It’s been a rough quarantine.
I say it that way because there hasn’t really been a “break” for me since it all started. In fact, I think it all started right when the boys were born. Sure, yeah, I went back to work in my private tutoring business for about two months before everything shut down, but even then I was only working half the day and the other half I was taking care of the boys.
Last week I hit THAT breaking point. You know the one. We’ve all sort of stumbled into it or ran full steam into it since lockdown began, for those of us who do self-isolate. Every day is the same. Nothing breaks the monotony. There’s nothing to look forward to. Because of these feelings, you experience lethargy, laziness, a sense that nothing matters, so you don’t do anything to change it, thus, this perpetuates the cycle, creating an infinite loop of doing nothing and feeling bad for doing nothing.
So, what do you do? When you’re stuck, rotating in the same direction again and again and again?
You get out of it.
Yesterday, after breakfast, I cleaned the entire backyard. Pulled the weeds that like to pop up in early February, rearranged the furniture to make the flow a little easier (we don’t have the biggest backyard so this is critical), and tuned up the furniture (some of the screws and bolts had become a little loose, so, you know, tightening them).
Then, after that, I rolled right into the garage. We also have a small garage, single car, so optimization of space is equally critical. I ordered some more shelving units online, put aside the boxes we need to go through to toss stuff out of to the front of the garage (which, when the shelving units arrive, will all be empty space), then moved the shelves we do have to create a better storage system of “Stuff We Don’t Always Need” to “Stuff We Usually Need” so when my car blocks it, it’s not a huge deal.
And, man, my mind feels a thousand times better. A million.
Autumn Christian (who’s newsletter you can subscribe to here but only if you’re old enough) wrote this little bit that perfectly encapsulated how I felt:
So I finally decided on a hard reset. Last night I disconnected from everything. Shut off my computer and phone. I made dinner and read on my Kindle for hours until I went to bed. Then I got up, wrote for 90 minutes, went to my grandparent’s farm for a few hours, and came back to write this newsletter. I immediately felt 80% better, although it was a hard climb out of the sludge of my sadness. ( And I still haven’t checked any of my social media. )
A lot of my problems feel abstract but have simple concrete solutions. I need food, sleep, sunlight, health, purpose, novelty, and fun. If one of the pillars collapses my whole mood tends to go. Existential despair seems to arise for the silliest reasons.Autumn Christian, Teach Robots Love Vol. 121
And it was one of those moments where I read it and went, “Yeah. That’s me. That’s exactly me.”
I hard reset. I spent the entire day disconnected, except for industrial rock blasting in my ears, and I got to work.
You are in full control of how you’re feeling, you just may not be aware of it. It took me putting aside my ego and asking my wife if she would spend the day with the boys while I took care of the house for 7 hours to feel better.
I had to ask for help.
So, about these weekly writing goals…
This isn’t a radical, new, completely original idea, but one that strangely gave me a lot of hope the moment I committed to writing them down.
It’s a simple exercise: Write out what you want to write this week. That’s it. No daily deadlines. No timeframe to get them finished except for it all has to be done by the end of the week. The problem for me was I would get caught up in the day-to-day, thinking small picture. If I didn’t write a thousand words on Monday, then the rest of the week was shot because I couldn’t even get it up for the first day! This alleviates that, spreading the workload out over a week instead of a day.
-I know that I need to keep up my online presence, so, 5 blog posts this week. Two longform (this being one of them) and three STATUS ones.
-Then, Project: GREY, the current WIP, needs at least another 5k words this week, so as long as I hit that by Saturday then it doesn’t matter what I’m writing daily.
-The other writing projects need outline updates and plot revisions, so I’m working on those too, with hard, discernible goals in mind. DEED had a full outline revision with pen and paper, so I need to type up those changes by Saturday. NESS is the Gamma project, so, that only needs one chapter finished before I can leave it alone.
I know the week is never on my side, and having two boys doesn’t help the “I need to sit at my desk for however long it takes” vibe a lot of authors give off, but, I’ll find time. Be it at night or during their nap, there’s always a moment to get a little writing done, so long as it’s all in pushing toward my weekly goals.
Willpower. Tell yourself to do something you think you can’t.
Thanks for reading,