November Was a Bad Month

I haven't been writing. Like, at all. I want to say that the chief reason for my literary absence is a lack of time, but I'm not even certain if that would be an honest statement. I've had time, I've had two off shifts this month. That's 12 days of no work and literally nothing else to do. So why haven't I been writing. 

There are plenty of reasons I give myself, some true, some probably not as true, but reasons nonetheless. I won't go into some of the more personal and emotional ones, not at this time anyway. I don't want this to turn into a downer blog full of nothing but complaints and worries (even though, let's face it, a lot of what does go on here is exactly that). I wish there was one word or even a single phrase that could sum up the reasons that I've been absent, but there isn't. 

I started out the month in great form. In case you hadn't read my previous posts, or had forgotten, November is NaNoWriMo, which stands for national novel writing month. The goal is to write 50,000 words over the course of November, and by the end of the month you would have a first draft novel. It's actually a little less, most novel's fall in the 60k to 80k range, but it's pretty close, and it's a nice round number for the challenge. It works out to only 1,667 words per day, which is really not all that much when you think about it. Most of my blog posts are around the 1k mark, and they rarely take more than 20 to 30 minutes of serious writing. 

That's the caveat though, isn't it. Serious writing. It's so very, very hard to get into that mind-frame sometimes of doing actual, serious writing. The infamous quote is that authors don't like writing, they like having written. And for the vast majority of my writing I would have to agree to that sentiment. It's the feeling I have after I finish writing a post or a chapter that makes me keep going back, but certainly not the writing itself. Like right now, I feel super uncomfortable, I've moved my keyboard around half a dozen times, tried with and without wrist rest. I don't really want to write at this moment. But I want to have a blog post up by the end of the day. In order for that to happen, I have to suffer through some writing. This is probably the biggest reason that there were virtually no posts in November, and literally no posts of quality. I couldn't force myself to write. 

I know that sounds bad. What kind of writer doesn't like writing? The answer would probably surprise you. And it's not like it's an uphill battle every time I sit down. Every now and then I'll just be in the zone and I'll slap out thousands of high quality sentences without even breaking a sweat. But those moments are few and far between. It's the in between that separates a writer from a hobbyist. And right now, I feel like a hobbyist. 

So like I said before my textbook tangent, November started out great. I wrote 3k words the first day for my novel, finishing the opening chapter. Unfortunately, I only had that one day before my shift started again, and November started with one of the worst shifts imaginable. In the truck first thing in the morning, loaded up some oil, and then head to Nipisi, which is a 900km round trip. I literally slept in the truck for 5 days straight. It wouldn't have been quite as bad if I knew in the morning that I was going on this run, since you can do it in 13 hours. My last 3 days I managed to catch up and get onto the schedule of leave the house in the morning and return to the house in the evening, but by that time the damage was done. 

For what it's worth I took my laptop and had every intention to write on the road, to keep up my 1,667 words a day. I had given myself a nice days padding with all the extra work I did on November 1st. However, as I soon found out, it's not easy to write on the road. Read: it's impossible to write on the road. At least for the work I was doing. Let's go through a day.

I would wake up in the morning, brush my teeth outside in the cold with a bottle of water, and pretty much hit the road right away. Didn't want to waste time, and a night in the relatively uncomfortable bed of the truck does not allow for a completely present mind in the morning. Any writing I had done before I was several hours awake would have been garbage anyway. 

I would drive until I had to stop to use the bathroom, then I would drive some more. After 4 or 5 hours I made it to Nipisi to unload. So far, no time for writing. Now, it takes a solid 45 minutes to unload a full tank of oil, so I know that most of you are probably thinking that I could just write during that time. Technically you're supposed to stand outside and watch the gauges as you unload, but it's somewhat pointless since if there is an emergency I have the PTO shut off and the emergency shut down right at my fingertips. So I probably could have written while I was sitting in the truck, but I wouldn't be completely present, as part of my mind would be focusing on my surroundings to make sure nothing is going wrong. Plus I was all done up in my PPE, my smelly PPE, and using my laptop in that condition is just not comfortable. After unloading I drive back to location, load, and head out again. I drive until I get too tired to drive anymore, so I pull over to go to sleep. Again, after a whole day of mental exhaustion I would be in no state to write a novel. When you're living in the truck, it's just not feasible. 

