I commented that I was still trying to get a handle on organizing 2020. She responded with a sad face.
But I wasn’t kidding, and I wasn’t looking for pity. This year has been all about the best laid plans going awry, and I’ve decided to embrace the chaos, do what I can, and go a little bit easier on myself when I need to decompress.
Last Christmas I asked for the book The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll. It’s a great book. Really. And when I finally got around to reading it, I was all ready to get organized, stay focused, and write a whole bunch of books. On March stinking first.
Two weeks later, my husband was working from home and my kids were e-Learning and my dog was expecting seventy-seven walks a day and I was getting coughed on at the polls while voting during the Illinois primary and someone at our vet’s office tested positive for the virus two days after I’d been there…
And the journal was forgotten.
I suddenly found myself on autopilot, able to get through the tasks that absolutely needed to get done—the two contracted manuscripts I had to finish, work for my day job, baking bread…okay, maybe that one wasn’t mandatory.
But the manuscript I desperately wanted to write, the one I JUST KNEW would be a hit, I kept starting and stopping and restarting. Same with the one I’d begun working on with a co-author, and the serial novella I came up with for my newsletter.
Then I read Becca Syme’s Dear Writer, Are You in Writer’s Block, in which she talks specifically about the pandemic and how many of us are stuck because we feel disconnected from the outside world or because we are concerned for our safety and security or because we’re just feeling “off” or we’re introverts suddenly surrounded by a bunch of other people all day everyday whose safety and well-being are also deeply on our minds. To many of us, the idea of sitting down and writing a romcom about people meeting in a world where people could still meet in public seemed ridiculous. Yes, Becca, I was in writer’s block.
I tend, to my detriment, to be an “all or nothing” thinker. I’m either hardcore journaling, or I’m doing nothing. I’m either in the writing groove, or I’m avoiding my computer. But these days, it’s hard to be all-in on anything when there is so much uncertainty looming over us.
I’ve had to readjust, treat myself with a little more patience and kindness, embrace joy and creativity when and where I could find it.
For starters, I moved my “office.” Right now my kids are actually in school (another kind of stressor), but my husband is working from home three days a week. He set up his office upstairs. I had been working from the couch in the living room, but now I’ve basically repurposed our dining room as my workspace. (It’s not as if we’re entertaining right now!) The room currently has only one purpose for me—work. When I sit down at my chair, I know it’s time to be productive.
Also, I’ve been keeping a few phrases in mind from some of my favorite books. (I’m a self-help book junkie. I’ve never met one whose advice I didn’t love to read and subsequently ignore.) A few books have sunk in a bit, though.
One of those is Mini Habits by Stephen Guise. He makes a bit point of talking about how the smallest choices make the biggest difference. I may not feel up to writing thousands of words today, but, even on my worst day, I can write a few. If I sit down and commit to writing a hundred, maybe I’ll write more. Maybe I won’t, but I will have made progress.
Another of my absolute faves is Body Kindess by Rebecca Scritchfield. I think I may have highlighted about 75% of the book by now. She has so many good suggestions for dealing with emotions, but at the core of it is the principle of “spiraling up,” building on positive actions throughout the day. I try to stop and think, “Is this helping create a better life for myself?” Sometimes that’s enough to stop me from spiraling down into a Homescapes-fueled pit of despair and procrastination.
What are some books or phrases that have helped you cope in 2020?
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