Repost for 2012! A Reminder to Never Bash Yourself

Note: At the beginning of the year I report some of the previous year’s most popular posts.

My spring and summer have been somewhat tough. I mentioned my recent relationship breakup in another blog post. More recently, my cherished little dog, Orbit, has developed many health problems, and was recently hospitalized for several days. He’s 15, so this wasn’t entirely unanticipated, but it’s still a huge blow. Although I’ve worked hard over decades to develop resilience, I have absolutely no idea how I’m going to handle his decline and eventual death – although I presume that, like the many others who have had to watch cherished companion animals decline and die, I’ll get through it somehow.

All this is by way of saying that, for more than a month, I didn’t do much writing on The Seven Secrets of the Prolific. I know: ironic. But nowhere do I claim that you should be able to write at maximum capacity regardless of whatever else is going on with your life. We’re not machines, we’re complex beings; and to deny this complexity is a form of the reductive magical thinking – a.k.a., perfectionism.

Also, writers, more than most people, don’t have the luxury of denying reality – our job is to remain open, porous and pervious to life’s joys and vicissitudes. (Which reminds me: anytime someone tells you to “get a thicker skin,” tell them to go take a hike. As a writer – not to mention, a thinking, feeling, sensitive, empathetic human being – it’s your job to have a thin skin.)

Where was I?

Oh, okay. There were some other factors contributing to my underproductivity. One was probably that I hit the project’s “wall,” similar to the wall marathoners hit mid-race. Much as I love and am enthralled with the topics I write about in The Seven Secrets of the Prolific, the writing part of the project was starting to feel like a ten-month’s pregnancy, and I was eager to get it over with.

Another is that the details of self-publishing accelerated in that period, and crowded in on the writing process itself. Although I was using abundant help, the details of book production, artwork, website upgrades, choosing an ebook vendor, doing my fundraising pitch (which I’ll be posting soon!), and myriad other tasks, still fell to me, and were occasionally stressful or even overwhelming.

All of this created a kind of mental storm throughout May and early June that led to my not writing much. Now, however, things are settling down – Orbit’s reacting well to his meds, and a lot of the busy work around publishing has been done – and so I’m happy to report that I’m starting to “snap back” to my habitual level of productivity.

Some lessons:

1) Self-knowledge and patience are the cure. Procrastination ALWAYS has causes, and the causes are ALWAYS valid. Work to understand and address the causes, and give yourself abundant time to do so, and you should bounce back as quickly as possible – and probably more quickly than you can imagine. You don’t even have to force it.

(Remember that trying to rush the healing process is itself a form of perfectionism.)

2) Bashing yourself – i.e., calling yourself names like “lazy” or “undisciplined” – is hugely counterproductive. Not only do these labels misidentify the problem – which is disempowerment caused by fear, resource constraints, or other factors – they undermine you. So never do it.

3) Productive work, done in a framework of compassionate objectivity, is, in itself, healing.

Barring production delays, The Seven Secrets of the Prolific should be out in August – just in time to help those going of you who are going back to school or work boost your productivity. Meanwhile, you can see a draft of the cover – with an illustration by the fabulously talented Barry Deutsch – here. I’m shortly going to be sending you the Indiegogo appeal asking you to help me fund the project by prepaying for your paperback or ecopy: I’ll appreciate the support, and you’ll also get a great discount. Please keep an eye out for this.

My best wishes to all of you, and especially those struggling through their own difficult days.

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