optik contract and turn in my PVR.

Unfortunately, my PVR is jam-packed with programming I’ve not yet watched.

Just now, I was flipping through that dreaded unwatched PVR recording list and my little grey cells began hopping with thoughts.

Art by http://feliciamaystevenson.blogspot.com is very groovy.

Between my writing, what I read on the web, and the fact that I work with words on the job, when I have down time, I’d rather watch TV than read, but even with the amount I do watch, I’ve managed to amass a backlog of 211 programs on my PVR, with a huge chunk of that being movies that clock in at 2-hours-plus viewing time — everything from Das Boot to Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

Just looking at the fucking list feels like I’m giving life a cold, wet swirlie. And worse, the programs keep amassing! WHOOP, there it is — another way to suck two hours of my life through a straw.

It’s like I feel this obligation to watch it all, since this inanimate machine took the time to track it down and record it. Wouldn’t wanna hurt wittle Optik PVR’s feelings, now, would we?

These are the stupidities by which our lives are consumed. These illusions of obligations we allow ourselves to be controlled by. In a digital world, there’s no reason to have to watch it now. Once magnetic data, always magnetic data. These programs shall live to be seen again.

So, there I am, wondering when the hell I chose to get a series recording of Extreme Clutter when it occurs to me that maybe, just maybe, needing to cancel my contract for my move and give the PVR back, with these hundreds and hundreds of viewing hours left unwatched, just MIGHT be a GOOD thing.

In many ways, that’s what moving is for me. It’s a great big reboot button.

POOF. Start over. Clean slate. Movin’ on. Lock the door, Henry.*

A more judicious start with a new PVR. A decided restocking of the bookshelves with a new list of Must Reads for my Slower Life that comes with Beach Reading Time and Park Sojourns a-plenty.

But how did I fall so far into the digital/physical realm of cluttered life like I have? How did I let it get so complicated?

More importantly — how do I prevent that from happening again, on The Other Side?

See, in moving, it’s close enough that a lot of people in Victoria are acquainted with people I know over here, and vice versa. There’s the social media there bridging the gap, too. So, before even moving, I know a bunch of folk want to have drinks or whatnot, and soon. It’s a little intimidating, actually.

Now, part of me likes this. Great! Peoples! Let’s have peoples. Everybody needs peoples.

But I also worry that I might just go from working/commuting all the time to having a life filled with appointments and get-togethers. I can’t just pivot from one kind of distraction to another.

Balance, grasshopper. Except, to be a writer, the balance needs to be askew. One requires a bit more of nothing time so they can juggle the words and ideas of their craft. And there has to be moments of doing nothing. Like, watching mindless television in which thoughts can go swimming in that big vapid head, causing a sudden desire to press pause and run off to write.

Works for me.

So, naturally, I’m concerned about the social/private mix before I even get there, because I do want both, but discipline is hard to have in the summer. (Again with the “Maybe not having 500+ hours of recorded content to watch is a good thing.”)

Or maybe I deserve a few months of enjoying life and being social in a slower place, after what’s been a long road of becoming gradually unhappy with my big city life.

It’s a good thing I’m keeping an open mind about everything, and it’s nice to drop by the blog and bounce a few of these ideological balls around, because I know some of you relate to these dilemmas.

It’s also good that I’m beginning to emotionally accept that I might not do that Good Wife season 3 marathon I wanted to have, or catch up with Modern Family or watch the rest of the horror movies I’d recorded in my “exploring gore” burst last fall.

This too shall pass. Let’s have a moment for the long-neglected PVR list. I’ll rent you, Where the Wild Things Are. We’ll be together again, Harry Potter.

Now just watch. Despite my attaining some kind of Zen/Big Picture life-lesson out of all this, some geek will come along with a remedy by which I can transfer my 300 gig Optik PVR box to that external hard drive I have, and I’ll be all over that like Oprah on a ham.

Because we’re nothing if not creatures of comfort.

Oh well. There’s always Netflix.

*Except digital people I haven’t met, no one in my life is named Henry. Fact!
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Overbooking Ourselves To Death

Every now and then I hit this mode of sheer panic.

It’s that crushing realization that I have a virgin’s chance in hell of surviving my scheduled week. Not a chance. Well, a slim chance if the wind’s at my back, the cosmos aligns, and the sea parts before me. Then, maybe.

Somehow we always get it all done, and if we don’t, still no one loses an eye. It‘s not like we’re some hero in the movies, racing against the clock to save the innocents before slaughter or anything. It’s drycleaning or a doctor’s appointment or something.

Chill, yo.

But, yeah, I freak out. Then I’m all jackrabbit-in-headlights as I figure it out. Maybe if I channel Flash Gordon and develop a need for speed. Make it so!

Another rainy night on Vancouver buses, by me.

This morning I’ve had a delayed moment of genius in which I’ve realized I’m having dinner a block from where I was to get my hair cut today. Okay, now I’m not going out of my way today — instead I’ll get my hair cut Monday, and do dinner, all in the same block.

Sounds logical, right? No NASA engineer was injured in the making of this epiphany. I mean, I’d booked both appointments 2 weeks apart from each other initially, so it wasn’t something that occurred to me.

I bet smarter bears analyze their schedules all the time. Yay, you, you smarties!

Me, I’m just getting the fuck out of the rat race so I can stop the stupid, since having daily appointments that get me out of the house will be what keeps me sane over in the island life. The idea of my being locked up 24/7 captioning my little TV shows or writing makes my head go spinny. Well, after a month of isolation so I can do my Rat Race Detox, that is.

But this is what my life has been reduced to in recent weeks. Small moments of victory when the only real win I’ve had is shaving 30 minutes of time wasting from my week.

