I wrote earlier about procrastination and getting distracted, and these are two big issues that I need to get a handle on. It’s not so easy. A big part of it is fear and negativity—if I sit down to write, I am not making money, and I should be doing something very specific toward making money, since I am not permanently employed right now—I’m doing freelance and temp work. So sitting down to write generates a fear that I’m doing the wrong thing.
My blog does not feel like as much a waste of time as fiction writing does, though, because it is linked to my website and I may, potentially, get freelance clients who need an editor or blogger or some other editorial service. But what about Twitter and Facebook—is spending time there productive? Are any of these things more or less productive than sitting down to write fiction, or an essay potentially for publication?
I could also be interviewing people and researching a legitimate news feature or article—I know how to do this, I have done this, and can do this (that is my realist voice: “See? It’s right there on your resume!”) but … (I think) I can’t do this, it’s been too long, I’m too old, I must suck because I haven’t been able to hold a writing job for very many years, and if I actually called someone up to interview them, they’d never want to talk to me. Or they would talk to me, but an editor would laugh at my proposal—tell me it’s been done a hundred times before. When I write these beliefs down, they seem ridiculous and paranoid, but this is the default I go into.
Yet—I’m always getting ideas. We were on vacation and flew home into JFK airport on Friday night. We called our usual car service and a rather talkative driver on his very first night on the job came to pick us up. He talked the whole trip back to Bayside about buying his cab and starting over. We learned he’d ended a 15-year relationship, and was homeless for a while. I was exhausted from the long trip but at one point there was some mention of a cow. It was a metaphor for something, I think, but I missed that part. I blurted out, “You bought a cow?”
From next to me in the back of the darkened cab, my husband texted me: “He’s angry,” I think referring to the man’s relationship troubles. But the driver didn’t seem angry to me. He seemed sad and lonely, and yet hopeful he would make it in this new endeavor working for a car service.
I wanted to interview him. This would be a good story for my blog, a portrait of someone struggling, I thought. Yet I let my husband’s assessment of the driver sway me away: He was just crazy, rambling on like that. But maybe he isn’t crazy, and has a good story to tell. I could find him by asking around. We use that car service a lot; it’s nearby in Bayside.
But will I? Already I’m telling myself no, I won’t. What is the solution? I get ideas all the time; I don’t follow through. Art projects. Stories. Ideas for classes I could teach at the local college as adult enrichment courses. (And I do think I could do that—I just haven’t submitted a proposal because I fear rejection.)
My primary “problem” is focus. What’s my focus?—I have one paying job to do at the moment and one editing favor I’ve promised a friend. The paying job should get at least two hours tonight, the favor one— two only if I can swing it. So that’s it. I do that, and then I go on to the next important thing.
I don’t think I’m going to overcome my fears overnight but I think one thing I need to stop doing and can stop doing is speculating about things I could do and then obsessing about how they are crazy ideas. I am going to focus on what I know I can do, and do it. Right now it’s in front of me: I have a deadline. I break that down into mini-deadlines; I get those met. Then I reward myself by working on a speculative project. Maybe that’s not much of a reward, but it gets me excited. If I don’t feel guilty because I haven’t finished other work, I can get more excited about it and maybe even follow through with it. Maybe I’ll interview the cab driver or maybe I can find someone else. Finish my work, then make a list of ideas and go crazy with them.