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Mood Management Mode

5 November 2021

I was thinking about productivity today, or rather–LACK of productivity. The thought floated into my head because I noticed–randomly–that my husband tends to say things like, “I procrastinated on doing X.” It's like he quickly defaults to self-blame without even considering WHY he held off on doing some task or other.

Writers have a special relationship to “procrastination.” If we're not sitting at the computer, tapping furiously at the keyboard–we're “procrastinating.”

But writing requires so much more than just typing. Sometimes you need the back of a napkin and a pen, sometimes you need an amble through the woods, sometimes you need an episode of Ted Lasso. Our brains are always working. That's what they do, they think. And the stuff that we need for our books happens even while we are away from our desks, even while we are working on the other things in life that need to get done.

When I foresee a crazy week ahead of me, I immediately go into “mood management” mode, which for me involves the following:

  1. BE HONEST. What's inescapable? What am I stuck doing whether I like it or not, where no one can help me because I have to do it myself? If you can ask for help or pass the buck, do it to try to create space in your life right now. For example, I asked someone to pick up some groceries for me. But otherwise, face the music. You can't pass the buck on everything, so just look honestly at the things that you, yourself, need to do. Hiding isn't going to help you to plan.
  2. Acknowledge that this will be a week filled with “good enough” writing. You might write fewer words, you might write crap, you might be late on your deadline. This is actually good practice, because this situation will happen again, and you still need to write–be okay with the amount and quality of your work.
  3. Live in the moment. If you have a meditation practice, if you are an athlete or performer, if you like playing with small children–this will be familiar to you. Bring your mind back as often as you can to what you are doing right now. You really can't predict the next moment of your life, never mind tomorrow or next week. Just do your best with the thing right in front of you and move forward that way. You are going to get through this week and you will get things done.
  4. Remember that your actions are evidence of who you are. The things you do are the things that matter to you. If you're a writer, you need to write. If you're a parent, you should parent. If you're a corporate soldier, you have things to do and people to please. Whatever you decide to do is the thing that you care about. If you have to drop or ignore something, just realize that you are making a choice, and the choice should reflect your principles. I will drop writing before I drop parenting. Most people will drop writing before they abandon earning a living. It's all good. Hold your head up high and live with your choices.
  5. Mood management. It's a lot easier to get through the things you have to do when you are feeling good. What gets your mood up? Exercise? Chocolate? Music? Make it happen. In my case, I'm going to play a lot of music that I love, watch some shows while I'm on the elliptical, and read some fiction.

The single most helpful thing on this entire list (for me) is MOOD MANAGEMENT. Stay happy at all costs. Avoid toxic people (as best as you can). Focus on who you are, not the results. As one of my favorite meditation gurus likes to say, the only thing you can control is your attitude. I'm going to hang onto those words this week.

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