the circular runner

Posts Tagged ‘procrastination’

the two-hours of crazy, aka., my writing time

In career, life, observations on September 10, 2012 at 5:54 am


It’s not unusual.  I know this.  But I’m still struggling to figure it out.  How can I get myself writing as soon as I get out of the house?

Let me backtrack.

I do not–not usually–write at home.  (I am currently sitting in my kitchen, though I’d rather not be.)  I’ve always been this way, but until recently, it has always been by choice.  Now, with a baby, it’s a necessity if I’m to get anything done.  My wife is wonderful and understanding, but there’s just something about my typing at the computer that says to her: he can help me.  I can’t help her.  I mean, I want to help. I certainly don’t want to be that lame kind of husband/father who isn’t available.  But the writer needs to write. Know what I’m sayin’?  This need makes me feel a little guilty, and that guilt, in turn, drives me to do the groceries and cook meals and wash dishes and scrub the bathroom (pretty regularly).  I do this to help.  But I also do this because I feel bad for stealing a couple hours every day to write in loud coffee houses.  I like, no, I love loud coffee houses.  The noise somehow focuses me–sort of.

On average, I find it takes me a good 30-45 minutes to focus in and start writing.  I want to check the Twits, read an article or two about God-knows-what.  I long for a day, a whole day of overpaying for multiple coffees as I spend hour after hour in dimly lit rooms, lost to the muffle of my headphones, which often are not playing anything at all. But, alas, I get two hours and I am thankful for them.

I try to make the most of my time, but the truth is, sometimes I just can’t get to work until I use some of it to do nonsense.  There’s something of a procrastinator in me.  I admit it.  But I’ve come to think of procrastination as a result of something, not a cause.  Fear is at work.  I look at the list of things I want to get done: look for some publications for some new stories, read over the last chapter of my graphic novel, write something new.  It doesn’t matter what it is.  I get a tight stomach and a little nervous–not bad nervous, maybe excited is the word–and the nervousness can sometimes overwhelm me a little.  Too many steps.  Too many things to do.  I want to run.  I want to escape. I start wondering what the point to this stuff is.  I should spend this time with the kid and my wife.  What are all these little things I’m working on leading to?  Why am I doing this? What’s the point?

And then, about 45 minutes in, I trick myself into starting.  I give myself a reward, a cookie, a bite of chocolate or a High-Chew, if only I start.  I can do any of the things on my list; I don’t have to start with the hardest thing.  And then, I’m in.  I’ve transitioned to creative-time. I’m happy. I’m free.  At least I am for the hour I still have.  And then, a little sadly, I pack everything up and I’m off to work or back to the flat to hang with The Boy.

Is this sane?  I don’t know.  I’m heartened that I least I do get something done each day.  But Jesus, it would be so much easier if I could just sit down and get to the list as soon as the tattooed young’n hands me my overpriced caffeine.  That’d be great, and I’d also be thinner.  Those pieces of chocolate are staring to add up.



running in circles–anxiety and procrastination rule the world!

In observations, writing on June 3, 2011 at 12:29 pm

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Why do I do it?  The “it” being sweating and sweating about something like a letter.  It’s just a query letter.  Not even a page in length.  Partly, this comes from everyone saying the same thing:  “The query letter is huge.” ” Oh man, don’t screw that letter up.”  I’m not denying it.  I know the letter is important.  There’s pressure there, and as I get older, I seem to do worse and worse under pressure.  But in the end, the letter is just a letter.  Less than 300 words.  I’m broke and still I have a good bit more money in the bank than the amount of words it will take to make a complete letter.

About ten minutes ago, I got a draft of something done, and I feel good.  But I could’ve had that same good feeling without all the drama of the last week.  I’m telling myself this because this weekend, I am continuing “the research–all the research” required to find the right people who might be interested in publishing Real Magic Doesn’t Sell, my first story collection.

