Every night when I go to bed, I promise myself that tomorrow will be the day I show up to write at 9am.
I think we all know how the next morning goes. Why else would I be making the same promise night after night since 2009? No matter how many times I promise myself I’ll punch in a 9am sharp, time gets away from me, and the computer doesn’t turn on until after 10.
When I returned to full time writing, I promised myself things would change. Three weeks into the new schedule, I’m learning that I’ve really got to stop making promises to myself.
Why is it that I can’t seem to claim that one hour? The voice in my head would say it’s because I lack discipline. Steven Pressman would tell me it’s resistance or fear. My friend Steve’s theory is that I lose that hour because I haven’t fully embraced the idea that my primary job is to write.
Who’s right? Let’s break it down.
The Voice in my Head Argument
I’ll say it right now. The voice in my head is wrong. “Barb is lazy and lacks discipline” is an ingrained response stemmingfrom my childhood. If I were truly as lazy and undisciplined as my psyche believes, I wouldn’t sit down to write at all. I certainly wouldn’t have written two dozen books.
No, I clearly have discipline. It’s just slow to kick in.
The Steven Pressman Argument
Steven Pressman’s argument about resistance makes more sense. According to The War of Art, resistance is that insidious force that encourages us to choose immediate gratification over long-term effort. It’s that voice that tells us it’s too cold to walk or that we can’t walk because the conditions are too cold, too noisy, etc. The harder the task – the more important the task is to our long-term growth – the more resistance we will face. It is a battle we must fight every day.
What’s the biggest form of resistance? Procrastination. When I decide I need to check Instagram one more time or read one more news article, I’m totally caving to resistance.
My Friend Steve’s Theory
Then there’s my friend, Steve’s idea that somewhere in my head, I don’t consider myself first and foremost, a writer. My first instinct is to toss it aside. I freaking quit my job and write all day. Of course, I’m embracing my writer identity.
But then, I stop to think about my morning. From 6:45 to 7:30, I walk three miles. Afterward, my husband and I have coffee and breakfast together. He’s got so much on his plate these days and morning coffee is our chance to spend time together without distraction. At 8:30, my husband heads down to his office. That’s when I:
- Dry my hair
- Unload the dishwasher from the night before
- Pick up the kitchen
- Make the bed
- Cave to resistance and check my Instagram et al.
Note that my husband goes straight to work. If he hasn’t had breakfast, he brings it with him. He does not clean up the kitchen or make the bed. This is because his primary job is as a consultant. He’ll gladly do the dishes after dinner. But in the morning, work comes first.*
Work should come first for me as well, but for whatever reason, I am unable to start until I take care of the morning household chores.
Maybe Steve has a point. I grew up in a home where household chores came first. My late mother, God bless her, would never allow a dish to sit in her sink. Only lazy people had dirty houses. When I married and became a mother, taking care of Lt. Tattoo became my primary job. Writing, be it my freelancing work or novel writing, was second to soccer, gymnastics, and, of course, household chores. Lt. Tattoo moved out years ago, and my husband could care less if the dishwasher gets emptied in the morning. Yet here I am, making household chores a priority. Because only lazy people have dirty houses. If I were more organized – more disciplined – I could do both and have time to plant annuals.
So many of the tasks that eat up my missing hour are of monsters I created. I don’t need to make a bed or clean up the kitchen. The chores are just additional implements of resistance. Only these come with the bonus of allowing me to feel like I’m being lazy and lack discipline. Which brings us full circle to the programming I learned as a child.
All Three Play a Role
What conclusion can I draw from all this rambling. For starters, the childhood programming is still wrong. Having to fight resistance every morning doesn’t make me lazy or undisciplined. On the contrary, it makes me like every other writer in the world. Nevertheless, those ingrained responses continue to yield their power.
Second, both Steve’s are right. My friend Steve is right in that I haven’t fully accepting writing as my primary and most important job and that non-acceptance is a form of resistance. My morning is fraught with resistance.
So, here’s what I’m going to do. Next Monday, when my husband heads downstairs, I will get ready for work. I will shut off my phone and my Internet. Whatever tasks aren’t completed by nine o’clock, be it cleaning the kitchen or my drying wet hair, will have to wait until my writing hours are done. This time I’m keeping my promise.
Tune in next week for an update.
* For all I know, he’s in his office scrolling eBay and battling his own resistance, but seeing as he bills for his time, I doubt it.