Let’s talk about choices

Tonight I chose to watch Legally Blond on TV instead of working on my WIP. My plan was, of course, to write during the movie, which I’ve seen multiple times. I’d opened a bottle of wine and decided that a position stretched out on the sofa, laptop on knee, would be far more comfortable than sitting perched at my desk. It had been a hard day at the office, after all. The movie — which I happen to also own on DVD — would be no more than a backdrop to my productive tap tap tapping.

As it turns out, I would have been better served to inject the DVD and watch the movie without advertisements. At least then it would have finished more quickly, leaving more time with the TV switched off for me to resume productivity… Because I did not produce one word during the two hours I sprawled in front of that movie. I watched the entire program avidly, commercials and all.

So… Let’s talk about choices.

I blogged recently about the craziness of having two careers. My conclusion was that I write because I can’t not write, but this is perhaps a convenient perspective. A writer friend of mine has regularly stated on her blog that she will not complain about her crazy schedule because she chooses to live her life this way. That struck a chord in me.

Everything in our lives comes down to choices. Whether or not to run a red light. Or visit our family. Or turn up to work. Or make it to the gym. As writers we become fixated on choices during storytelling. The choices our characters make define the plot — and the characters themselves.

Thus do I choose to write, to have two careers. This decision defines me. I must not complain either.

Sometimes it is hard, however, when one is about to explode from all the activities one has chosen to fit into one’s life, not to scream with the frustration of it all. Right now, for example, I am tearing my hair out trying to determine how to squeeze exercise into my schedule. When every waking minute outside of career #1 is accounted for — currently a combination of working on my WIP, blogging, reading/showing support for other WANA112 participants’ blogs, plus a news and Dr Who TV-dinner allotment of 1.5 hours per day — where is the workout to go?

Again, I have to make a choice.

Which brings me back to tonight’s choice. What possessed me to try to write with Legally Blond on TV? I love that movie! Deep down, I knew when I put it on that my productivity would suffer. (I did, however, manage to squeeze in a half-hour walk before dinner.)

Sometimes the choices are hard, and this is perhaps where discipline comes in. I have previously discussed the whole ‘bum on seat’ concept, and usually, if I make it as far as opening my WIP document, I produce the goods. Thus I am a little bit mad with myself for wasting a writing opportunity this evening.

However, I also recognise that I am currently tired and emotional (for various reasons). I tell myself that, just as we can choose to take on a second career and have a crazy life, so can we also choose to take a break every once in a while.

How about you guys? How often do you cut yourself some slack and give yourself some chill-out time? How closely related are ‘choice’ and ‘discipline’?

21 thoughts on “Let’s talk about choices

  1. Excellent! This subject is hot on my mind and probably on most of the WANA members’ minds (and every other person trying to stuff a size 12 life into a size 6 time allowance). Tough fit. Whether we write seriously or humorously to relieve the pressure, we’re still in the “challenge zone.”

    It helps to hear how others 1) suffer similarly, 2) procrastinate and 3) find solutions.

    Well said and succinctly presented, Ellen.


  2. Loved this post, and I can so relate to it! My problem is I tend to give myself too much chill-out time because I’m terrible in the discipline department. Then I justify it as a ‘brainstorming’ session to minimize guilt. I always have pen and paper to write down any ideas that come to mind. Yesterday, I actually penned 3 before I dozed off in the chair! My choice today is to be more productive and actually get off the runway. Here’s hoping discipline will agree to be my co-pilot.


    1. It’s a good idea to minimize guilt. Guilt is not a productive feeling for most. For me it always leads to more procrastination and avoidance.

      Instead I acknowledge to myself that I could have done more, but didn’t and tell myself that I’ll do better in the future. And because I don’t feel guilty I usually do. 🙂


    2. I know, discipline is really really hard. I ‘forgot’ to mention that the previous evening I watched The Proposal. I justified this by simultaneously reading and commenting on a bunch of blogs… But I was still supposed to working on my WIP. I told myself I was ‘multi-tasking’ lol

      And yes, guilt is evil. But I think I tend to feel mad with myself, rather than guilty. Probably because I’m not answering to anyone other than myself (mostly).


  3. I always cut myself slack when I’m sick (like right now). Also if I am emotionally tired or just plain exhausted (usually from sleeping too little too long). Those are the usual times.

    I might cut myself extra slack if I’m trying to make a big decision. Because that requires more mental and emotional energy than one would think.