So when my shift finally ended I thought I would be able to catch up. Here is where it's probably 25% the universe's fault I didn't do anything productive, and like 75% my fault. I got sick the very first day I was on days off. I still hold true that this is because my sister was hosting a disease for months and months (as she's essentially been sick since moving back up to the cold, dark north) while it created the perfect bacterial structure to invade my body and infect me. It probably also had something to do with living in the same, small, enclosed space for 8 days, barely meeting the minimum requirements for cleanliness and eating nothing but stuffed buns and chocolate bars. I was not a healthy person. 

The remaining reasons I didn't get anything done on my days off are a lot of excuses stuff which I don't want to get into. Working on this side project, catching up on this TV show, spending time doing this and that, basically anything besides the things I knew I should be doing. My room got messy, my work didn't get done, and I started getting more and more depressed. When my second shift came around I was passed caring about how my room looked and whether or not my book would get finished. I just wanted to work, and buy things. 

I have a horrible habit of spending money online when I get depressed. So, over the past two weeks, I bought way more stuff than I should have. I've always liked mechanical keyboards, and it's a really interesting and niche hobbyist community when you really get into it, but I bought way more mech key related stuff than I should have, or than I could afford. This caused me to spiral deeper down into depression and anxiety about spending money, which in turn really helped me make excuses for not doing the things that I knew would set me to rights. The perfect analogy for this was put so eloquently by Fat Bastard: "I eat because I'm unhappy. I'm unhappy because I eat." It's the same thing, feeding into itself, all the way down. 

So finally, a couple days ago, I said to hell with this and decided I needed to break this pattern. Above this text you'll see screenshots of my schedule, a different one for days on and days off. There's one more template for days off which I don't have pictured, because it's literally the exact same except the "workout" block isn't in there since I only workout on Monday, Wednesday, Friday. 

My biggest problem, or so I believe from detailed self diagnosis, is that when I have time to do things, I have no direction. I end up not starting anything because I'm never certain in myself that it's the right decision. I think there's always something that I could be doing better with my time, so I end up (ironically) just watching youtube or netflix for hours on end because I'm unable to make a decision. Well, now I have all my decisions planned out for me in advance. 

It's still in beta, as I'll have to actually go through the days and live the routines so I can get a feel for what works and what doesn't, but it's been good so far today. I went a little over on my morning routine, and I'm actually into free time territory now, but I procrastinated a little bit starting to write my blog today. The important thing isn't that I stick to the schedule like some sort of autonomous machine. It's there for direction, to push me gently towards something that needs to be done. This system is working in conjuncture with an app that I think will be incredibly important for me moving forward: OmniFocus. 

I tried to read the book "Getting Things Done", which is the principles that OmniFocus is built on, but I couldn't get through it. Far too dull. But, I digress. The app is really working out for me so far. Granted, like the schedule, it's only been in use for two days, and I still haven't finished watching all the tutorials, so I'm not entirely convinced that I have a full understanding of how to use it. But I do know how I WANT to use it, and that's the important thing. It's a dumping ground for anything and everything that needs to get done. Today, tomorrow, next month, in 20 years. If I think of something I want to do, it goes in the app. That way, whenever I'm feeling directionless, I can open the app, check my inbox, and get an actionable task. 

I've learned a lot about scheduling and productivity from one of my favourite podcasts, Cortex. I'll be doing a full review for it sometime in the future, but for now if you're willing to go in blind I highly recommend it. There's so much left that I need to nail down about productivity, and getting my life organized, but I've come to learn that the most important thing is to just start. If I wait until I've fully gotten everything figured out to perfection, and I have everything set up as it needs to be, I'll never actually do it. I've been setting myself impossible goals for too long, so now I've decided to just jump in headfirst and figure things out as I go along. There's going to be off days, bumps in the road, but as long as I don't let myself get discouraged, everything should end up alright. 

This ended up going on a lot longer than I thought it would, so apologies for the long post. I have this terrible anxiety about posting something too short because it feels like I'm wasting people's time, but I also worry about posting something too long because I feel like no one will read it. If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I'm already a little off schedule today, so I won't be writing tomorrow's post right now as I had originally planned. If nothing comes up tomorrow, don't panic, I probably haven't fallen off the wagon again, I most likely just had a long day at work and wasn't able to post anything. 

Again, thanks for reading this far. Leave a comment below and let me know what your productivity tricks and tips are.