Tag Archives: no excuses

The Perfect Way to Do the Thing

That thing you’re thinking of doing. You know the one.

Maybe it’s the big project you’ve been putting off starting. Or maybe it’s the habit you’re trying to set. Or maybe it’s just some daily drudgery you have to get through. Maybe it’s even a thing you really, really want to do, but you just haven’t been totally sure how to get the ball rolling.

Whatever it is, you have this thing you want / need to do, but you don’t want to screw it up. Screw-ups are the last thing you need. What you want is perfection. A no-mistakes, no-time-wasted guaranteed method for Doing the Thing without the costly and stressful cock-ups along the way.

Have I got news for you!

What follows are the 100% perfect, tried-and-true tips, tricks, and toodlepips to make your time as productive as possible.

Ignore these tips at your peril.

  1. You need a space. This space should be dedicated to your Thing and shouldn’t share form, function, or storage with any other Thing.
    1. The space should be in a location within your home or your regular area and should always fit the optimal conditions for your work. It should be quiet, insulated from distractions like family, internet, and sadness.
    2. The space should incorporate natural light, face the rising sun at an oblique angle and the setting sun at an acute one.
    3. The space should have a ready supply of oxygen in tanks for emergencies.
  2. Do not embark on your Thing without the perfect soundtrack. The perfect soundtrack depends on you and your Thing, but here are some guidelines:
    1. The beats-per-minute, should you choose music, must match up with your effort and output precisely.
    2. The thematic content of your soundtrack must align perfectly with your Thing. A thematic mismatch leads to disharmony, disharmony leads to frustration, frustration leads to failure.
  3. Do your thing before sunrise. It is well known that the only time for the doing of Things is before the sun is up, for the very simple reason that inspiration and motivation can find you more easily while everybody else is sleeping.
    1. Set at least sixteen alarms in three-minute intervals to ensure that you don’t do something stupid like sleep while the sun is down.
    2. If you do sleep through your sixteen alarms, forget about engaging in your Thing even a few minutes after the optimal time. The train doesn’t come back to the station until the next day.
  4. Gear and equipment are everything. You can’t do your Thing without the proper kit; don’t waste your time trying.
    1. Lay out your gear the night before. In fact, lay out your entire gear for the entire week’s worth of Thinging a full ten days in advance; this creates a subconscious contract with your future selves that, should they break it, entitles you to legal redress.
    2. The best gear is the most expensive; cheap gear will poison your entire process. If you take your Thing seriously, expect to sink serious coin into the pursuit.
    3. If you can’t get the right gear, put your Thing on hold. The shelf life on any Thing worth Thinging is like, super-long.
  5. Under no circumstance should you attempt to do your Thing while you’re not “feeling it”. Best case, your Thinging will be crap. Worst case, you risk serious injury or death.
    1. When you are feeling it, you should do your Thing at a brutal rate. Some might say an insane rate. When the moment strikes, abandon all else: family, friends, day job, personal health, to do your Thing, as you never know when the moment will strike again.
    2. When you are not feeling it, all bets are off. Do nothing. At all. You never know what might recharge your batteries, and you don’t want to miss the opportunity to “feel it” because you were distracted doing something less important than your Thing.

Ok, so, this post is crap. The fact is, when you’re thinking about doing a Thing, you can find any number of reasons why you can’t do the Thing, most of them crap-scented tripe aimed at convincing you that there’s only one way to do your particular Thing properly.

But that’s crap.

You do your Thing where you can. My “dedicated workspaces” are anything but: at home I share an office with a couple of high-traffic catboxes and my wife’s side-hustle, and at work my writing space is also my main “work” workspace. In both places, cross-contamination is unavoidable, in every sense of the word. (Ew.)

I like podcasts while I’m running and instrumental music while I’m writing, but sometimes I run with music and sometimes I write in silence and sometimes the music or the podcasts are dumb and make me angry and the point is, I run or write anyway.

I run — and write — before sunrise because if I don’t, it ain’t gonna happen. I work full-time and parent sometimes and once the day begins, there are too many demands on my time to steal an hour for a run. And I steal ten minutes here, fifteen minutes there to work on the novel during the day. You find the time to do your Thing like a puddle filling a pothole.

Gear doesn’t mean a dadgum thing, but it’s an easy thing to hide behind. All you need to write is a pencil, some paper, and the drive. All you need to run is some sneakers (and depending on how much of a hippie you are, maybe not even those). Gear is an excuse. Do what you can with what you’ve got.

