dorothystewartblog

about writing and life and God

The elephant is the problem

on November 12, 2012

I had a whole day when I could have been writing. But did I? Oh no.

I have frittered away the time doing errands, playing Sudoku, checking emails, reading other people’s blogs, a bit of shopping, chatting with friends… and all with that uncomfortable guilty feeling in the back of my head. That nagging that says ‘You should be at your desk’.

Because it is definitely time to commit. To push off from the safety of the riverbank into the mainstream.

To get writing.

Why is it so hard? Why do we tend to fiddle and fidget and sharpen pencils, suddenly find the filing or the ironing so appealing?

Why, when we know we’ll be much happier getting down to work, do we get in our own way?

It’s not as if the project I need to get going on is open-ended, or full of the scary and unknown like a new novel. I have a deadline, not too far away and not too scary. I have a plan. I’ve even got 29/40ths done!

Yet still I am dragging my feet.

I’m sure if I were to turn this post into a ‘How to commit’ or ‘How to defeat the procrastination demons’ I could come up with plenty of ideas. Some of them good. Many of them workable.

It’s not ideas I’m short of. It’s application.

I’m sure you’ve felt like this too.

All I need to do is apply the seat of the chocolate brown cord jeans I’m wearing today to the seat of the chair in front of my laptop… No. That’s not true.

The problem is the elephant.

Close up, ready to dive in, suddenly the project feels rather large and daunting. At a distance (in the proposal I sent to the publisher resulting in the contract with the end of December deadline), it looked perfectly manageable. Now I am daunted. Elephants close up are big.

Long ago, on one of those leadership training programmes so beloved of 1980s trainers, there was a popular motivational catch-phrase. It went:

Question: How do you eat an elephant?

Answer: One bite at a time.

In other words, break it up into chunks you can deal with comfortably. And that’s what I need to do. The chunks I thought I’d planned turn out to be still too big. I need to break them down still further, to baby-steps, steps any idiot (e.g. me) can accomplish easily and without breaking any kind of sweat.

So that gets me nicely off the hook today. I can go downstairs with my coffee and my notebook and my masterplan, and work on creating a flowchart of smaller steps.

Tomorrow? Well, tomorrow, it looks like I may not be able to duck it any longer. Not when I’ve confessed all here!

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2 responses to “The elephant is the problem

  1. Adrianne says:

    Ooh, I know that one so well! Good luck with those bite sizes.

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