I’ve never had a problem with being urged to “dance like no one is watching”. I don’t care who’s watching. When I hear me some Led Zep I am dancing. In the car, in the kitchen, doesn’t matter. “Woman, you-oo need” (bum, bum) Looooooovvvve!” Motown? That gets me do-wopping up and down the hall. I have a special dance just for “You Don’t Own Me” that Keaton, Hawn and Midler brazenly copied. Dancing in front of my wall-to-wall bathroom mirror is one of my favorite ways to kick start the day. At weddings and social events I am a highly accomplished seat-dancer, as my husband is less enthusiastic about dancing. I am that crazy woman next to you at the traffic light, singing and writhing with total abandon. But when it comes to writing as if no one is reading, now that’s a challenge.
I write all the time. I have more scraps of paper with bits of ideas or overheard dialogue than I have room to store them. I keep paper and pen everywhere- bathroom, nightstand, kitchen, car and every purse I own. The problem is- I don’t finish very much. And I rarely share anything I do finish, fearing it is less than perfect.
I recently decided to self-analyze. Is it because I edit as I go, unable to ignore the typo, misspelling or wrong word? When I know what word I want but can’t call it to mind, I go off on an internet hunt, tracking down synonyms, tweaking and adjusting my choices until I find The Word. By that point, I’ve likely lost the thread of what I was writing AND made a stopover at Facebook. Just now I got sidetracked with the word “urged” in the first sentence. At first I had “concept”, but that didn’t feel right. I put it in anyway so I could keep going with the flow, but my eyes kept wandering back to that “wrong” word, as if it were highlighted in bright yellow, flashing neon. Until I could fix it, I was going to be distracted. Fortunately this time it didn’t take that long. Did you know that Facebook has made movies of our stuff?! Um, anyways, now the wording has blended into the rest of the piece and I can move on.
Part of the problem may be the fact that I have the attention span of an end table; in other words, nada. I am as easily distracted as, hmm, what analogy fits here? Let me go look for…no, I’m staying. No matter what. I put my hand to my chin to think, and noticed I’d forgotten to put a new bandage on a cut on my arm. You get the picture.
Got the bandage. I’m back.
Once, during a particularly tough attention span struggle, I decided that since I’d clearly lost the battle yet again, I might as well do some research. Came up with the concept (good! I found a new place for the poor word! My grammar check didn’t like that last structure and underlined it all with a squiggly green line. Be back in a sec- I have to “ignore” so the line goes away.)
So where was I? And how come you only get the option to “ignore” once?
Right. The great concept to help attention-span challenged people get stuff done. It’s simple: You Can Do Anything for 15 Minutes. The idea is to set a timer for 15 minutes to tackle a chore. Can’t abide the idea of cleaning out the kitchen junk drawer, knowing it will consume more time that it’s worth, what with all the sorting, making tons of little piles, followed by multiple trips to put everything away in their proper places? Set a timer and work on the drawer for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, you’re free to stop. Or you can set it for another 15 minutes. Or you can continue the project another day- for 15 minutes. At that rate, you may actually de-clutter your whole house before you know it, painlessly. In other words, you break tasks down into 15-minute bites. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. If you get such a great sense of accomplishment that you decide to keep going, good for you! But you don’t have to.
I loved the idea so much that I abandoned everything on my to-do list and ran to the store to buy multiple timers. I am big on having the right tools. One for my office, my bedroom, the kitchen, the den. And certainly the kids would want their own timers. I was flush with the sense of finally gaining some control. I don’t remember if I got anything else done that day, but I had me some excellent tools.
Today I couldn’t find my timer. Somebody moved it. I spent way more than 15 minutes finding it. I can add that to my to-do list, which I usually revise at the end of the day to reflect not what I was supposed to do, but what I had actually done. How else to get that sense of accomplishment that comes from checking things off?
Recently, instead of writing, I organized my scraps of paper and partially-filled notebooks. They are now neatly divided, by topic, into storage boxes. I figure I have the makings of three of four books in there. None finished. But at least I’m organized. For now.