Monday, June 18, 2018

Facing It

My sister posts a quotation from some famous person every day on Facebook, in honor of that person's birthday. Writer Joseph Conrad was born on December 3, 1857, so one December 3 my sister posted this line from him, which has become one of my favorite pieces of writing advice: "Facing it - always facing it - that's the way to get through."

It's so simple. And so true.

My biggest problem with any writing project - actually, with all projects and with everything in my entire life - is just this: facing it. I build up dread to the point of incapacity. Maybe, in the end, that's all writer's block is: a refusal to face what needs to be faced.

The strange and wonderful thing is that as soon as I face something - just sit down at my writing tablet or computer and spend TEN SECONDS staring at it - the rest is relatively easy. All I need to to is get over that first hump. That's all. And yet getting over that first hump can seem impossible.

So what I've started doing for any daunting task in my month's massive writer's to-do list is to add, as an extra to-do item, "Face [task x]" (whatever it is). As the facing takes just ten seconds (well, to be fair, probably more like five minutes), it's low-hanging fruit if I need the satisfaction of crossing at least something off the list. From that point, momentum takes over, and I'm all set. Hooray!

I tell the world, with some frequency, how I rely on a cherished hourglass to accomplish my day's stint of writing. Here it is.
For some tasks, however, even working on them for a mere hour is more than I can bear, so I also have a half-hour glass (it looks similar, just a tiny bit smaller). Then this past week a student who knew my fondness for hourglasses gave me a "travel" one, which is actually an eight-minute timer in a small sturdy cardboard case. Behold!
I don't think I'll take it with me on trips, though. Instead I'm going to save it for when I can't face even half an hour of work on some scary writing project, when eight minutes seems about all I can handle.

Then I'll turn over my adorable, teensy-weensy, itty-bitty, baby hourglass (cute is good for terror-defusing purposes). How scary can it be to work on this task for eight measly minutes?

VoilĂ ! Eight minutes later, the task will have been FACED, which was all I needed.

Because facing it, just facing it, is the way to get through.


  1. What great idea. Where doe sone find these hour glasses? I am a GREAT procrastinator and I sure could use one of these when I need to just "face it."

  2. I got my beautiful ones years and years ago at a little shop in Georgetown, in DC. The little timer one was a gift, so I'm not sure where it came from. But I do swear by these as the best anti-procrastination tool ever.

  3. This is so cool! I think these things would be great for so many things--exercise, etc., etc.