One of the constants of my life has been a distinct lack of consistency. I’ll start many projects with the firm belief that I’ve cracked whatever problem has prevented me from seeing something through to completion in the past, lay it all out so that I see the path to victory before me, make a post about it telling people where I’ll be going over the next few months and then…nothing.
What happens is this: Once I switch from a high-level, overall project view back towards the trench-work of the project, it gets really difficult to overcome my inertia. Or, once I’ve managed to do that, to keep productive inertia going. All it takes is one bad day where I come home exhausted, or a spontaneous and fun thing that would wipe out my plans for the evening, and then I’m done. Once I’m off-track, it’s easier to stay off-track. And then, once I’m ready to hop on again the shame of being off the wagon for so long makes it uncomfortable enough that I delay that again. So forth and so on, until it’s months later and I can quietly declare my latest bid for organization and discipline a failure.
It’s a frustrating cycle, to put it mildly. I want to finish things. I want to share those finished things with all of you. I want to be the kind of person who says he’s going to do something and then do it. But for some reason I’m just not and becoming that person feels like a very long road of hard work and reflection away.
One of the things I’m learning about project management is that you have to plan for failure. The longer and more complicated a project is, the more failure points there are — and you have to drill down towards each one and make a contingency plan for it. This is actually really difficult when it comes to figuring out failure points for personal projects, because you have to take a long, hard look at your worst impulses.
For example, what happens to that short story when you decide to spend those two hours scheduled for Saturday work on a movie, dinner and a ton of alcohol instead? What happens to preparation for your Pathfinder game on Tuesday evening when you’re mentally exhausted and spend the hour you’ve set aside for it playing Facebook games instead? What happens with the blog when work swallows up more of your free time and mental energy than you were expecting?
These are pretty difficult questions to ask myself, let alone answer. But you have to if you have a hope of cultivating the discipline and consistency you need in order to be a writer. It makes for a good thought exercise — if the trials of Job were to somehow befall me, how would I find a way to keep creating?
That’s where I am right now, in multiple aspects of my life. I know myself well enough to know the common pitfalls that will derail me, and now I have to step up my game of cat-and-mouse with future, shittier me. I have to find ways to deconstruct every excuse and trap for myself ahead of time, clearing any possible obstructions between myself, my failing resolve and my goal.
What are some of your pitfalls? What do you do to navigate around those?