I know there are the hours I spend just chilling or recharging, but I won’t apologize for that, and I don’t feel that’s the problem. Why shouldn’t I want more time to enjoy my home or whatever pointlessness I feel like accomplishing? It’s MY fucking life. Screw appointments and work and whatever YOU think add values to life. Mine comes from doing things I want that recharge my brain so I can be the wordy girl I love to be.

As a writer, part of the writing process is long hours of doing what to others is “nothing.” Really, what does one accomplish sitting at a keyboard tapping away? The dishes go undone, dust starts holding conventions on your bookshelves, while appointments loom like some evil curtain to be drawn on a great idea, enforcing an end to writing efforts by actually standing up and walking away from the words all because you have to see some guy about a thing.

As far as time management goes, writing is the worst crime to inflict on anyone.

So, you can imagine my loathing of a world that revolves around deadlines, starting points, and any kind of chronological order at all.

It’s a wonder I even believe in being punctual, and even crazier that I’m a Deadline Slayer. Must be the Recovering Catholic thing.

It seems extreme, picking up and moving from a town just for the sake of time management, but that’s a large part of what I’m doing. I’m forcibly excising my endless aneurysms due to bus commutes, soul-sucking scheduling of rehab with work commutes and micro-planning the things I need to do, all because some 10+% of my life evaporates weekly just for the to/from of my job. Even if I worked from home in Vancouver, I’d still spend my life in long commutes, because it’s the nature of this city.

If moving is what it takes to stop overbooking myself to death and losing countless hours sitting on public transit staring at strangers I don’t give a shit about and will never break bread with, as a world locked behind water-streaked dirty windows passes me by, then so be it.

There are moments when sheer panic hits me and it’s not about the time scheduling. Sometimes it’s about what a 180 my life will be when I hit the brakes and start working from home in a place that’s walking distance from the ocean, 30% the size of my present town, and knowing that I can’t afford to undo the decision if it doesn’t turn out to be the smartest thing I’ve ever done in my life.

Then I breathe again. And I remember: I’m also making this move because I often find myself having to remind myself to stop and breathe, and there’s something wrong with forgetting such integral parts of existence.

Soon, appointments will be a welcome diversion from my quiet life. An exciting reason to get out and see the world, and not this obligation or sense of burden I seem to see them with now.

Yes, 2012 is the year where I won’t have to fear finding myself under a tombstone that reads “Here lies Steff, whose head exploded when she had One Appointment Too Many on a Dark and Stormy Tuesday.”

I just have to survive overbooking myself to near-death for six more weeks, then my life will feel like the soft pneumatic whoomp you experience when an elevator suddenly aborts motion after 30 floors. And that will be something worth writing about.*

*It’s a personal blog, people. Of course I’ll blog about my life in Victoria. Might even start a whole nother blog too.

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Why I Love My ADHD

I’m going to be writing more about ADHD over the next while. I started last week with this posting here.

Seems to me too many people are all shame-filled about their ADHD. What the fuck is that about?

Here, take your stereotypes and shove it. Know what my ADHD doesn’t make me do? It doesn’t make me run around like I’ve had 42 coffees and have been mainlining coke and adrenaline, all right? It doesn’t mean I freak out on people. It doesn’t mean I can’t have a conversation with you. It doesn’t mean I can’t get to appointments punctually. It doesn’t mean I can’t be an awesome employee.

What it DOES mean is, I have organizational challenges that negatively impact my life and leave me predisposed to feeling overwhelmed and constantly daunted by the life in front of me. But that’s biochemical. Continue reading

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In Which Steff Talks About Her ADHD

I found out last Friday that my company’s letting us work from home when the Winter Olympics rolls into town in a couple weeks. My office is in the thick of Olympics Central in downtown Vancouver, between the major “live event” locations and all the sports stadiums. I was already having panic attacks about getting to work in what planners suggest will be the same volume of traffic influx daily as THREE Superbowls would generate, with possible two-hour waits just to get a train. (I died a little inside when I heard that.)

But working from home? Like, omigod. Discipline will be tough, but a deadline is a deadline, and my work has tangible starts-middles-finishes, with daily deadlines, since I watch television and caption it for a living.

My biggest struggle I face right now is not my weight; my weight is partially a byproduct of my ADHD — because ADHD causes problems with maintaining a routine or even achieving one, but also makes me prone to becoming hyperfocused on whatever I’m doing at any time — like eating.

Because I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD for well under a year, it’s been a massive learning curve — Continue reading

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RANT: Guilt-Tripping: What Friends Don’t Do

I had a classic big ol’ Twitter fight with an insensitive fuckwit last night, who I haven’t blocked because I’m not in Grade 5 anymore, but it basically came down to me saying, “No, I’m not coming out because I need some time to myself.”

Long story short: I’ve been up at 5 the last four days, have worked in four days what I usually work in 5, still have to work today, am trying to get back onto a fitness regime & healthy diet, and have slept far too little all week. Add to that that today I should get my period and was therefore a grumpy cunt last night, plus I worked 10 hours during the day on a very mentally-draining couple of projects, then, yes… I thought staying home was a good plan.

Asshat, however, thought he should keep pressuring me on Twitter to come out. I kept saying no, then got more forceful about it. Asshat finally got the point. I said “Toldja,” and asshat got offended that I was such a smug bitch about it.

Oh. So, you, in your insensitive and fuckish way, get to bang a drum that’s totally self-serving, because your cock somehow seems to think it’s necessary I attend a party, but when I bang any kind of a drum, I’m suddenly a cunt. Uh-huh. Ass. Continue reading

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