Downtime

*Another* entry? I know, right? That’s like, three in four days.

Want to know why my entries for July are all backloaded into the last two weeks? It’s because everything I do takes place in a delicately balanced psychological matrix of motivation and priority, and any significant disruption in my routine (like biffing off to New York for a few weeks) requires massive restructuring in the organized chaos that is my time management system.

There’s an ebb and flow in the fine art of getting myself to do things. It’s a little like structured procrastination and a little like this. The difference between me and John Perry’s archetypical procrastinator is that I really can do immense amounts of work, and do them ahead of schedule, provided that I have well-defined tasks that I have a reasonable amount of experience with. If you asked me to produce 5,000 words on the role of history in 19th century political philosophy, I could do so fairly easily in a couple of hours – maybe a day at most if I wanted it really good and full of juicy quotes from Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. That’s because I’m good at writing. On the other hand, if you asked me to get that paper published in an academic journal, I would have no idea how to go about it. This lack of experience would cause anxiety. I would spend hours and hours researching how to do such a thing. Some of the things I’d have to do might involve getting up and going places and collecting paperwork and talking to people. This would all be rather too much for me. At the end I’d be fatigued, stressed, and worn out just from the process of trying to plan for something I’ve never done before, and I might never execute said plan.

Most of what slows me down is planning anxiety. If I let myself plan anything, at least 70% of the time that thing never gets done. That’s why from the time I “planned” a post about Race in Georgia until the time I actually published one, several months had passed along with some prodding and reminders from friends. Most of the posts I write are unplanned.

One of the problems is that if it seems like the thing might be hard to do, or if it seems like I might not succeed, my desire to go through with the thing is vastly diminished. I know I can write a paper or a blog post, cook a meal, run a mile, fix most computer problems, or whatever. So when I have to do one of those things, I just do it. I don’t know if I can write a travel book about Georgia, and even if I could I don’t know if I can get it published, and even if I do it might suck and then everybody would hate me. That’s why I haven’t started writing a book about Georgia yet. That’s why every time I sit down to start I end up doing lots of research and lots of conceptual creative stuff and no actual work at all. For instance, I spent most of this morning (and afternoon, at this point) reading the blogs of travel writers who blog about travel writing, in hopes of discovering some ray of hope that will give me sufficient motivation to start putting some words on a page. Instead I’m filled with the urge to go to sleep or watch some TV.

And that’s my other issue. I respond well to pressure – which you could interpret to mean that I am very good at taking action when I need to take action, otherwise known as doing the bare minimum necessary to get by. I am very bad at doing something when I feel like I could easily get away with doing nothing instead. My versions of “doing something” and “doing nothing” and “getting away with doing nothing” are of course subjective, and sometimes I like to pretend that I’m doing something even when I’m clearly doing nothing, and sometimes I am confronted with a guilty anxiety that I am doing nothing when in point of fact I am actually doing something.

Right now I have another few days of vacation during which I can do anything I want. I thought I’d maybe start working on that Georgia book people have been urging me to write. Before that I had planned to go to Batumi. Now that I think about it, there are still a lot of blog entries that need to be written. Oh, and speaking of the blog(s), I really really really ought to go through and start tagging posts for Search Engine Optimization and other such happy horseshit. Gotta improve searchability and keep those pageviews rolling in. And of course I brought a bunch of books on English and Language to Georgia with me, with the intent of using them in my lessons next year, but that means I should really start reading through them and mining them for material, especially my Greek and Latin Roots of English text. And I should design some sort of writing curriculum if I’m really serious about doing that next year at my school.

You see how these things have a way of piling up? That’s not even counting all the emails and facebook messages I’m probably not responding to in a timely fashion. And yet, because I have four days to fill, and none of these tasks have any real deadline, my brain has no urgency for any of these tasks – even though, when all put together, they’d actually take much more than the four days I have to fill.

I’m forever taking on new creative tasks, and I think that I actually do it to put pressure on myself because the only way I do stuff is under pressure. Of all the things I set out to do, maybe only 50% ever get past the conception phase, and of those I usually get tired or bored of things increasingly over time. Blogging is one of the only things I’ve been doing continuously for a long time (going on twelve years now).

I don’t know if I’ll ever break into the travel writing world. From what I read, it seems like it’s a lot of work and a lot of self-promotion (which I suck at) and not a lot of fun and not a lot of money. I wouldn’t object to putting a book together about Georgia but it would have to be a spare-time sort of deal.

If I successfully lose interest in travel writing, I have no idea what the next thing will be. I’ve been thinking about trying to put together university courses here in Tbilisi, or start a language school. Realistically I will probably do neither, but one can dream.

****************************************************

For now, however, I’m taking some downtime. I cannot stress the importance of downtime in my life, because I actually have no idea whether it is important or not. All I know is that I seem to have a propensity for taking downtime once in a while – watching lots of TV, reading, sitting, sleeping – and that in general although I feel unproductive I tell myself that the downtime prepares me for my next productive cycle, and that may well be true.

And now I’ve managed to write over 1200 words about doing nothing and getting nothing accomplished. Does this count as doing something?

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2 Responses to Downtime

  1. Anonymous says:

    Blogging counts for something. It clears your mind which obviously, has too much going on in it.

    I like the book idea. Really all you have to do is compile a lot of your blogs and edit them and put them in some kind of order. Think about what an accomplishment that would be. Not everything we do is about how good the money is. Sometimes we just do things because it feels good. And writing is one of those things for a lot of people. I’d buy a copy of your book if you published one.

    Getting people to actually buy your writing in this day and age is very difficult. I spent six months writing articles for magazines and out of the 100 I submitted, only one got published and they paid me peanuts because I am a new writer, Another was rejected, but they basically had their editors take my idea and re-write it. (Country living Magazine). I took an on-line class to learn how to promote myself. You need a thick skin because there is a lot of rejection.
    I finally gave up on the idea realizing I could never stick with that kind of a routine. For me, there was some satisfaction in actually getting SOMETHING published. It was a small accomplishment.
    I’ve never been able to keep my thoughts on one thing long enough to write a whole book though. I know that feeling of getting distracted and bored. I am also one of those people who start things and then lose interest halfway through. I hate that about myself.

    But you already have all this material you can use. You should seriously think of making an outline for a travel book and then organizing your blogs and seeing what you can pull together. It might be easier than you think.

    In the meantime, enjoy a little R & R, and don’t feel guilty about it.

  2. If you ever find out how science fiction & fantasy writers can get funding…….Holla!

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