How Badly Do You Want It?
This weekend I did something I never thought I'd end up doing again on purpose.
I used a sewing machine.
For the record, I haven't touched a sewing machine except to help a friend thread hers since Home Ec class in 7th grade. I made a pair of purple culottes as my project (Look, don't ask, okay? It was the 7th grade in the 80s. Don't judge.) and was utterly relieved when the sewing portion of the class was over. I'm just NOT cut out for sewing (Ha ha "cut out!" See what I did there? Yeah, I'll stop….).
Then why was I sewing, you may ask.
Well, I wanted something.
Most of you reading this blog know I'm a knitter. I'm still a baby knitter for the most part. I've been knitting almost two years now and have made exactly one sweater for a friend's baby. I've made hats and scarves and shawls and handwarmers and cupwarmers and all sorts of things. I have a yarn stash and books and needles in almost every size – to anyone coming in my office I look like I know what I'm doing.
Also, some of you know I've been on this cleaning kick for the past couple months. I found this great website that has really helped me keep my house clean(er. esque. Whatever. It's not a sty and no one is going to call the people at Hoarders on me. I hope.).
What's all this have to do with writing? Well, everything really.
You see, I get comments from people like, "I wish I had the time to * insert whatever it is I do that they want to do here *. You seem to have so much time. I wish I could _____ like you. You get so much done. You're always doing something. I want to _____."
Look. People. I've said it before, but this time I'll use different words. I have just as much or as little time as you do. My days don't have any more hours in them than yours do. I'm not a medical curiosity in that I don't require food or sleep (though that would save SO much time if I didn't have biological needs). I have responsibilities and liabilities and roadblocks and everything else. I have limits and demands on my time just like you. I'm not on a drug that lets me do more with my time.
The difference between me and the Wanters (I'll call them) is that I don't just WANT.
If I see something I want, I make it happen. (Except when it comes to losing weight. Then I make it happen and it comes right back. I blame genetics for this one.)
I'm totally lazy. I'm a huge procrastinator and nothing will ever get done if I don't make myself do it –
-and that's the thing. Right there.
If you don't make yourself do something you want done, it's not going to happen. That simple.
Want a clean house? Well, unless you find a cleaning fairy and enslave them (or an indentured servant or whatever), your house isn't going to get clean. So get off your ass and go put a load of laundry in the wash.
Want to knit a sweater? Pick up those needles and find a local knitting group to help you or head to YouTube.
Want a custom-made knitting bag out of cute fabric you saw at the yarn store? Borrow a sewing machine, look up how to do it online and spend your Saturday making that bad boy. (Oh, wait, that was me.)
That's the thing, people. If you want something badly enough, the only person going to make it happen is you.
Unless you win the lottery and start paying everyone to do everything. Which would be nice, but while you're sitting around waiting for that to happen, the dishes are piling up, the laundry is gaining sentience and the carpet in the living room is more dog hair than synthetic fiber.
It's easy to get caught up in doing things other than writing, and when you let stuff you want to do (or need to do, like make dinner) pile up, it just leads to discouragement and apathy and more procrastination. It's a vicious cycle.
You need to take that vicious cycle and make it your bitch.
No one is going to write that book for you. No one is going to just offer you a publishing contract. (Don't get me started on the sensational exceptions to this…they're just that. Exceptions, not the rule.) You have to write, you have to query, you have to do the work.
That's right. It's work. Like I said, I'm just as big a procrastinator as anyone. I'm also lazy. I cope with my laziness by holding myself to a schedule. I can take twenty minutes a day to clean something. If I do it every day, things get easy and start building on one another.
Just like writing. If you do it every day, a habit forms. It's said that it takes three weeks to make or break a habit. So start today. Right now. Set a reasonable goal for whatever it is you want to do and make it happen. The key word here is "REASONABLE." Don't say, "I'm going to run two miles every day!" when you haven't run more than a block in two years. Don't say, "I'm going to write 2000 words a day!" when you haven't written more than 100 in three months. Don't say, "I'm going to get all the laundry done this weekend!" when you have 10 loads. You'll be doing laundry all weekend, start to resent it and stop after two loads. Start slow, and be reasonable. Set a nice goal and achieve it. When you do that consistently, amp it up. Repeat.
Getting stuff done is all about how badly you want it, and it works for everything. It's not about willpower or commitment or tenacity or anything. It's about discipline.
Most people confuse "discipline" with "denial." You don't have to deny yourself anything or punish yourself for not doing whatever it is you want to do. Don't make your wordcount? Well, write a little extra the next day to make up for it. Eat a cookie on your diet? So what. Everyone needs a cookie now and then. Just don't eat the whole package. Or if you do, don't have one the following day.
The point of all this is, if you want something done, you have to do it yourself, just like the old saying goes. If you're like me and you're lazy, you just have to get into the habit of doing things.
And you have to want it badly enough. I started this cleaning thing a few months ago because I went to dinner at a friend's house and it was spotless. Like "the-houses-on-TV" spotless. It smelled nice and was just utterly peaceful. I went home that night, looked at my hovel and said to myself, "Wow. I wish my house were as clean as hers."
Then I realized the only way that was going to happen was if I made it happen. So I went online, researched how to get started on the clutter and went from there. I found something that works for me, fits into my schedule and that I'll keep up with. It took me a month to get my house in the shape to where it was decent enough to be kept regularly clean with the twenty-minute schedule, and another month to get it working like clockwork. Now I'm not saying my house was terrible, but we've lived here almost twelve years now and things you just never think about had to be done. One of the things on the website's cleaning list was "organize the linen closet."
Yeah, the first time that came up on the schedule, it took hours, not twenty minutes. There were a LOT of runs to the local secondhand store where we dropped off donations. Husband and I went through our closets and dressers. The kitchen cabinets got (mostly) gone through. (How many coffee mugs do you really need, anyway?) You get the idea. It took time to get things done, but I wanted it.
I wanted it badly enough that I made it happen.
So go do whatever it is you want done. Then you can stop being a Wanter and start being someone who comes home to a clean house to write in. When you're done with your writing, you can knit or game or whatever it is that you do in your downtime. Turn off the TV and make a new schedule for yourself with reasonable goals.
Unless you don't want really want to.