Dodging Work


I still read a few newsletters, mostly from folks who are very diligent about posting regularly, and whose missives are always a delight to read. They usually offer at least one interesting thing to go read/look at/listen to. I like receiving these missives because they let me know that other people are busy thinking/dreaming/creating. I tell myself I should do something similiar, but then other things intrude and weeks go by.

Warren Ellis recently mentioned buying himself a countdown timer with thirty days on it, and I like that idea. Time management becomes critical when you have too many things to do and not enough hours to do them all. Rather, when you THINK you have not enough hours to do all the things you THINK you should do. Let’s face it: there are many ways we get in our way when it comes to be being productive. I’ve got one of those right here on the desk next to me. My iPad. Meant to allow me to read and write while not at my desk. More often than not, it’s next to my desk, distracting me from reading and writing.

I have a stack of Field Notes notebooks. I’m getting better about using them to keep track of the daily thoughts and lists, but my desk is still awash with scraps of paper that I don’t really need to keep. I have trouble putting things away–throwing them away, in fact–because I haven’t allowed myself the mental space to decide that this scrap is no longer needed. Eventually, I do throw them away, but only after they’ve been covered time and again with bits of math, scrawled URLs I never get back to, and line items from lists that are never finished.

Am I really this busy, or am I using all this as an excuse to dodge work that needs to be done? If things never get finished, then they can never suck, you know? It’s always better in your head–that unrealized dream. Once it is down on paper or on the screen, then, well, it dies a little bit, doesn’t it? It’s easy to second guess and fret about the Thing Done. We should be better about moving on to Thing Next instead of staring at Thing Done. Or, rather, the shape of Thing Not Quite Done.

2 thoughts on “Dodging Work

  1. Re the countdown timer and similar solutions, people fond things that work really well for *them*, and sound really cool to you and I. And they very well may be. The key is, of course, discipline. If the words you need for the next chapter are more important than anything else, you’ll manage to put them before anything else. Often we don’t, because, well, it’s work. Right now I’m at work writing this -:) The stuff that needs to get done at work is tapping it’s toes waiting on me to finish. Tells you everything you need to know about *my* level of discipline 🙂 We have to learn how to tell ourselves, ‘Make it so!’ – and how to follow up by making it so.

  2. Mark, as Tom Waits once said, “You must be reading my mail!” I struggle with this push and pull all the time. I’ve been thinking (and sometimes reading books like Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows about the many distractions and what they mean to us as readers and writers, and how our brains and habits are changing. Yes, sometimes Important or Illuminating Writing Things percolate in the back of my head while I’m doing (ten million) other, less important things, but often the important things are just not getting done. Nice to be in the struggle with other like-minded (and desked) people.

    Oh, and yeah, and you must be looking at my desk, too, with its piles and scraps that are hard for me to release to the bin.

    Thanks for this.

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