Willpower vs. Action

Posted Oct 3 2017, 4:10 pm in ,

Losing Steam

In light of the tragic and senseless mass shooting in Las Vegas, I’ve been having a difficult time writing. At first I thought I was lazy or that I was out of practice, but now that I’ve been still for a bit today and examined what it is I’m feeling… it’s grief. Duh, right? I prayed, I felt sorrow, but I very much pushed myself into “doing” yesterday since I pretty much took the weekend off. As a result, my to-do list is two miles long; filled with a lot of personal and business tasks. I spent most of my time running errands and cooking and practicing drawing with my new iPencil. I read the Bible and a chapter in the current book I’m reading, and then, after I’d checked nearly every box on the day’s list, I finally sat down to write. But the words didn’t come. The sexy banter was flat. The characters lacked that oomph that my characters normally have. Thoughts of what has happened continue to plague me. I’m heartsick that so many lives were lost at what was supposed to be a fun and happy event. I’m sickened by the notion that a man who didn’t have anything more than a citation on his record slipped under the radar of the hotel and staff and everyone else and was able to commit such an act. I’m exhausted by social media and how politically divided we are as a country. I’m afraid of my own anxiety about going… well, anywhere. Nowhere feels safe any longer when these tragedies bump up against each other.

 

Light bulb moment.

So, that’s why it’s tough to write.

 

I started thinking about willpower. About how hard it is to make yourself do something when you don’t feel like it. How insurmountable the challenge is, especially when you have a rebel streak that hates being told what to do. Or maybe my curling up on the couch and drinking tea and playing Candy Crush is less about a rebel streak and more about good old fashioned procrastination.

Willpower has its place, and it works at first. You might even complete a task or three using it. But after a while, it stops working. And when you’ve “willed” your way as far as you can go on determination alone–when the wind is sucked out of your sails by “stinking thinking” or news of a mass shooting in your beautiful country–Willpower is nowhere to be found. Willpower is the dinner date that has taken the back exit while you’re waiting for him to take care of the check. Willpower forgets to call when promised, doesn’t show up when expected, and always and eventually lets you down.

 

What to do?!

If you can’t rely on willpower, what’s left?

 

Take Action

Flaky, unreliable Willpower can only be undone by one thing: Action. It’s Action who ties your sneakers and marches you out the door to go for a jog when you don’t want to. It’s Action who hands you the recipe and stands at your side while you cook a healthy meal instead of running out for pizza. It’s Action who puts your fingers on the keyboard instead of letting you watch another Netflix episode of New Girl. 

Once action is in play, guess what?

You don’t need Willpower. Willpower can duck out and lay around and leave potato chip crumbs all over the bedsheets. It won’t matter because you’re hanging with Action now. Action knows you. Action knows you don’t want to, don’t feel like it, and would rather do one of 1,000,000 other things. Action also knows that if he’s by your side, you won’t need to “feel like it.” You can power through a few thousand (crummy) words, or finish that jog like a boss even when your brain is still whining about “why can’t we all just be on the couch?”

Plan for it

Since we now know Willpower will let you down (or already has), you have to plan ahead. You’ve heard of rolling out of bed into your running shoes, right? Before your brain has time to wake up and argue, you’re already jogging down the sidewalk. Same idea. When willpower dawdles and begs for “five more minutes!”, you can just get started. Grab your laptop and go somewhere totally new to write those words. The coffee shop? The back yard? Your car? Or set an egg timer for 20 minutes to pressure yourself into writing something. Whatever you do, don’t be caught off guard by Willpower’s absence. Even if he comes back with flowers and a sobbing apology, don’t believe him. He’s fickle. Flighty. The ultimate unsafe bet. He left you once, he’ll do it again.

Even if it’s the sloppiest run you’ve ever completed or the dumbest words you’ve ever written, you did it. You moved from point A to point B rather than letting Willpower talk you into day-drinking. 

(Again.)

When you’re done with your task that Action helped you achieve, guess what? You’ve earned that TV binge, or that book purchase. You can soak in the hot tub or the bathtub until your fingers are pruney. Which, coincidentally, is exactly where you’ll find willpower…

Right where you left him.

 

Happy writing,

Jessica 

 

Want more writing tips? Check out my So You Wanna Write page →

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