I have some managerial experience. For sixteen years I managed a medical office, and I took good care of my co-workers. It’s taking me about as long to learn how to take good care of myself.
Hands down, praise works best, so I try to appreciate any small step I take toward the larger task at hand – which is drafting a 100,000-word novel. One of the unintended consequences of this practice is that as I’m not just kinder and gentler toward myself, I’m kinder and gentler toward others. If I live long enough, I may actually become a genuinely nice person.
But I must admit that I still have days when I don’t want to sit down by myself to write a book that might never see the light of day. Some days, I’ll do anything to avoid writing, including putting off starting, going off on a tangent, or becoming paralyzed by doubt.
While I could try to turn these problems into an affirmation, “Hey Deb, you’re human!” I’ve found a more effective countermeasure to resistance.
Resistance is what keeps us from accomplishing our goals – from the little ones, like sitting down to write, to the big ones, like finishing a book.
According to nutritionist and writer Linda Spangle, it’s possible to defeat resistance by understanding its components and knowing what to do about them.. Resistance is manifested by Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.
We respond to Uncertainty with Distraction. Ever start writing a piece and decide you really need to read War and Peace before you can do a good job? But before you can turn the page, you need to clean the litter box, which reminds you to put laundry detergent on the grocery list and make a dentist appointment for a cleaning six months hence? You get the idea. The best way to counter Distraction is with Focus.
And then there’s Doubt. Three quarters of the way through a draft and you become paralyzed by a needling voice that whispers, “You really think this is any good? Who are you kidding?” Doubt is responsible for countless unfinished stories in untold files around the world. But even Doubt can be defeated. Just Finish.
I have a Post-It above my desk. It says: Start. Focus. Finish.
Essentially, this is another way of saying, “Single Task” – which I wrote about in Part One of this post. And sometimes, I have to go through NAMS before I can Start, Focus, Finish. The more I practice these techniques, the better I get at sitting down, writing, revising, rewriting and returning to my desk day after day in what can be the most satisfying job working for the best boss I’ve ever had: me.
Deborah Lee Luskin is the author of Into the Wilderness, an award-winning novel set in Vermont in 1964.