Category Archives: Psychology

When you fall down, break your routine, or stop writing: notes on re-starting.

HEADER GRAPHIC TEMPLATE—WRITING

The rhythm breaks. The routine falters.

You write, so diligently, and then a week slips by.

Getting back into the structure of things — writing — is even more challenging when traveling, moving, changing.

I can make a million excuses; writing and making time for writing is and always seems so hard.

It's easier when I'm already making. When I'm on the train that's already moving, it can be easier to keep going. And then I slip. My eyes wander up and left, I slip outside for a drink, I stop in the sunshine, I caress the thought of taking a break, and—

—Days go by. The procrastination wears down, like water through a crevice, building its rut and smoothing the sides into familiar curves with its constant trickle.

The weight of the days adds up, as though each day has its own weight, compounding over time.

Dread hangs over until the shadow of not doing spooks me in the morning, haunts me inside of the bags underneath my eyes. The sheer weight of not doing makes me so tired and that fear and dread build up, and I even start to doubt; I believe that I’m too tired; that tomorrow will be an easier, better day, that writing will somehow become more magical and effortless if I just wait.

The truth is, the one that I learn only by doing, is sometimes one sentence and one foot in front of the other, a shuffle-step, a trip, even — Sometimes sentences are written underfoot, scribbling out while running — the truth really is, that if I only just start, if I sigh and press open that sheet, tricking myself into making something so tiny I can't help but just inch it out; when I make a small piece and massage it a bit, play out a word, dedicate a paragraph to the morning and a few more notes to the day;

The truth is, the hardest part is starting.

The gaping mountainous space that is not having started, with the weight of all the days piled up on top of each other like the exploding laundry piles of a pair of triplets, that space—that space is the one that can be popped like a balloon, a whistle of air sadly escaping out as a small sigh, only, only, only if you dare to jump, to pop the weight of the invisible balloon, to recognize that starting is always as hard as it’s ever been, and the hardest thing you do, will be to start.

Starting my pages is like an exercise in watching my crazy brain dart and monkey around — all the things I must do! Lists and busy-work become important, tasks and to-do's building up alongside corners of pages, papers stacked several sheets high across the expansive desk space that is, for all purposes, meant for writing. I must make a new batch of tea! And i’ll try a green juice! Perhaps the internet will have the answers! I will Facebook like everything in sight because ALL OF THESE LIKE HAVE MEANING! I am connecting! I am powerful! I am!

And the answer is, after three hours of puttering, anxiety building in my stomach like a lining of acid swelling across my belly, I get so mad and frustrated that I shout, I MUST go for a run, I will RUN, then, then, you will SEE.

And a small piece of my mind thinks to me, you can't afford to run, so, well, just write a couple of sentences before you go, and then of course, you will go for a run, and of course, that will help.

And then I sit at the desk, legs twisted to the left, shoes half-on, one sock on the floor, and finally open the document — my intent to start writing as soon as I get back, and then the document that is still blank bursts open on my screen, white terribleness blasting me with my procrastination; I stare at the pages that are empty, and with one hand on my shoe, I scribble and scratch out the thesis and the questions I’m going to be answering when I get back. I'm not writing, see, I'm running.

Lists and notes come out, and then my foot rotates and slides under my chair, and I’m jumbling in it, sports bra and keyboard, pouring, pouring, — well, I’ll just talk about this one thing, I start to say, but that story in the paragraph builds into a third, or a fourth, and I look up and the clock has spun around a few times far too quickly, and the sun’s down already, and I'm still in my underwear from taking off my pants to go for a run, but in between pants off and shorts on, I sat down to type, and the typing exploded, a story wielding it’s way on the page, long words and excessive ramblings wrapping around neatly in the shiny way that digital files do, and I'm hungry.

I'm hungry.

The sun's down again. It's dark.

On the days when I have to begin again, on the days when it’s been far too many days in between, and I haven’t written in too long, I know that the most important thing is just the dump of words.

The writing will not be good — it rarely is on the first time, and especially not on the first day back, but the second or third day after greasing the word wheel with an onslaught of words, it gets smoother and easier in a way that’s unexpected.

It’s like the first day is a rinse of my brain with a writer’s neti-pot, the morning pages and the first thousand words a clearing of the clutter, a draining and sweeping of the cobwebs in my brain. Snot-clearing pages, I describe them to my writing classes. Just get the snot out, blow your nose, suspend judgment and don't look inside too closely at those boogers!

It’s like the pile of words that drains out is mucus that stuck up my brain, and those morning pages are blowing my brain's nose. The next day, when the morning pages have been written a second time, I can sit down and my mind is much more connected to the page, to the words at hand.

Starting is hard.

Come back in, however you can.

How to practice saying no.

I walked into the restaurant and something didn’t feel right. The prices were too high, the waiter a little stuffy and dismissive, the air a little cold. I can’t tell you exactly what it was, but I do know that my body was decidedly uncomfortable. While none of the particulars was enough to make a fuss—shouldContinue Reading

Why are stories so important?

The world is overcrowded with information. We’re wired to tell stories because it’s how we make sense of the world around us. Stories let us distill large, complex ideas and important messages into sticky, memorable pieces that we can carry forward with us in our minds. In the absence of a person or a phenomenon,Continue Reading

Words to fill your mind: the power of a mantra.

The words that fill our minds… We all have words that we cycle on repeat in our minds—from worries about being late to songs we sing or words we repeat. Don’t be late, don’t be late, don’t be late, we repeat to ourselves as we rush from subway to office to meeting to appointment. Gotta finish, gotta finish, gottaContinue Reading

Hustle is a dial, not a way of being.

There are appropriate times to hustle in your business. Sometimes you’re hustling for a year or two on the side, creating your escape route and freedom business to jump ship from your corporate job. Sometimes you stay up late and hustle the night before a course launches, or when you’re putting the final tweaks onContinue Reading

Project hangovers, self-criticism, and the necessity of making messes.

I have a confession. Sometimes–more nearly like every time–after finishing a project, I hate it. My writing class? Sucks, obviously. Last week’s essay? Good God, that could have been better. All those open and empty drafts waiting to be finished? Seriously, could have worked harder to get those done.  And on and on… My brainContinue Reading

Easy?

When did someone sit down and promise you that it was supposed to be easy? Or better yet, fair? It’s not guaranteed to be easy or fair, and the people who get what they want go after it–in spite of and because of–each and every advantage or disadvantage they are thrown.Continue Reading

The masks we wear–how we hide who we are.

We all wear masks from time to time: in our words, our habits, and our practices. We have an arsenal of crutches and shortcuts that slowly but surely hide who we are. They are things that prop us up and help us hide. We hide from our feelings and our desires. We hide from whoContinue Reading

“You can have everything you want.” But also: “You will never be enough.” Two cultural themes that need to be reconfigured.

Are we being taught to want everything and never be happy with anything that we get? Why these two cultural mindsets don’t serve us–and how pervasive they are in our everyday lives.Continue Reading

How do you find the people that are right for you? Hint: it’s all about energy.

Ever been at a party and felt like you were completely exhausted? That you couldn’t stand to keep your eyes open for another minute, even though it was supposed to be an amazing party? Likewise, have you ever stayed up almost all night, focused and driven, surrounded by brilliant people and creative ideas? Energy comes in limited quantities. Who you surround yourself with–and what type of energy they feed you–is crucial to doing your best work.Continue Reading

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