“Not feeling it” is the easiest way to hide from doing your Thing. It’s also the most insidious, because it’s a term absolutely without meaning. If you really know why you’re doing the thing, there’s no such thing as “not feeling it.” The motivation finds you when you care about the Thing. But even when you’d rather do something else, you know that you should be doing your Thing, so you do your Thing anyway. And you end up glad you did it.

Point is, if you want to find a reason not to do your Thing, the excuses are plentiful. But when you get serious about doing your Thing, you realize how stupid all the excuses are.

The time and place to do the Thing is here and now.

The way to do the Thing is whatever way you can get it done.

Don’t get hung up on the particulars.

There is no perfect way.

The only wrong way is Not to Do It.


I have a confession.

A writer’s confession, which should be taken with all the appropriate hand-wavings and grains of salt. When you look at the real problems of the world, my meager problems mean little. But it’s weighing on me nonetheless.

I haven’t worked on my novel in almost two weeks.

On the one hand, I feel okay about that, but on the other hand, I feel very much not okay about that, because I know I’m not going to be able to work on it today, and it’s dubious whether I’ll be able to get to it later this week either. The excuses for this are twofold:

One, it was vacation last week, and as much as writing is a release and an adventure in pink unicorn land, there are days when it’s work, too. And of late, the writing has felt more like work than like a unicorn frolic. As such, a little vacation from it is, I think, warranted, and what better time than when I’m on a vacation from actual work? I got to turn the ol’ brain off, veg out and watch some TV, take the kids and the wife on a few day trips … it was good. Didn’t have to worry about how to get my protagonist out of his latest scrape. Didn’t have to construct the machinations of the villain working behind the scenes. Didn’t have to batter my brain against the Rube Goldberg machine of gears and spindles and flywheels that constitutes the plot of this thing.

Still, I felt guilty about leaving that creative garden untended for the week, sort of the same way I feel about letting my lawn continue to grow, sprouting weeds and dandelions and the occasional mushroom, while my neighbors keep their lawns neatly trimmed.

Sidenote: there’s a new show out called Speechless, about this deadbeat family with a handicapped, mute son. No idea if the show has any staying power or not — the first few episodes have been pretty funny, but who knows — but I at least resonate with the family. Not because they’re jerks — the mother proudly drives in the emergency lane, runs stop signs, and flings bluster and righteous indignation and her son’s handicap at anybody who even looks sideways at her. And I have a hard time getting down with that. What I totally get, though, is that they just don’t give a sharknado what other people think of them. Lawn is overgrown? Paint is peeling? Car’s looking a little dumpy? Yeah, no, we’re not going to fix those things. They just don’t matter to us; we have only so many fargos to give. To that, I give a deep, sonorous AMEN.

So I returned to work on Monday, all set to hunker down and return to the love-hate relationship I have with my current novel. Which brings me to…

Two: I can’t find my flash drive.

Now, before you say anything, know that I’ve already said every possible thing to myself, mostly inside my own head, occasionally in raging, fists-pounding-on-the-desk angry shouts. How can you be so stupid? Haven’t you heard of backups? How could you possibly lose it? Dunce! Idiot! Disorganized, sloppy, careless!

And my excuses are like the rain in Arizona: woefully inadequate, but all there is. I write the novel mostly at my job, so keeping it on the flash drive makes sense for taking it home, back and forth. But I have to steal time at work to write, so I don’t exactly have a routine, and, well, backing up is the last thing I’m thinking about, because usually I’ve either got parent calls to make or meetings to get to or students coming to my room and …

Well, here’s my other dirty confession. I haven’t backed up outside of the flash drive in over a month.


And of course, with the whole of the novel missing (or at least my recent work on it), I can’t re-read to get inspired to write the next bit. Not to mention the soul-crushing stupidity I feel when I think about the project at all, which pushes every creative thought right out of my ears.

But I’m going to have to face up sooner or later. If the drive doesn’t turn up in the next few days, it probably never will; there’s only so many places it could reasonably be, and considering all the places we went over the break … well. That little piece of plastic and silicon could be anywhere in a fifty-mile radius, which means it might as well be on the moon for my likelihood of stumbling across it again.

Luckily, the weather is changing. Morning runs have been downright pleasant — sixty degrees or so with the stars twinkling overhead — and have done good things for my blood, which on Monday was boiling, and which today is only simmering. Further, when I think about it, the beginning of the novel was going to need massive re-working anyway, probably a complete re-write in lots of places, so the first 40,000 words were hardly carved in stone.

Still, for the moment, they’re not carved anywhere, and that’s tough to see around.

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