Friday, August 18, 2006

Inspiration for the Day

Lots of things to do today. It's the kids' last day of day camp before one week of "pure-bred" vacation, to be filled with Marine World, parks, pools, the City, and... basically, we're going to pack in everything we can before school starts.

Sometimes I get really overwhelmed with the amount of things there are to do by the end of the day. Tidying up for the housecleaner, running to the post office, folding laundry, dealing with the back deck (still covered with flood-soaked boxes filled with things we just haven't been able to part with yet), doing SOMETHING about my hideous office... I'm tired just thinking about it.

I even feel this way about writing sometimes. How is this blank screen, I ask myself, ever going to turn into a chapter, or, God forbid, a BOOK? Sometimes, as for The Bitch Posse and my recently-completed nonfiction book, the words just flow, tumbling out so quickly I can hardly jot them down quickly enough. But I would be a liar if I told you that was the case all the time.

In the past, I've kept lists. Huge, long lists that cover one side of a page and go over to the back of the page. Someone once told me to write down things I knew I'd be able to cross off, so I'd feel better if I didn't complete the list. So I'd put things on the list like "take shower," "eat lunch."

It didn't help me feel better, really. First of all, I NEVER completed the list. EVER. And some days, I didn't even get to "take shower," "eat lunch." Leaning somewhat to the obsessive end of things (all addicts do, probably), I felt like complete shit if I didn't finish. And as far as writing... I might put "write 1000 words" on the list, and yes, I'd do them... but I don't like writing to feel like a task on par with my laundry and my shithole office. I really don't.

Yesterday, I got a great little trick from an recovery-based email list to which I subscribe. Using this trick makes you look at the big picture and then focus down to what you can do TODAY to work toward your big goal. I suppose it's a twist on the One Day At A Time thing. What you do is, write down your Large Goals. Each morning. (And yes, I need to do this. As they say, if I fail to plan, I plan to fail.) Here's a Large Goal for me: Keep office a tidy place where it is pleasant to work. Here's another: Complete a publishable novel. Just for thrills and giggles let's write down another lifelong goal, which really, when you think about it, ought to be first on my list: Stay sober.

All right, let's stop there. All of those are HUGE prospects if taken in and of themselves. However, step two of this trick has you write down ONE SIMPLE THING you can do TODAY to work toward that goal. Let's call my first goal Goal A. It would be impossible to clean the whole office today. But one simple thing I can do TODAY toward that goal is bring a big trash bag into the office and tidy up the floor so I can actually see it. THAT'S what I write down next to my Large Goal A. As for Goal B, I can TODAY revise and edit the next 25 pages of the opening 125 pages of the novel. That's what I write down next to Goal B. As for Goal C? I'll write down three things, just because I know I'll do them today: Stay away from the first drink, attend a recovery group meeting, email my mentor in recovery.

The beauty of this plan is that you don't lose sight of the overall picture. The items on the list are not mere tasks to be checked off, but are intrinsically related to one's lifelong goals. They're intertwined. So because these tasks are related to your goals and dreams... they don't even feel like work.

Even if you aren't in recovery, you can use these principles to help you reach your goals. It's working for me!