It has been a crazy couple of weeks. I have a lot going on right now, and life has been kind of chaotic. I have been babysitting my grandkids a lot, which usually means spending nights at my parents’ house. I was also in the process of preparing to move. My parents own my house, and needed to sell it, but my boyfriend and I decided, for a variety of reasons, to sell his house and buy mine together. This has been a great solution to a multitude of problems, but it means we are in the process of cleaning out his house so we can sell it, not to mention moving his stuff into mine. This is a long process with many stages. It also means a lot of things are up in the air right now.
Around the last part of March/first part of April, I finished a couple of major projects. I completed the a/b draft of Curse of the Onyx Heart. I wrapped up my edit of Blade of Shadows, Wings of Light. I also processed and finalized the editor’s work on The Soul Cages and now that is ready to go to the formatter and cover designer, once I write a blurb for it. So, I’d planned to spend April working on some new projects, specifically, two short stories that have been percolating in my brain for a while.
Well, last Wednesday, I sat down to start the first short story, but my brain said, “Nope!” and compelled me to spend three hours deep-cleaning the house. Now, this did need to be done, especially since we were having guests for dinner that night, but the fact that I haven’t started the story yet is a problem. It is, specifically, a problem with getting started.
What I’m lacking is activation energy. In chemistry, activation energy is the energy you need to put into a system to get a chemical reaction to occur. It’s kind of an important concept. This might be heat, or some sort of substance (like sugar), or motion, it could be many things (I’m not a chemist, so fill in your own blanks here). It’s the same kind of thing when we’re talking about productivity, especially for us neuropunk folks, who have trouble directing our attention and struggle, in particular, with starting and with transitions. You need to do something to focus yourself to get you started. This can be many things.
Maybe it’s a ritual you go through that tells you, “It’s time to write now,” (or clean or label your novelty bong collection I’m not your mom). For me, I put a new scented wax in the warmer (rainy spring day is my favorite) then go through a ten-minute meditation, usually “The Daily Trip” by Jeff Warren on the calm app. That usually resets my brain and gives me the energy to get started. Sometimes, I need to do something physical like take a walk or do some push-ups. It just depends on how physically restless I am.
There are simpler rituals. Mel Robbins has something called “The Five Second Rule” that works for a lot of people. You set in mind what you want to do, count down 5-4-3-2-1 then go! When you reach 0. This kind of hijacks your brain and gets it to cooperate. I’ve used this and this is good if I’m trying to go from a sedentary state and motivate myself to get up and take a walk. It also helps get me out of bed in the morning (which honestly is a struggle). It can also help with more sedate tasks, though I kind of feel a physical charge upon hitting the bottom of the countdown and that can backfire if I need to sit down and do some work at my desk. It’s worth trying to see if it works for you.
Your ritual can be anything. For some writers, making a cup of coffee can help them center themselves and can be a sign that they’re getting started. Others swear by jumping jacks. I usually find that once I get started on something, I can stay on task for about an hour to ninety minutes, if I’m interested in it (not to mention properly medicated). To help me with that, I usually set a timer on my fitbit that tells me how much time on task I have left. This helps me elude the many, many distractions that call to me as I try to get work done. Also, there are neuropunks who can’t stand background news, and those that absolutely must have background noise. I need background noise, usually in the form of music. When I’m drafting and/or editing, I try to avoid music with lyrics, which means I have a couple of playlists that are made up of movie and video game scores. This type of thing is engaging enough to keep me in my seat, but not distracting.
So, if you’re having trouble getting started, or with moving from one task to another, try to develop a ritual that centers you on the task you wish to begin, and invests some activation energy into the process. This is helpful even if you are not on the neuropunk spectrum.
Tomorrow, I will get back to the writing and start my shorty story. I have it plotted on my board. I’ve already composed the first lines in my head. I can do this. I will do this. And I will use my rituals to invest the activation energy into making it happen.