My New Way of Life

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Experiment: Life

I’m starting an experiment§.  It’s a life-sized experiment to discover how Liza* lives best, instead of how a “normal person” lives best.  It’s an experiment, so I’m going to be tracking metrics and adjusting variables.  Since there’s only one of me, the comparison will be between weeks.  Also, it’s entirely subjective, being about me, and I reserve the right to change my metrics at any time.  🙂

My starting assumption is that I work best when I don’t constrain myself with restrictions and rules.  E.g. “I will exercise every day” or “I will write 500 words every day” or “I will be at work by 10am and work for 8+ hours” are all restrictions that I resent, and then I do the exact opposite (or sit in front of feeling miserable… see “eating my vegetables”, below).  I rebel against perfectly reasonable self-assigned rules, even just “I will go out for a walk today”.  :-/  In order to stop these constraints, I’ve decided to quit my day job**.

Most writing exercises are really just a set of constraints.  The constraints suggest ideas I wouldn’t have thought of if I were just facing a blank page with no constraints.  On weekends when I don’t have any goals and I can do absolutely anything, I often dive into the first interesting thing that presents itself and don’t come out for hours… regardless of whether it was an activity that was actually worth those hours.  NOT the most productive thing.  Putting those two experiences together, my theory is that I’ll give myself constraints within which to structure my life.  Not rules for me to rebel against, but constraints that expand my options in the direction I want to focus my energy.

Examples of constraints I would like to try out:

  • Don’t push myself if I don’t feel like it.  On the other hand, do check in periodically to see if I feel like doing something other than what I’m doing now.
  • Have one day a week planned for running errands — I can run errands on other days, and I don’t have to run them on that day, but it’s an anchor point for thinking about errands.
  • Have one day a week planned for thinking about food.  I can make food on any day, and I don’t have to make food on the scheduled day, but it’s an anchor point for thinking about food.
  • Have one day a week planned for thinking about cleaning.  I hope to do a bit of housecleaning every day, say 20 minutes.  So on days when I don’t feel like cleaning at all, I can think of one small thing to do.  And on days when I don’t mind cleaning, I can think of bigger things to do.
  • Every day, think about my stor(y|ies).  Sit for at least five minutes in front of {the story | a notebook | a keyboard} and write a stream of consciousness.  If it turns into hours of writing, yay!  If it doesn’t, then I can do something else instead.  -> Note: My goal is to spend at least 4 hours writing every day.  But I want them to be fun and energetic hours, not miserable hours where I feel like I’m forcing myself to eat my vegetables***, and you will sit here until they’re all done, young lady† .  So if that means I spend at least 5 minutes hating the peas, then I know today is a pea-hating day and I should do something else fun and/or productive, guilt-free.

This is really the crux of my plan for myself.  The least valuable thing I do to myself is make myself feel guilty.  When I feel guilty, like I OUGHT to be eating those peas, then I can’t make myself do anything else that would be more fun or more useful.  All I can do is mind-numbing things that help me avoid the guilt, like watching TV or reading a fun book or playing a video game.  Creativity goes right out the window.  So, I’m not going to allow myself to feel guilty about deciding not to do the things I don’t want to do.  I’m going to trust that it’s a short term not-want-to, and that wanting-to will come back eventually.  And if I never do want to do that thing, then why on earth should I have it on my list††?  If it’s so important, can I hire someone else to do it for me?

The foundation of the crux of the plan††† is trust in myself.  Trust myself to know what I need to do now, and trust myself to do everything in the right time.  Trust myself to have the creativity I need when I need it.  And trust, always, that “This Too Shall Pass”.

I have a lot more thoughts about trust, productivity, creativity, and how Self works.  I’m sure I’ll share them as I go along.

 

——

§ …in about a month.  I’ve just given my two week notice, and then I’m taking two weeks off.  So Experiment: Life will start on April 29!

* Yes, this experiment relies on me referring to myself in the third person.  …  Why are you looking at me like that?

** This means I will have no income.  Eeek!  This is a whole nother subject, but suffice it to say that I have enough savings to live on for a while, and I have faith that through my experimentation I’m going to find ways to earn money doing things I want to do.  And if I don’t… I will go straight back to having a day job.  This is an experiment, and I am aware that it could fail entirely.  I’m trying not to run on self-delusion.  🙂

*** FYI, I’m going to use this as a metaphor a lot for things I don’t want to do.  Short-handed to “eating my peas”, even though I like peas a lot.  The context is that when I was little, I could sit for hours (it felt like hours, though I imagine it wasn’t more than 30 minutes) in front of my vegetables at dinner time, refusing to eat them (because I didn’t like them as much when I was little) and being told I had to, and eating just one slow bite at a time.  I’m not even sure how often this happened… it could’ve been once, for all I know.  My memory is pretty spotty.  But I do have a memory of this happening, and it perfectly resonates with how I feel when I’m sitting in front of some task I absolutely do NOT want to do, but have to because it’s expected.  At work, usually.

