Word of the day: Cunctator


noun: One who hesitates; a procrastinator or delayer

When I saw this word hit my inbox (from A.Word.A.Day) last week, I knew I had to share it — even if only as a reminder to myself that I must not embody its meaning.

This evening, however, I fear I deserve it as a descriptor.

The more friends you make on social media, the more time it takes to catch up on all their adventures… Today’s post from Rachelle Gardner, My love/hate relationship with social media, sums up my state of mind exactly. I feel as though I could almost have written this…!

… Because social media (Facebook and a few blogs, to be precise) is exactly what has distracted me this evening, and suddenly it’s 11pm and I don’t feel in the least like opening my WIP, because I’m tired and annoyed with myself; but of course I should open it and write something, because something is better than nothing — right?

(I should point out that it was considerably earlier than 11pm when I first conceived the notion of writing this post, so this in itself is evidence of my being a cunctator.)

Trying to figure out what to prioritise is hard. I have achieved my 10,000 steps today — huzzah! — but that seems like a shallow victory in the face of my being a cunctator. (I dunno, the word sits a little awkwardly on the page, don’t you think? Am I using it correctly?)

And so must I remember my own self pep-talk from last week – tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it. Tomorrow I will not be a cunctator! Rah!

Every day is new, with no mistakes in it

“Every day is new, with no mistakes in it.”

This is the first of two powerful life lessons I learnt long ago from the novel Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. I quote it to myself often, especially when I find myself getting frustrated about falling behind in my daily goals and not achieving all I want to.

It’s so easy to beat ourselves up over failing to perform. Not enough words/exercise/networking. Too much TV/bad food/procrastination. There are so many obstacles to surmount when we’re aiming high. Let’s face it: the path of least resistance is NEVER the path towards our dream.

The good news is that even if we find ourselves meandering through a meadow of flowers (aka doing something pleasurable other than doggedly pursuing our goal), the route resets itself the very next day. The next day is our opportunity to avoid being lured down that pleasure-path and to instead tackle that tough climb up the mountain.

I’m not suggesting that procrastination is acceptable. That mindset will have us taking the meadow-path every time, doomed to circumnavigate that mountain, gaze up at the lofty peak for eternity. The only way to climb that mountain is to put one foot in front of the other and sweat it out.

But there is no point in dwelling upon the times when distraction overcomes us. It will happen — our mission must be to ensure it happens infrequently. But when it does happen, there is nothing at all we can do about it after the event, so we must banish it from our minds and focus on what we can control, which is our path on the very next day.

Look forward. Be positive. Take control.

Every day is new, with no mistakes in it. This sentiment, so simply expressed in Anne of Green Gables, really helps keep me positive, enhances my discipline, and allows me to refocus. Somehow it puts everything in perspective.

Yes, I stuff up, frequently. But every day is an opportunity to not stuff up.

(The second life lesson I learnt from Anne of Green Gables is never to hold a grudge… Poor misunderstood and much-maligned Gilbert Blythe. But that’s another topic entirely.)

So does anyone reading this have a tendency for self-flagellation when they fail to deliver on their daily goals? What is your approach to overcoming the disappointment and moving on? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Addendum 30 May
I thought I’d better check the actual quote from the book, which is:
“… tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it (yet)…”
It’s from the end of chapter 21 – A new departure in flavouring.

Decluttering: creativity essential or shameless procrastination?

I wanted to work on my WIP today. We’ve had a public holiday and it seemed the ideal opportunity to get back into my novel after a few weeks of neglect. But, as it turned out, there was something else I had to do first.

When my life gets crazy and starts to spin out of control, as it has done for the past few months, I have this tendency to shove stuff into piles ‘to deal with later’. Cases of wine… correspondence to be shredded… clippings from magazines… instruction booklets… bills… new car insurance policies… receipts… even, as I discovered, Christmas presents neatly in a carry bag since Christmas Day.

Kipple. The detritus of life. Much of it stuff I need — or think I need — but it’s too difficult at the time to think what to do with it, so it gets shoved onto a pile. And, after a while, the piles are so out of control that I cease worrying whether stuff is getting shoved onto the right pile. Because I know I’m going to have to go through them all anyway. So the mess starts multiplying exponentially, and, well… I think you can probably see where I’m going with this.

(Think Harry, Ron and Hermione in Bellatrix’s vault at Gringott’s Bank when they’re going after the Helga Hufflepuff horcrux in the final book/movie. You know the scene when treasures multiply like popcorn? Yep.)

Unfortunately, all this mayhem takes place in my study (the one room safe from visitors), and there comes a point when I can no longer be in there.

I reached this tipping point today.

The floor was so cluttered with empty boxes and extra side-tables that getting into the cupboards was impossible. The main table was piled high with wine and boxes of junk. My desk, computer and keyboard were obscured by piles of paper.

Very. Bad. Feng Shui.

Time, oh yes definitely time, for a periodic purge. I seriously should have taken a photo.

So now the floor of my study is visible and vacuumed. And my desk is clear and devoid of dust. At last, I can think and dream and plot and perhaps even weave some tales.

I should confess, however, that I have really only shifted the problem. After a few hours of shuffling stuff around, my living room is now the custodian of the wine (which needs labelling before I put it away) and the shredding. (And the old DVD player I need to get rid of… and the broken chair with hot pink gym ball…) And I have a couple of boxes filled with junk I still need to sort through. The kitchen table has stuff on it as well.

But my study is clear — at least for a little while.

Why is it, do you think, that it feels so hard to get decluttered for good? I know that unless I devote about a week to sorting through everything and physically getting stuff OUT of my very small house, it will all be mayhem again all too soon. This is a very familiar cycle.

So now tell me whether this is a familiar scenario for you guys! Do you need a neat and tidy workspace to be productive — or was this all one huge day of procrastination on my part? And please do share any decluttering and organisation tips. I need them!


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’?