I thought I was so systematic but really I’m not at all!

I found out how truly unsystematic I am by setting a schedule for myself and not following it. That happened because I invented Finishing School. I invented Finishing School because I wanted to finish things I start. I wanted to finish things I start because I feel crummy when I don’t. Crummy is a polite word.

Also I’m too hard on myself. I had two therapists in one day tell me that. I think I just try to see things as they are and not be crushed by them. To others that looks like being hard on myself. So I try not to be too hard on myself about being too hard on myself. But it’s hard, because I want also to know the truth about myself.

The truth is that I am not very systematic. I just think I am.

But I am inventive. That sometimes makes up for not being systematic. If I find a vexatious shortcoming I cannot mend, then I make up a program around it and involve others and then it becomes a service to humanity, not a character flaw.

Tonight we gather again in the living room, seven of us each saying, this is how I break my gargantuan task into doable weekly pieces; this is the part I am finishing now; this is my goal.

And lifelong wishes get built piece by piece.

I know that for me the obsession with finishing, and the fear of not finishing, stems from my fear of repeating my father’s shortcomings. If I could finish the things I start and also be as smart and funny as he was that would be better but I don’t think so. At least I get to finish something — in this case the novel. Ha ha.

I say Ha ha but it is getting done. And the ways I am solving the problems in the novel may be interesting to others. Perhaps I will share some of that as I get closer to finishing.

So: To recap: We do finishing school by deciding every week what part of whatever gargantuan impossible project we want to finish this week and telling people. We mark out time on a calendar. We get assigned a creative buddy and we call or email or text our creative buddy before and after each creative session.

Here is the part where I find out how unsystematic I am: I write down on a calendar what I am going to do and then don’t do it. I get to watch myself not doing it.

But here is the other part: I set this goal and say I am going to do it at one particular time and don’t do that but then wake up at some other time and do it. It comes upon me unbidden, and I buckle down and disappear into the work and emerge hours later as if out of a trance, and work has been done.

I try to be systematic and instead I encounter my essential anarchic nature. But the work gets done!

3 thoughts on “I thought I was so systematic but really I’m not at all!”

  1. Writing is 80% pure cussed, dogged, consistent work. The Muse is lovely, when she shows up, but the rest is all about tenacity and discipline, day after day after day.

  2. My shrink suggested I read The War of Art. I’m leary of reading anything about the creative process. It’s like an authoritarian so-and-so admonishing, “Be spontaneous, right now, damn it! ”
    Succumbing to the victimization wrought by putting myself in such a position destroys the sanctity of eminent domain over my experience of my experience of my experience. And my rebellion in opposition to all that is just a loosely formulated protocol that has brought me many
    fine moments of letting loose my voice
    and getting a bunch of disproportionate accolades for having
    done so.
    My creative muses have always been cloaked in shimmering gowns of spontaneity and ambiguity. I create the context whereby ambiguity winds its way to an inevitable conclusion, or 3 inevitable conclusions. And so externally imposed structure – such as ‘I gotta finish’ – throws my brain into a tailspin.
    The War of Art was recently recommended to me again. About 5 times now, I’ve re-started reading it, & every time, though I get a little further along. I don’t want to ever actually finish reading the book. I’d rather wallow in its unknowing and unknowable mystique.
    BUT, and here’s the rub: the guy (like many, many priductive and seminal writers) – the writer gets up at 6:00, makes his tea, and starts writing. That’s his day. It’s just like his yesterday and his tomorrow.
    If that’s what it takes to be a good writer, then dear God, let me be a mediocre writer, PUHLEEZE. That
    kind of discipline is mastubatory. It’s
    routine, it risks nothing much, it’s predictable and safe and dispassionate. It’s self-serving to a fault.
    With some things, I have no problem playing it safe: when to do the laundry, when to put gas in the car, when to watch an episode of Mike and Molly.
    With other stuff, the tension and angst and nakedness and fire are the whole point. If I can’t translate those onto a blank computer monitor, I’m wasting my ADHD-riddled time.
    Robots are engineered, but creativity can’t be – if that’s sufficiently ambiguous.
    So it seems to me.

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