Sloth: Every Day Is Like Sunday
Or is it Tuesday? Or Thursday? Who knows…
One of my favourite songs as a teenager was Every Day Is Like Sunday.
Now, I’m living in a world of eternal Sundays… or at least, that’s how it feels. Honestly, I don’t even know what day it is anymore.
Every day seems to last forever — and yet, at the end of it, I’m left wondering what the hell happened to all this extra time we’re supposed to have now we’re quarantined. I don’t know about you, but I spend approximately 32.7% of it faffing. Ruminating. Trying to decide what to do next, then finding myself cleaning out the bathroom drawers.
(Seriously, my bathroom drawers are organised for the first time since we moved into this house four years ago. Next stop: the kitchen cupboards)
I have fallen into a weird timewarp of sloth and ennui in which my brain has been replaced with pieces of cotton wool and I my concentration has dwindled to that of a startled pheasant.
But at least I’m getting dressed. From the waist down as well as the waist up (hello Zoom!)
Deadly sin of the day
Let’s talk about sloth, shall we? One of the 7 deadly sins, and something that’ll scupper your ability to write a book (or, in fact, anything else).
The punishment for sloth is eternal death by spider bites over and over again. Or possibly being forced to sit in front of a blank page and be unable to write — forever.
(I don’t know if that’s true. In the Bible, the punishment for sloth is: in Hell, you’re thrown into snake pits. I’d prefer snake pits to a blank page forever.)
The definition of sloth is an aversion to doing the damn work. The dictionary defines sloth as “reluctance to work or make an effort; laziness”. Humans are naturally inclined to be lazy because we evolved to conserve energy. So, there’s that. We’re wired to be slothful.
Let’s get one thing straight, though: I’m not accusing you of being lazy, especially not now. You’re a business owner, so you’re far from lazy. And you’re a business owner in some kind of post-apocalyptic bizarro world in which you’re trying to do 14 things at once and get used to this new reality.
The “reluctance to work or make an effort”, though, that’s painfully familiar to me.
Disclaimer about depression
Before we get into this, I want to make something clear: one of the symptoms of depression is lassitude; a feeling of being unable to get going. That there’s no point. That’s not what I’m talking about in this article. If you think you might be depressed — and there’s a lot of that going around at the moment — ask for help. Please.
What I’m talking about here is the aversion we all feel sometimes — often, if you’re me — to doing the damn work.
We talk about the work. We plan it. Then the windows need cleaning or there’s a sudden vicious urgency to redecorate the entire house.
I talked to a client just the other day who told me they had to have everything ready in order to write: mess tidied away, laundry done, washing up finished. Outstanding stuff distracted them. I feel ya because every damn thing distracts me.
The Devil makes work for idle hands
And when I say “devil” I obviously mean that idiot in your brain — your Inner Dickhead — who suddenly decides there are much more important things to do. Like scroll Instragram. Get angry on Facebook. Use Twitter to get super-anxious about everything bad in the world. Finally learn how to cook an omelette. Do that absolutely necessary research online which coincidentally includes that BoredPanda article about 50 black cats that need a cuddle.
As an antidote to that I want to share 3 ways you can de-sloth yourself and write your damn book. Even if you’re currently mired in a lifetime of Sundays with no end in sight.
1. Carve out time
Most of us will not be able to write a book if we just fit in when and where we can.
But guess what most people tell me they’re going to do to write their book? Fit it in around other stuff.
That almost certainly won’t work for you.
Schedule time in your calendar just as you would if you were working on a client project or having a meeting with a customer or going to the doctor.
Make writing your book real and make it a priority. You cannot write a book by “fitting it in”.
Not only because your thinking and writing time will be too fragmented to build any concentration or flow, but also because your brain will relegate it to “unimportant”.
Anything you just fit in can’t be that important.
If writing a book is important to you, treat it as if it’s important.
Maybe that means an hour less Netflix each evening? It’s not forever, it’s while you write this book.
And if you’re unlucky enough to have seen your workload crash over the past couple of weeks, my heart really does go out to you (remember this too shall pass) — but the teeny-tiny silver lining is, perhaps, a little extra time to do one of the things you’ve been wanting to do for ages.
Or maybe you’re homeschooling, running a business, running a house, and wondering how the hell you’re gonna get through lockdown without becoming a felon of some kind — in which case, file this away in the “will be useful when a brave new world emerges” and carry on with my firm handshake and admiration.
2. Keep research separate
Set aside separate time to do research so you don’t disappear down a YouTube wormhole only to resurface hours later feeling ashamed and regretful and anxious. Keep research time and writing time away from each other; you can’t do both.
If your objection to this is: maybe I’ll start writing and realise I don’t know enough and I need to research… My objection to your objection is: make a note in capital letters and use a highlighter and write in your journal that you need more info — then come back and do the research later.
Move onto the next part of your writing.
“I need to research more” is definitely your slothful Inner Dickhead piping up.
3. Remove friction
Removing friction was a gamechanger for me.
For example: I don’t practice my guitar nearly enough, so I’m shite at playing it. (I know, right? Who’d have thought you need to practice to become good?)
My guitar used to live in the house, so I had to go into the house to play it.
Then I moved my guitar into my office. That still didn’t work, though, because it was in its case. I still didn’t play it enough. I had to get it out, and that was a faff.
So I bought a guitar stand.
Now, my guitar sits on the guitar stand and stares at me. All I have to do is pick the thing up and play it.
Another example: if I wake up in the morning with a hunch that I won’t want to go to the studio and train later, I have a shower then immediately dress in my pole or trapeze clothes, so I can just get in the car and go.
I don’t have to get changed and faff around.
(Or, I did. Now, of course, I’m not going anywhere and I’m working out with our online classes more than ever before because there’s no friction of driving to the studio.)
When I am writing a book, I get everything out the night before: notebook, notes, clean glass ready for water, coloured pens.
I even open the document I’m working on before closing the lid on my laptop and letting it sleep rather than turning it off.
Then in the morning I arrive with my cup of tea and sit down to write. No faffing.
A frictionless routine
Maybe you’re not used to working from home. Maybe you’re finding yourself with more time because work has dried up, or less time because the world has gone bananas.
Either way, if you want to write your book (or accomplish anything, really) a frictionless routine is the answer.
And an ability to find a little quiet space that’s just yours, and zone out for a bit.
Take care out there, whatever you’re doing.
Stay kind. To yourself and to everyone around you.
If you’re struggling to concentrate, you’re not alone. I think that’s normal right now.
But if you, like me, are fed up of struggling to concentrate, let me help. I am running a free 29-day writing challenge with daily email prompts. Kickstart your writing habit and get your focus back here.