Declare Your Do-Over Today. (I Am.)

by Annie

in overwhelm, vision + goals

blank canvas with a container of colored pencils

New beginnings, a clean slate, a fresh start.

A white page of paper, free of marks. A freshly-cracked blank book. A blank canvas or a blank screen on your computer’s word processing app.

The first day of the year

The first day of spring

The first day of school

The first day of the week or the month

I needed a new start.

I’ve fallen into serious disrepair as a productive human being.

Last year brought so many deep, sudden, big changes – a new state, a new home, a new focus, a lot of failure, some successes but all of it seeming to split into two parts – before move and after move.

There was definitely a period at the end of a sentence. Or maybe it was a semicolon. Some kind of punctuation though – marking the closing of one chapter and the subsequent beginning of another.

At the time, I was focused on the space in between. That’s usually where I do the planning and strategizing and goal-setting when I find myself in between chapters in my own personal story.

This time, though, it was all I could do to turn the page.

Try as I might, the planning part of my brain — the part that prompted my father to tell 15 year old me “You’ll never be satisfied until you know how to take the car engine apart and put it back together again” when he was teaching me how to drive — that analytical, observant, break-it-down-into-constituent-parts-then-reassemble part wasn’t working. It stubbornly refused to haul its lazy ass out of bed.

That was eight months ago.

Since then, I’ve been struggling, I don’t mind telling you.

It’s been hard. I haven’t been sleeping well. My health hasn’t been the best as my body has fought to adjust to a completely different climate and my chronic pain has whipsawed wildly from one extreme to another.

And I haven’t slept very well at all in all those eight months. Bouts of insomnia for three, four, six days on end, where I’m lucky if I get a total of five fitful hours, followed by a few nights of blessed unconsciousness, only to repeat over and over again.

During this time I’ve been working when I can on a new project for Pajama Productivity – a podcast just for freelancers and other Couch Warriors on productivity, wellness, and creative work. It’s a labor of love in the truest sense — I have never really regretted quitting theater, but I do miss performing sometimes, and podcasting seemed like a great way to bring it back into my life while still honoring my fascination with all things creatively productive.

My original launch date: January 2nd of this year.

You’ll note today is the first day of May.

And that there’s no podcast link anywhere on this page.

Yeeeeep.

A few things were at work there. One: I was struggling to survive. See above. Two: I grossly underestimated the amount of work a podcast would require. For the record, it is not as easy as “writing a blog post and then reading it out loud.” Not. Even. Close.

But I need to be honest here – even when it’s painful, and this is … kinda painful to admit:

The third reason was the biggest reason, and it is that I got scared.

The closer I got to launching, the more overwhelmed I became. The more choices I began stalling on making. The more questions I had. The more uncertain I became. The more insecure I became.

The more neurotic I became.

(Yeah, a little neurotic. Hey, it happens. We’re human.)

I began second-guessing everything in my life. Should I really be doing a podcast at all? Shouldn’t I be focusing on getting more writing clients? Shouldn’t I actually be focusing on writing my own fiction? Oh, but wait … should I focus on my fiction at all? Really, shouldn’t I be focusing on expanding the PJ Productivity brand? Maybe work on that nonfiction book I’ve been writing for what seems like eons?

Just when I thought I’d answered one question — no, put the podcast aside for now; yes, more clients; no to fiction, yes to nonfiction — something would happen and thrust me all the way back to start — but the podcast would really help the nonfiction! then do you really have time for more clients?

And the whole blasted cycle would start all over again.

This went on for months, with a bit of time off here and there for not-so-good behavior.

And then it wasn’t January. It wasn’t February. It was March. Then it was April.

And damn it all, who launches a podcast in April?

Or even worse – in May?

JUNE? Are you kidding me? When everyone’s going on summer break?

Might as well wait until September.

That brings us to this past weekend, when my thought-splosion hit critical mass.

I realized that it was time to drag my own ass back to First Principles. To wit:

  1. If I want different results, I need to get comfortable with the notion of doing something differently, which means …
  2. I must also get comfortable with the notion of being uncomfortable, at least for a time. Change almost never feels good for very long – did you ever notice that? Right about when it starts to feel weirdly discomfiting is when most of us stop and revert back to one.
  3. And to have a hope of achieving those different results, I needed to first get clear on what those results would look like, and then…
  4. I had to make a commitment. I had to decide on a path to get there. Not necessarily the only possible path — in fact, very rarely in life will you encounter situations where there’s only one way forward to a goal.

Hell, even for something as simple (note I did not say “as easy”) as losing weight, you can choose from dozens of diets and exercise plans, right?

But all those interests, all those goals, all those projects … they’re means to an end (or a few possible ends, maybe). They’re all things I want to do, but that doesn’t mean I can do them all at once.

I have to choose.

I had to choose.

So I did. I decided. I chose.

We’re launching a podcast.

It may be a failure. Only six episodes may ever see the light of day. I say “six” because that’s how many scripts I have fleshed out in varying stages of completion. We’re going to produce those six and then we’ll re-evaluate.

But that will happen. I’m aiming for June 1st for the first two episodes, then one a week or so thereafter.

Yes, starting a productivity podcast on June 1st feels weird to me, because I’ve always been drawn to the power of the start, the inherent energy in a natural alignment of purpose and beginning that you find in …

The first day of the year.

The first day of spring.

The first day of school.

But this weekend, what hit me was this:

We can start over any damn day, time, month, season, year, hour that we want.

Today, I’m starting over. I’ll be writing and publishing something on this site every fucking day of May. Thirty-one posts. Some – maybe even all! – might be fairly short.  But there will be a new post here every day of the month.

I don’t know if I will keep doing that once June rolls around. We’ll see how it goes.

But for the next 31 days, I’m going to be heavily and deeply engaged in starting over and launching the Pajama Productivity Podcast for Couch Warriors and Other Creatives. The posts here will mostly be about that process — lessons learned and relearned, how to drag yourself back to the start when you get lost and overwhelmed on your favorite creative projects, because that seems like something we all struggle with on occasion, maybe?

If that sounds like something you’d like to follow along with and participate in, then here’s what you do:

  1. Sign up for the PJP list. Every day I’ll send you a short, spam-free email with that day’s post. Just enter your name and email in the box on the right side of the page, if you’re reading this on the website. (If you’re reading this in an email message, great news! You’re already on the list. You can proceed to #2.)
  2. Think about your near-and-dear-and-possibly-frustrating creative project. The one that’s maybe making you a little bit crazy. Hold it in your thoughts for a good solid minute. Now, ask yourself: Are you ready to commit to it? Or is it time to look for a new project? If you’re ready to commit, then …
  3. Figure out your MDR. Your Minimum Daily Requirement. The smallest action you can take on a daily basis over the next month to coax that project closer to the light of day. For me, it’s a combination of stuff which I’ll be posting about daily; the daily posts serve a dual purpose — an accountability measure for me to keep me on track, as well as part of the content creation process.
  4. Optional, but I really hope you do this: Email me and tell me what it is. Describe your project! Tell me what your MDR is! I’d really like to know. I will read and reply to every. Single. Message. That’s my promise to you. If you have a question, ask it — I’ll do my best to answer it or suggest a resource that might help. (Seriously, I have the world’s largest collection of creative productivity resources, I’m fairly sure. My pro-level Evernote membership is already in danger of bursting at the seams, for this sole reason.)
  5. Come back tomorrow. We’ll talk more then.

 

 

photo credit: Rishi S Blank Canvas via photopin (license)

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