Detail-Oriented Debbie

This year, I’ve been having monthly calls with Claire from CP’s Day Off. They are designed as an accountability mechanism, to help writers define their goals, identify obstacles to progress and work towards achievement. All of that is good stuff, though Claire and I are both aware that I’m probably more organised and productive than most, and so far this year I’ve been in the enthusiastic part of my writing cycle.


So, the date of the accountability session comes around and I wonder if I really need it. But we always end up talking about really interesting things, and Claire prompts me to think about my approach to things in refreshing and insightful ways. Even when everything is going great, I always get something valuable out of the discussion and I feel like my writing life has improved from signing up.


Last month, we talked about my tendency to put pressure on myself with task lists and trying to do too much, which can result in me resenting what I see as an obligation rather than looking at writing as something I want to spend time on and should try to enjoy.


Through the discussion, we identified that there’s an aspect of my psyche that finds security in making everything as regimented and organised as possible, to reassure myself that everything is under control and I haven’t forgotten anything. But that can suck the joy out of every task and also create a sense of overwhelm and drudgery.


Claire got me to visualise this aspect of myself and thus Detail-Oriented Debbie was born. We talked more about her in our session today and discovered we both see her as short, with lots of dark, curly hair. She’s now joined the crew on my mind ship, though her pencil skirt and court shoes aren’t very practical on deck.


Debbie can be a hard task-master, tapping her pen against her clipboard to express disapproval when she thinks I’m slacking off. But she really does have my best interests at heart. She wants me to achieve my goals and she’s only trying to help when she creates a new to-do list and counts off how many weeks it will take me to finish my third novel at current progress.


Talking to Debbie, via freewriting prompts, allowed me to see her as a useful ally rather than someone who makes me resent my writing, and we’ve since developed a much better relationship. Together, we’ve discovered that letting go of the to-do list can actually make us more productive as we tend to spend more time on projects because we’re enjoying it, rather than stopping as soon as the scheduled session ends.


This more flexible attitude proved particularly useful yesterday when my planned afternoon writing session was replaced by an impromptu trip out with my husband to go geocaching. My initial reaction was one of annoyance because my plan had been disrupted and I thought it would put even more pressure on my writing session today if I didn’t do anything yesterday. But I set that attitude aside and decided it was more important to focus on enjoying the outing. So, I relinquished the idea that I would get any writing done yesterday, allowing me to be present in the moment and not worrying about what time we might get home.


We had a great time, found four geocaches and got lots of exercise. And later, after dinner, my husband had some emails to do that he’d been putting off, so I suggested we have a focus session where he would complete those and I would finish the first draft of the short story I’d been working on for a few weeks but had neglected of late.


I normally wouldn’t think of trying to write during the evening, especially on a Sunday. But, as is usually the case, once I sat down and actually started, it went really well. I wrote 2098 words in 80 minutes and finished my draft. All the words were right there, waiting to be let out and all I had to do was type them. It felt really good, and allowed me to get a good night’s sleep and start again early this morning, without feeling under too much pressure.


So, making friends with Debbie and taking the time to understand her needs and desires has really helped me not only enjoy my writing more, but also made me even more productive than before.

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