This leads me to thinking about a movie that came out a few weeks back called Limitless.  I didn’t see it.  I don’t like Bradley Cooper, and though the plot line was interesting, the idea that Mr. Cooper could either be a schlumpy writer in the beginning of the movie or a genius by the end was, in either case, a leap that my limited mind could not make.  That said, I do think that if I could somehow harness all the effort I use to get myself to pumped up so I can then do something as simple as write a draft of a letter, I would be doing a whole lot more somethings.  For anyone who follows this blog, now you know why I changed its name.  Running in Cirlces is what I do because I procrastinate.  But I don’t rocrastinate because I’m lazy.  I’m not sure that there are a lot of lazy procrastinators out there, actually.  I see it all the time in my students.  They put things off because they are scared.  Scared of success, of failure, of ridicule for trying.  Sad.  Sad.  Sad.

Sadder still, I spend my days as a cheerleader for them, and then I spend my nights looking at an empty screen poo-pooing myself.  Bad.  Bad.  Bad.

OK, so I’m going to do a little cheer leading for myself.  It only took me five days this time to sit down and craft out a letter–a long, sad, sweaty and anxious five days, but hey, that’s ok.  Better than other times in the past.  I mean I still have a novel in the making–4 versions of 2/3 of a novel that I spent about five years sweating over to no success.  When I get this collection sent off, finishing a novel is next.  I can do it.  I can do it.  Yeah, team!!!

Why I Love the Obama-No Drama Class…

In observations, teaching & education, Uncategorized on June 17, 2010 at 11:44 am

Today is the one day a quarter that I am both excited and scared to come to class. It’s the day when my classes have to turn in their big research papers. Usually, I get up in the morning and am cringing when I check my phone. I know I am going to find a ton of texts asking, pleading, and begging for extensions. I never grant them. I am really a relaxed instructor, and for other papers, if a person tells me ahead of time, I let him turn his work in late. But with the research paper, I tell my students from the beginning that this is it. There are no exceptions.

Holding this line goes against the grain–at least it does at this school. As I’ve mentioned before, I teach at a for-profit community college, what used to be called a career college and before that, a vocational school. (People around here don’t use the V-word.) Anyway, because of our for-profit status, we’re dealing with a numbers game. No one kids themselves about that. The recruiters here (some of the teachers call them “the salespeople”) go out and promise the moon to potential students who for myriad reasons have not been in school or did poorly there and think they should come back. My point in bringing this up is that so many of our students would not be in college if wasn’t for the salespeople. At one level, this is a good thing. As the president of the college always says at graduations, we open up doors for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend college. But at another level, it presents difficulties.

A lot of the students I have would not survive in a public community college. Many don’t survive our program. They are sick and can’t come to class; they are too poor to afford decent transportation; they are in trouble with the law and will not be able to come to class because a judge has put them back in jail. But they come because the salespeople convince them that they should–that an education will change their lives. I agree with this premise in general, but not for the reasons that the salespeople are giving out.

Most of my students come here with the promise of a better future, but they aren’t prepared for the painful present full of term papers and exams. The biggest problem is that because of the salespeople, their view of education is strictly utilitarian in the most severe sense of the word. This is true for many students in all kinds of institutions, but I think the people who struggle through more traditional programs have internalized (to varying degrees) college culture, by which I mean, they have some clue why teachers get upset at papers written at the last minute. They know that they are part of a culture and that culture has rules. They may choose to break those rules, but they realize that the rules are there.

The real difference is that even poor students at four-year schools have a clue that what they’re doing is not acceptable. A lot of the students in front of me truly lack that sense. They’re not dumb–not by a long shot. They just have bigger issues in their lives that keep them busy and worried. School is not real life for some of them. The consequences are not as harsh as they are outside these walls.

All of this to say, I don’t want to baby my students by not being strict about deadlines, but it is my fear that if pushed too hard, if given too many strict rules right out of the gate, they will become dicouraged. It’s one of the giant paradoxes of this place: I deal with some hardened street people here, and yet inside, many are as vulnerable as little children.

So, imagine my delight this morning when I come to school with no messages on my phone and a class that is turning their assignments in. One deadline is enough, I think. This is an Obama-No Drama moment!! Awesome!

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