self discipline: how to not work

For more than two years now, I have spent every waking hour worried about not writing. No matter what I was doing, I felt like I should be writing. And now that time is past. I have no deadlines hanging over me. I am free.

So I made some resolutions. I have a list of projects I’m working on, prioritized in a couple different ways, and a Chinese-menu-type setup. As long as I work for x amount of minutes on one project from each of the three columns on a given day, I’m good. If I hit a certain mark, I can stop early for the day (this has only happened once so far).  And here’s something important: no working on the weekends.

You’d think that the hard part would be staying on track with the projects, right? But what I’ve found is that it’s almost impossible not to work on the weekends. There are a few things that force me into at least temporary  Saturday/Sunday retirement — going to a movie, for example. Sewing is another one. These are things I do in the evening on regular work days, and now, at least according to my own rules, I could do over the weekend. Right now I could be playing with fabric. But I’m not. So I put away the computer and read. I pick up a novel I’m liking, a novel I’m half way through, and I start reading. Suddenly I’ve got Victorian Babylon in my lap, both books open.  What is this?

Does that seem unreasonable? That I should (whispering) take the weekend off from work? In theory I know it should not, but in fact it feels awful. I’m getting quite cross with myself about this. Yesterday I was writing an email to a friend and suddenly, there I was looking up information about small towns in Virginia. This was because of a percolating novel set in Virginia about somebody named Jackson, who is an EMT. Bad. I slapped my hand and went back to non-work.

I decide I’m going to get more sleep. A long bath and then into bed. This seems to be working, and then I wake up at 3 a.m. thinking about wicked sisters. Who are these people, and why are they talking to me about a very-raw story idea? Go away! Let me sleep!

Well aren’t you just a bitch? This from the taller of the two. The other one giggles. She’s got bright fuschia fingernail polish on, and on each nail a tiny glittering stone. Diamonds? Who puts diamonds on their fingernails?

I try to go back to sleep but they are staring at me.

Fine, I say. Tell me.

It’s simple, says Diamonds. If you want Jackson, you get us too. We’re his big sisters and it is our responsibility to see he doesn’t get led astray.

Huh, say I. Why is it you look like those evil bridesmaids in My Best Friend’s Wedding?

I should hope we do, says the taller one. She’s got helmet hair and a botox forehead.

That’s when we climbed in, says her sister. We’ve been riding around back here for what, ten years? Sitting  in your subconscious, waiting for an escape route.

And this novel about your brother Jackson gives you that.

I hope she’s not always this slow, says Helmet Hair. It’ll take her forever to write this book. I cannot wait to get out of here.

So you can climb into other people’s heads? I say.

I can promise you, says the younger one, holding up one hand and waving her glittery fingers. That we will do our damnedest.

So you see, this taking the weekend off business is a lot harder than I imagined. I wonder if I’ll ever get the hang of it.

6 Replies to “self discipline: how to not work”

  1. Isn’t “the weekend” a recent invention? I think of Waiting for the Weekend by Witold Rybczynski, an exploration of the concept of leisure time. Just saw he has a new book coming out, My Two Polish Grandfathers: And Other Essays on the Imaginative Life.

    So maybe you need a 24/7 schedule, and toss the whole day of the week thing out.

  2. Seriously…that was going on in your head? How cool!…and hilarious…I remember those sisters.
    Sometimes it takes a little time to get our minds out of overdrive. I say let go and enjoy what comes.

  3. Wow. Sounds like what some might call a “luxury problem” (at least, that’s what we call it in Norway).

    Most of us need self-discipline to work, not to avoid working ;)

  4. If you’d asked me on the day you posted the completion of the novel to predict what you’d be going through in the next month or two, I’d have written just what you’re going through!

    You’re not giving yourself enough time to decompress. You’re not giving yourself permission to decompress. Been there; done that; so I know about the decompression, guilt, frantic gotta keep going feelings. So give yourself a bit of meandering time to do whatever pops into your head, including the voices that have been waiting to be heard, including taking a nap, including reading several books at one time, pounding some soil or clay, taking a trip.

    Thus spake the old geezer of the unpronounceable name.

  5. Wow. This reminds me of a book called “The Thirteenth Tale”, by Diane Setterfield. A character in the book is an author and talks about how she has all of these “people” living inside her head waiting to be born. And I love how they aspire to invade everyone elses mind. Your characters definitely have that ability. We readers take them with us. As for myself, I long for them and miss them and have to go back and read it all again. Thankyou for sharing your talent and I hope you get to take that weekend off sometime!

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