Writing for the feeling

I’m talking to myself a lot these days.

Part of it is I’ve been sick. Last week I spent three days cooped up. Tuesday I was in bed the whole day. It made for a strange week.

Writing has also been more difficult. Two weeks ago I realized my current draft had gone off course. I threw out two-plus chapters — more than 40 pages. It was a brutal reckoning.

Worse, the big edit created doubt. How can I trust anything I write when I can produce 40 pages of wrongness without knowing it? Self-doubt is tough to crawl out of when there’s nothing but you and your brain.

On Thursday I got so frustrated I literally yelled out “I want to quit!” That was a first.

But the yelling helped. I didn’t quit. I kept pushing. And later that afternoon I had a breakthrough. I was reading a new draft when I started talking to myself again: “We’ve got something here we’ve got something here.” I actually said this.

Yesterday I built on that momentum. It felt great. My own ideas surprised me. A good sign. I turned a corner. 

But I have to remember: two weeks ago I was also feeling great. I even wrote an unsent email to my list about how solid the book felt. Before I could hit send, the ground fell out from under me.

So even as I turn this corner, I recognize that the book has more of them waiting for me. But surviving this last one was significant. I say it out loud because I know it’s true: I can do this.

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When I started losing confidence, my focus went. I wasted time on distractions.

So I installed an app that a friend recommended called Self Control. It lets you block websites for a set amount of time. I added a half-dozen distracting places and set the blocker for 24 hours.

It helped. I found the zone. More interesting was what happened after it ended.

When my first 24 hours were up, I celebrated by visiting the blocked sites to see what I had missed. It took less than two minutes to look at them all. It was a big letdown.

Right then I turned Self Control back on. The next night the same thing happened. The blocker ended, I looked at the half-dozen sites for two minutes, then blocked them again. I’m now at five straight days of this. I recommend it.

Brute force inconvenience has been my most reliable weapon against technology addiction. More than a year ago I unfollowed everyone on social media. That way even when I did fall victim to temptation (which of course I would), there would be nothing rewarding about it. 

Twitter/Instagram are still there for me if I want to publish. And I can manually search for people or things when I have a reason to. What I’m trying to stop is technology deciding for me about what I think about. That's not a permission I'm willing to give anymore.

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Things I Like This Week (and that includes you):

— Solo was a lot of fun. My favorite of the post-original Star Wars movies. We’re suffering from Star Wars fatigue thanks to Corporate America bleeding a good thing dry. But don’t let that deter you from a great movie.

— Four-Hour Weekends. As parents of a two-year-old, my wife and I don’t get as much Us Time as we need. But lately we’ve blocked off Friday afternoons just for us. A nice lunch, go to a museum, or just explore. Even though it’s only an afternoon, we feel like we’re getting away as our young-couple selves. My favorite part of the week. Parents, give it a try! 

— My latest mix of good music has a little something for everyone. Along with old favorites, it includes two recent finds: Comet Is Coming and Spellling. Recommended if you like: talking to yourself, stop-and-go traffic, and watching the world fall apart.