† I don’t think anyone in my family ever said that or called me “young lady”, but it sounds right for the story.  :o)

††  Note that I’m not talking about things like doing my taxes.  I’m aware that I do have to do them eventually, regardless of how I feel.  But I also know that I don’t really mind doing my taxes, or paying bills, or any of that.  Sometimes I have the right headspace to think about money, and sometimes I don’t.  When I don’t, I shouldn’t be doing my taxes.  When I do, I don’t mind doing my taxes.  So do understand, I’m not talking about never doing the required things ever.  I’m talking about doing them when I have the mental capacity for it, and not when I don’t.

††† Am I taking this metaphor too far?

Whew, third draft rewritten.

Today being the first day of my holiday vacation, I just finished editing the third draft of my vampire story, “The Organville Vampire”. It’s a lot better now, nearly a real story!

When I type in the changes I’ll call it the fourth draft, and I’ll know how long it is.  And then I’ll print it out for my beta readers!  Should be ready by the new year…

(Now I need to go buy Christmas presents… at least my priorities are in order?  :-/ )

New year, new project

Happy New Year!

Since last we met, several exciting things have happened.  Haven’t you missed me?

First, I wrote THE END of my Vampire Story.  Again.  This is THE END of the Second Draft!  Not the final draft, I have a major revision to go, but it will be a revision not a re-write.  I’m planning to start revision at the beginning of February.  I got burnt out figuring out how to get to “the end” so I could move on to the next story bouncing around in my head, so I’m giving myself a good bit of distance before picking it up with my Editor Goggles on.  But any later than February seems like procrastination.

Vampire Story, Second Draft
7500 / 7500 (100%)

Second!  I started my next story!  This one has been bouncing around in my head for a couple of years, just as a vague idea for a fairy tale that ends (or maybe starts) with the fairies getting the upper hand.  Why is it that Rumpelstiltskin never wins the first-born child?  This is the story where he does.  Well, not Rumpelstiltskin himself, but some other fairy creature.  That was all I had, a bare premise.  I wrote a short story called “Wing Stop” a while back, which ends wrong but I couldn’t ever figure out why*.  A couple of months ago, I suddenly developed a plot and characters.  I don’t know where they came from**, except that I was given this fabulous poem called “Bad Day” by Kay Ryan about an elfin tailor.  And suddenly I knew how the child was taken, and a bit later I figured out what came next, and then–BLAMMO!–I had a whole*** novel-lengthed† story arc.

This has never happened to me before.

I suppose it still hasn’t quite happened.  I mean, the story was brewing in the back of my head for yearsSomething must’ve been going on back there.

And eventually I discovered some characters and stuff, too.  So, I’ve started writing!  See?

The Last Fairy Godmother
2000 / 100000 (2%)

Ok, I think that was only two things, even though I said “several”. You could invent a few more for me if you wanted.

* Proof that I do and have finished things, despite the trash I talk about myself.  Just not “final draft”, “ready to be published” finished.  :-/

** Maybe from reluctance to find the end of my Vampire Story.  Funny how procrastination can have some fab fringe benefits.

*** Well, whole by my definition.  There are a whole lot of blurry details and not-so-details that I haven’t figured out.  And I do still have to write the whole thing.

† At least, I hope so.  What if it falls short?  Hrm.

A rough draft!

I now* declare the first draft of my vampire story to be complete!

I wrote an ending** and I printed it out–20 pages, double-spaced.  Very exciting!  And then I had to reprint parts of it, because the printer ran out of ink and was printing too faintly.  *sigh*

There’s a lot left to fix.  There’s one scene that needs to be rewritten, because the wrong things happen in it, and I didn’t figure that out until after I wrote it.  And all of the other scenes need things that I haven’t identified yet.

In fact, there are several things about this story that aren’t quite right, aside from basic prose.  The main character is about as interesting as a cardboard box***, and I can’t figure out how to fix her.  The situation is really interesting, but on some level it could be happening to anyone.  So why her?  The setting–a high-tech future hospital–is relevant and important, I know it.  But I haven’t figured out how.  Or rather, I haven’t figured out how to emphasize it.

So today at the gas station I had a thought–what if the MC is just in the wrong position?  She’s flat and dull because she’s not where she needs to be… or maybe she’s just not the MC.  I have an idea for someone in a better role to be the MC.  But of course, that would mean rewriting quite a lot of it.  Possibly all of it.  If she ends up having a personality that would be a really good thing.  But… rewriting the whole story, from a whole new perspective. :-/  That sounds more complicated than my last crazy idea.

I’m going to sleep on it, and see what I think tomorrow.

* Ok, I actually declared it last weekend.  I’m a little slow.

** I didn’t end up adding in the complications I was thinking of in my last post.  They didn’t make sense after all, and I decided to simplify and just finish the damn thing.  Also, I’m pretty certain it’s not the ending.  But … it’s better than no ending.

*** A friend in my writing group described her first version of a main character as having the personality of a coffee table.  Mine’s less solid than that.