So about a year ago, at Lucky Star Art Camp, another woman and I decided that we would spend the next 100 days as accountability partners. We would both be working on 100 days of writing, and we figured we would text each other to check in, encourage, and basically hold one another to the project.
Fast-forward about a year later and we’re still going.
It didn’t go exactly as planned. While we have remained steadfast in our support of one another, we have always been courteous first. Kind. Forgiving. So when she--Keri—has a fever and is sick and not feeling well, and thus not really up for the writing task at hand, I, like any good friend, have let her off the hook. “Get better,” I’ve said, “the work can wait.”
She too has been nothing if not considerate. When I explained to her that the combination of homeschooling and working from home was more than I expected and that I couldn’t really do as much as I had hoped, and then that slowly drifted into nothing much at all, she was nothing if not understanding. While she encouraged me to continue working, and remained supportive, she never overstepped.
We were the two most polite texters in the world.
And then a few weeks ago, we began weekly Skype sessions. And the gloves came off.
In the best possible way.
We have a little format for our calls…we tell each other our project highs, lows, and new information for the week, and then we go over our upcoming goals. And this week, I didn’t have a whole lot done. I explained that things were hectic. I had a lot of work projects. I had the kids to teach. And plus I was in the middle of reading a really good book.
“As soon as I’m done this book,” I explained, “I’m going to do xyz.”
“But what about next week?” she asked.
“Well, what about next week? I mean, there’s always something, right?” she said.
(Can you even believe she said this?!?!?!)
And then she topped it off.
“If your kids were in the hospital, you’d put all this stuff down,” she said. “So is your project important enough for you to put your book down?”
(Seriously. Can you believe this?)
The thing is, she was totally right. Like, spot on. It’s not always the easiest thing to hear, but wow…did I ever need to hear it.
And as much as I was blown away by her insanely effective insight, I couldn’t even imagine not finishing the book.
How did this even happen? How did I get to the point where I was putting everything ahead of my project?
I’ll tell you what I’ve figured out. Maybe you already know this and maybe you’re just figuring it out yourselves, but it’s the kind of thing that even though I know, I have to get called out on it once in a while to make myself remember.
Here’s the thing. It is so incredibly easy to do anything other than the thing that is calling us.
People joke about procrastination. And in college, and even work settings, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal.
“I work better under pressure,” we tell ourselves.
Or even better, “I’m just so busy.”
Again, it is so incredibly easy to do anything other than the thing that is calling us.
The weird thing is that when we’re procrastinating—because make no mistake about it, that’s what we’re doing—we become really, impressively good at telling ourselves that we’re not.
There are times when we know it’s happening, like when we choose to watch back-to-back episodes of Stranger Things rather than work on a project. But there are also times when our procrastination is so subtle, so convincing, that we don’t think it’s procrastination at all.
Two years ago, though I was smack dab in the middle of book writing, I began getting worried that I wasn’t doing any paid work. I had taken a break from freelancing to work on the book, and it had been longer than expected and I naturally began to wonder where in hell I was going to get a paycheck when I needed one.
I started to think that I should, and that in fact, I needed to create a business. I didn’t actually have any business plans, or ideas, or even hopes. I just became obsessed. And to have this unnamed and unfathomable business, I would naturally have to learn about it. And so I planned to enroll in Marie Forleo’s B School, which is supposed to be the most end-all be-all amazing online run-your-own business school around. And it costs $2500.
So obviously, I had to find a way—HAD. TO. FIND. A. WAY.—to round up $2500 to go to B School so I could successfully run my unnamed, undeveloped and potentially uninteresting company.
People, if you are shaking your head, I hear you. I, too, am shaking my head right now. But I cannot tell you how absolutely urgent this was. How absolutely certain I was that this, rather than continue writing my book, was where I needed to put my energies.
And I called my husband and a few friends and they all said, “Well yes, if that’s what you think you need to do,” because I have become really good at defending my points about following your dreams.
And then I called my friend Jessica, who is very practical. And business oriented. And this is what she said, “WHAT?! Dan…you do not need to start a business. What you need is a J.O.B. And finish your book.”
I was furious. She was totally right.
It’s so incredibly easy to do anything other than the thing that is calling us.
I went back to freelancing and kept working on the book.
But, sometimes it’s even subtler, and there’s no one around to push you back on track. Just today I got stuck pinning DIY Christmas gifts on Pinterest. And it’s real…I need to get gifts. Makes some sense to make them. OF COURSE, I should be looking on Pinterest.
See how it happens? There are things we tell ourselves are important. And there are things that actually are important. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t have fun, watch television, craft our little hearts out or start businesses. What I’m saying is that deep down, whatever your thing is, whether it’s learning photography or traveling with your kids or enrolling in a class or writing a book, attention has to be paid to that thing. It has to be important. In fact, it has to be more important than almost anything else.
It’s easy to read that. It’s not always so easy to maintain it.
Sometimes, despite our very best intentions, it’s hard to stick to the course.
And that’s where certain friends, accountability partners, or Steven Pressfield come in…while you may forget that doing things other than your project are just another form of procrastination, they won’t.
And they can give you the good swift kick in the ass you need to remember.
Danielle Davies (@daniellendavies) is the creator of the internet sensation, My Life with Bradley Cooper, as well as a writer and artist living in New Jersey. Read more...
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