A couple of mornings ago, Friday to be exact, I woke early, as I do, grabbed a huge travel mug of coffee, and headed to my office to write. I’ve been on a pretty good roll, working on my next novel. I have a loose outline in place and so far most of the time I feel on track. And I’m enjoying the writing.
But Friday morning I didn’t go right to the page. I had a bee buzzing about in my head. I’m almost done knitting one sweater and I’d realized I had some gorgeous wool that I could use to start another. But I needed a pattern! And this was VERY important because I’m going to Astoria, Oregon in a week to teach and I NEED to start this new sweater before then so I have something to work on while there.
So I told myself I could browse for five minutes. And then I made the tragic mistake of the morning. I opened Ravelry. For those of you who don’t knit or crochet, Ravelry is where all the patterns live. All of them. (Seriously, the site had 7 million members as of 2017.) Not only can you look at the pattern designer’s information, but you can click through page after page of member postings showing how they knitted the sweater, complete with maker notes.
It is the mother of all rabbit holes for knitters. And Friday morning I happily tumbled into it for forty-five thirty twenty minutes. Oh, it was glorious as I considered one pattern after another as the minutes ticked by. And then, while I was at it, I saw that I had an email I wanted to look at, so that took some time. It took more time to answer it. And while I was at it, I needed to check my other email inbox. (Yes, I have two. Don’t ask why. It made sense at one time.)
And then I finally looked at the clock. And realized I’d wasted nearly my entire writing session.
Here’s the deal: I felt like crap afterwards. I had the same sick feeling inside as when I’ve willfully eaten too much or drank too much wine. Funny how all over indulging makes you feel the same, at least emotionally. And when I compared how that felt to how I feel after I’ve actually done the work I set out to do (Energized! Happy! Excited!), I cringed.
Your rabbit hole is probably not Ravelry. But I’m pretty sure you have one. (If you don’t, please contact me immediately so I can pick your brain about how you grew up to be a responsible adult with no bad habits.) We all do. So the only way to deal with it is awareness. For me, that starts with dissecting why this happened:
THE NUMBER ONE REASON IS BECAUSE I DIDN’T KNOW WHERE I WAS GOING. I’d taken the day off from working on the novel the day before, because I had to get up and out and didn’t have time for my usual writing session. And in the mad rush of all the things that happen in a day, including a long board meeting that night, I forgot where I was. (This would have been an easy fix, one I preach often myself: open up the damn file and re-read it. Or even skim it. Just to get it back in your brain.)
Because I lied to myself. As in, oh, I’ll just look for that sweater pattern on Ravelry for five minutes. I deserve a long break because of that long board meeting (see above) last night. Oh, Charlotte. You know better than that. Those five minutes can stretch to thirty-five in a couple clicks down the rabbit hole. As they did.
Because I didn’t use any of the fifty million tricks I know to get myself back on track. Things like free writing to a prompt. Writing something, anything in my journal. Setting a timer to limit knitting pattern time. Using Freedom to restrict access to the internet. Writing one crappy page. Writing nonsense. Writing anything, just to get words on the page. Because often that’s all it takes to get going again.
Because I convinced myself this was a noble activity. My brain needed a break. (Again: long board meeting. I like to belabor excuses.) I deserved to spend a little time looking at patterns. Oh, and hey, knitting is creative, too! (But mindlessly clicking through patterns is not.) And, even more noble, I had just also talked myself out of buying a very expensive yarn kit! Winning! All the more reason to look at patterns, because I was nobly using yarn I had. (I have a LOT of yarn.)
Because I didn’t stop myself long enough to do a gut check. And maybe if I had, I’d remember that I feel like crap after wasting time like this and I feel great after writing. So this is the crux of it: someone I (and maybe you) need a way to short circuit the procrastination momentum. One way suggested by Becca Syme in a class I took last spring, is to set a timer when I browse the internet. Another could be doing something physical to break the trance. This could be as easy as standing up from the computer. What works for me might not work for you, so let’s experiment, okay?
That’s it for now, and excuse me, I have a sweater pattern to go download.
Here is your prompt of the week:
Down the rabbit hole we go.
Virtual Retreat Link—Thanks to all of you who joined Patty Bechtold and I last week on our winter virtual retreat. We delved deeply into the sensory reactions to the season, and did some fun writing exercises. For those of you who missed it, you can have a listen here. And yes, we plan to do something similar again soon!
France 2019—Would you like to study writing in the south of France with me? You can! Find all the details here. There’s a discount if you commit before the end of the year, so check it out now.
And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already. I post lots of good links. Lately we’ve discussed the different types of editing, memoir writing, and more.