    I’ve noticed that every day I have physical energy (like how much I can exercise, etc. before I get too tired), mental energy (how much I can focus, or how long I can stay focused in stretches), and last and most important emotional energy. Those make up my day to day state.

    I don’t know how it is with others. But if I argue with someone early in the day, I’ll be a kind of exhausted the rest of the day. If I start the day on a gloomy note, I seem so tired. On the other hand if I start my day happy, I can do anything and everything. Sometimes I can bribe my emotional state into some productivity even on a bad day. I’ll do this fun thing first, then I’ll do the “chore” (on any other day it might be something I like), then fun, then “chore”, etc.

    So I cut myself slack when I notice that I’m slipping significantly in one of the three energy areas, or slipping some in more than one. So if I’m low on physical energy (like right now, I have a cold) and I’m low on emotional energy (I have loads of stuff that need doing, but I’ve been more sick the last few days), then I make sure both to relax (for my illness) and to try and get some things done on my chores, so they won’t overwhelm me later.

    It is important to remember that even though you only live one life, you should enjoy it too. If I’m to sit down with my writing and realize that I’m just tired and so unmotivated (as long as I realize it isn’t just procrastination), I’ll put writing aside and do something that I want more at the moment. But it’s always a balancing act, because I’ll be unsatisfied with my life if I don’t work on my passions regularly. (Sorry for the long reply. 🙂 )


  4. You gotta know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em. The other day I let my daughter skip her choir practice and took her shopping instead. She’s only missed one other practice this year, and it was so worth seeing the smile on her face and the spring in her step when she went off to school in her new clothes.


  5. Yes — today I chose to go sit with a friend over lunch instead of staying home and reading/catching up on blogs. So now, instead of WIP I’m back to blogs. But the friend needed it … and truly, so did I. I’ll be a better all-around person and still have friends in my life at the end of the current book, even if my WIP must wait one more day…


    1. I hear you, Carrie! I find reasons to meet friends just to get me away from the cursed computer (and usually work in a walk to meet them too)! We all need a life away from the screen.


  6. I usually cut myself some slack by reminding myself that I AM doing 2 full time jobs (as well as parenting 2 high needs children). Lately, I’ve been asking myself more and more “At the end of the day, what really matters?” I’m not always good at letting go of what I didn’t do, but I’m getting better at reminding myself what I DID accomplish. The exercise thing is a tough one for me, though, especially in the winter. I’ve been considering creating a treadmill desk for work so I can be moving all day long. 🙂


    1. My problem is that the career that ‘matters’ to me is not the one that currently pays – lol But your idea of focusing on what you DID accomplish is awesome! I’m going to try that.


  7. Ooh, great post! I’ve been working on discipline for awhile now. I’ve come to realize, though, that part of that “productivity” thing is good habits, but the other part is knowing your writing process.

    Sometimes I have to think it out in my head before I sit down to write, and sometimes that think it out part will not be satisfied with ten or fifteen minutes’ worth of thinkin’ time. At that point, I have to choose to either take up something with my hands (to get out of the way of the Girls In The Basement), or work on another writing project at a different stage of the game (ie, editing versus producing pages).

    I might have a tip for working in your exercise. When I am very good, I write for 1-2 hours on a treadmill desk (that is, the treadmill I bought used for $150 and a piece of MDF particle board set on top of the arms where my laptop rests).


    1. Hi Athena – thanks for stopping by. Process is definitely part of it. I often need ‘thinking’ or brainstorming time, particularly when starting a new scene. It can make it hard to make use of small time windows.

      As for your write-on-treadmill idea… I just don’t think I could do that! I really don’t think I could produce anything under such circumstances. If I could, though, it would certainly solve one of my challenges!


  8. I am a woman of endless goals, lists, and sort’ve well kept schedules. It’s a guaranteed recipe for frustration, considering that I don’t think people were created to be robots plowing through life. ( And that’s not to mention how annoyed the family gets when they inadvertently step in my path and I steamroll right over them on my way to the next mission.)


  9. Oh, Barbara, me too. Lists and more lists. And yellow highlighters. I hate it when there’s lots of yellow left 😦

    Tonight, though, I have achieved EVERYTHING on my very long list of stuff to do! Although it is 1:30am – ouch!


  10. I guess you take annual leave (and maybe even a sickie;) from your day job – so yes I think there’s a time for chilling out every now and then.


I'd love to hear from you...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s